I was walking yesterday through my neighborhood as is my newer habit. Every morning the dog and I take a stroll through the neighborhood. While I miss the trails, it is nice to wander about in the hood, seeing new things: people walking their dogs, people adding onto their homes, yards being transformed. It reminds me when my kids were little and we used to go for a walk every night after dinner. Those were good times. So much you learn by walking in your neighborhood with young children. They see things that you do not see, and talk to every single pet that resides there.
Perhaps this is why I noticed yesterday this woman, head bowed in prayer at her living room window. The entire front of her house is windows, great sweeping glass expanse that literally invites the world into her living room. Usually the privacy gate is closed and so you can only see the massive windows at the top. But yesterday, the gate was open and so the entire front of the house was in view.
She stood in her living room, in the morning light, body lit up by the sun, head bowed in prayer. Her hands were folded in prayerful repose, her eyes closed.
What a lovely way to start the day.
I often start my day this way from my outdoor yoga and meditation studio. Bowing and bending and welcoming in the day, body and soul opened toward the dawning day. It is always my most favorite part of the day.
Lately, I have been getting up later, well, because I can. So I have missed the dawning day at times which is not the same.
I found myself wondering what she was praying for all day. Did she have life concerns? Are there people in her life that are hurting her? Is she worried about the health and wellness for herself, her kids, her family or friends? Is she supported in her relationship? Does she feel loved, valued, appreciated? To what God is she praying? Does it even matter?
I felt somewhat like an intruder even though I only witnessed her morning prayers by accident. I didn’t linger or tarry or invade. I just noticed. And that made me think that perhaps I was praying in my own way too. Noticing can be prayer I have found. Seeing that which is always there but with a new level of appreciation, that can also be prayer.
I felt honored to have borne witness to her morning ritual. To see that there is another person, who actually lives on my same street that is taking time in her life to honor the process of praying. Her body still, head clear, arms benevolent to the process by which she begins her day.
Perhaps this was a new thing for her. Something she was just beginning. But I don’t think so. There was something about the earnestness of her body and face that communicated a dedication of years.
I will never truly know any of the above, well at least about her. But I do about me. I know that when I pray in the morning, butt on cushion, arms folded in quiet supplication, I am transformed. I am altered. And so is my world, my life and the lives of others who touch mine. Be they my children, my parents, my pets, my boyfriend, my neighbor, someone I meet in the parking lot at Vons. Everyone is altered because I took the time to pray, meditate and yoga my day into existence. And I know that the world is a better place because of it.
It made me think of how much good prayer does in the world. How taking even the briefest of moments to add something positive to the collective consciousness can change the world, one moment and being at a time.
I think about how much my life has been altered by prayer. How 27 years ago I thought praying was a waste of time. Never mind that I prayed all the time to a God that I didn’t believe in to save me from myself and my addictions. Never mind that at all.
But slowly, and I do mean slowly, that icy intellectualism gave way to a faith that worked. To a belief system that supported all of the growth that has occurred between here and there. To land me in a space where I walk the neighborhood in the mornings in quiet reflection of my life and all its magnificent glory. Prayer changed me. And so long as I continue to do it, it will likely continue to do so.
Most of my prayers are ones of gratitude. I start every day with a gratitude list of twelve things I am grateful for, every single day of my life. I am not even sure how long I have been doing this…more than five years? More than ten? More than twenty? I finally reach the conclusion that the number of years is less important than the habit, the habit of waking every day focused on the good things in my life. And then moving through my morning, praying that this good stuff be shared with others. That is my most common prayer every day: that all that I have come to know, come to love, come to experience be of some use to another. That I may pass on that which has been freely and lovingly provided to me.
And that is what happened yesterday when I saw this woman praying in her living room. I was transformed even though I knew not for what she prayed. The simple witnessing of her praying was enough to set my own soul ablaze. The internal spark and fire ignited simply by the act of witnessing another person give time and space and daylight to a practice that has long been present in my life.
So today I pray that all of us may take a moment, yes just one moment of our lives today and spend that moment praying. For what and for whom matters little. The simple idea, the simple act of bowing your head, allowing for some higher consciousness to land in your heart and mind enough to change the lives of all of us. One prayer at a time, one moment at a time. Perhaps this is the best use of my life, to spend as much time as I can praying to be of service to those I love, and even to those I do not.