As a recovering Catholic, I have a complicated relationship with spirituality. I do admit, though, that I enjoy, and sometimes even yearn for, the rituals that I left behind in Catholicism. I went to a Catholic wedding a few years ago and immediately jumped right back in to the familiar sit-stand-sit-stand muscle memory; the “peace be with you,” “and also with you;” the hold my hands palms up and pause; the flipping through the hymnal’s onion skin sheets; the people-watching through the homily; the acrid, yet warming scent of incense burning my nose. It felt like slipping into tepid bathwater. Familiar, yet somewhat unpleasant. Both right and not-right. A sweater both warm and unbearably itchy.
Similarly, I don’t know how to feel about prayer. Throughout my entire childhood, I diligently prayed every night before bed. When I was very young, it was the simple “now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord my soul to keep,” but as I grew older, it became a nightly list of those I loved and hopes I had for the future. It also became the perfect structure for my anxious little mind. I created intricate rules for myself: if I didn’t name every single family member and friend, I risked letting them die—after all, I didn’t pray for them that night, did I? And I had to be sure to name everyone in the correct order: parents first, brother second, favorite family members next, and then friends. If I said mom first one night, I had to remember to say dad first the next. Eventually, prayers became a manifestation of anxieties, rather than a comforting mantra to wrap up the day. Although I did find that, on nights when I couldn’t sleep because I was too afraid of being haunted, I could whisper my prayers as a fearful spell to keep me safe, until I eventually drifted off.
Have I revealed too much? Is this becoming an uncomfortable therapy session? Sorry, doc. The point I’m trying to make is that prayer brought me comfort at the same time as it brought me overwhelming anxiety. It was great and it was terrible.
In adulthood, I have tried to hold on to and explore rituals that bring comfort and health, rather than fear and dysfunction. I journal, name my gratitude, forever work on practicing mindfulness, pull tarot cards to reflect, practice affirmations, read my lunar planner, light candles, set intentions, sip tea, and try to grow and work with healing herbs.
Yeah, I know, that sounds like a whole bunch of witchy white woman behavior. I won’t deny it. But I’m trying my best to practice these rituals in ways that are not intertwined with capitalism and colonial violence. I’m trying my best to engage in these rituals with sustainable, community-focused mindsets and practices. What does that look like in practice? Making what I can with my own hands; buying goods from BIPOC artists who create sustainably; not consuming practices from cultures without context; reflecting not just on myself and my own personal journey, but also my community and the world; and constantly asking myself what I can do better.
I also believe that it’s important to create rituals that work for my mind, body, and spirit. I believe that our emotional, mental, spiritual practices are most sustainable and enriching when they align with our lifestyles and routines. I’m not going to keep up a meditation practice that asks of me to wake up an hour earlier than usual—I’m a sleepy bitch who, try as I might, literally cannot become a morning person. I can, however, slip in a few minutes of mindfulness throughout my day when I need a reset. And, realistically, that’s what I want out of my mindfulness practice! I want to help myself be present enough to know when I need a reset, and to be practiced enough to actually reset!
So with all that in mind, I hope that this week’s prompt is an opportunity to give yourself the gift of a little ritual, in whatever way makes sense and feels comfortable and healthy to you. Approach the prompt however you like—in whatever way is going to be most rewarding for your mind, body, and spirit.
Whether you are spiritual or not, write a prayer or spell for the remainder of your week.
What do you wish for? what do you intend to put out in the world? Who do you wish to care for or enrich?
This can be thought of as an intention or invocation, depending on your own personal beliefs around fate, creation, and the existence or lack of a great being(s) or spirit(s).
Give yourself five minutes to explore and reflect on this prayer, wish, mantra. Then, close your eyes and bask in it for at least a few seconds. Either because you feel the power or because it’s kind of woo-wooey and you’re allowing yourself to embody that. Then, of course, you can take this piece and tend to it, shape it, form it into something else. Or, as I always say, let it be.
Keep your little prayer somewhere near you, ideally near your bed, so you can read it before you sleep and when you wake. Why not keep it close? Can’t hurt, right? Good luck, my friend!
I pray for clear air,
and continued rain.
I pray for your health, your happiness,
your confidence and joy.
I pray for the soft beauty of sleep, the warm comfort of a body I trust and love.
I pray to remember to take deep breaths,
to hug for a reminder that love is worthwhile and that scripts can be rewritten,
that stubbornness is usually not worth it.
I pray for these little paws and these warmsoft bodies.
I pray for the love I need to feel for myself.
And I pray for the patience that sometimes slips through my fingers,
a wave pulled out to sea.