By Laura Lifshitz
I am not religious. My parents came from two religious backgrounds, and so we weren’t particularly religious or observant. But growing up, I was completely fascinated by religion and people’s cultural and familial habits. I loved (and still love) learning about what religious beliefs people practice, how they formed or learned about these practices, what texts/traditions and habits surround their beliefs and how they honor/or don’t honor them today as adults. So, I guess you could say that I was always interested in spirituality, but at the same time I feel conflicted. I’ve read a bunch of religious texts and studied around, but I don’t have watertight convictions that I am certain of. I’m half romantic, and half skeptic/scientist. I want proof, I’m not sure there is any proof, but at the same time, I want to believe in faith, hope, and a divine power and being.
So I’ve had a hard time throughout life really figuring out where I fall in because often, religion proves to be too strict or too narrow-minded for me, and yet, spirituality…sounds too open-ended. Or too hippie-ish for me. But as times got harder after my divorce, I realized I needed something for myself…something to help provide a place of peace and happiness. Positivity, even if it’s just a spark of positivity, because sometimes one little spark can set my attitude aflame, in the right kind of way. I started to realize that instead of saying, “Yeah, I should really do this for my own well-being,” I had to actually start doing it instead of simply talking the talk and not walking the walk.
The first thing I started doing very faithfully even before I separated from my ex-husband was:
How do I pray? How does one uncertain being pray? Well, it’s a daily meditation for me. I start out thanking God, or that great spirit we call God, for everything good that I have, pointing out all my blessings. I then go through the great list of things troubling me, or stuff I have been working on and need to focus my energies towards for the foreseeable future. Then, I put out my energy for all the people I love, particularly people I know that are struggling. Sometimes, I pray for strangers. In my eyes, prayer is a sending of intentions and desires to the universe. Prayer to me is a time to dispel or talk out my worries and concerns. It’s a time to focus on the things that really matter, and not the BS that doesn’t. It’s a time to make a strategy for my day. A recalibration from the nonsense of the day before.
Whether I am praying on the road, on the beach, in the shower, I am putting out my energies and carving out the space of where and who I need to be at that very moment.
I shrugged it off when people told me to do it, but I can say that when I was finally ready to do it, it changed how I cope with hardship, it changed the way I viewed a lot of things.
But mostly? It helped me to realize how powerful my thoughts, words and intentions are. There are times I don’t have much faith and I wonder if really there is a point to all of it, but I keep doing it and when I don’t,I notice the difference. In fact, I have been very lazy about it in the past two weeks or so, and I feel worse. I feel less focused. More frazzled. Yet oddly, now is the time I need it the most! Now during a hard time in my life is when I need to pray more than ever.
The bottom line for me is prayer is a meditative state. A state of gratitude and of reflection. A state of concentration and focus. These were all things I needed to get through a divorce and now, to be a sane single mother.
This is something I fight against the most, but truly need the most.
I was told to try mediation for years and I just said, “I know,” and kept on doing what I wanted to do, which was not sit still and breathe deep for one, two or three minutes!
I started the habit recently when two major and stressful life events occurred on the same day, and neither of these were happy events in the slightest!
And still, I am not good at it. I am spotty—doing it consistently for eight minutes every few days, and then not doing it again for days at a time. Sitting still and breathing deep for five minutes feels like an incredible milestone for me, something that is probably easier for other people, but not me.
The whole benefit of meditating is it helps me stay focused, in touch with reality and calm. It helps me dig in and feel rooted, something I need as I navigate being a working single parent. Something I need as I navigate just being “Laura.” Something I need as I navigate looking for love and furthering myself as a human.
I laughed it off for many years, but truthfully, whenever anyone suggested I meditate, I knew it was a good idea, and that my resistance to it was just a sign I needed to do it more.
And now as the weather warms up again, I have found that the one great place to do this is the beach. It’s the one place where I feel the calmest. The ocean calls to me and instead of talking back at her, I just listen. Looking out at the waves, I am reminded how small I am. How small life’s problems usually are. And for the big problems, I am reminded that life still goes on. That even when things are utterly terrifying, I am still able to plant my feet in the sand and look out at the beautiful ocean. That no matter how bad it gets, this place on earth exists. That even if I have to “go back” to my everyday world after my lovely time in the sand feeling scared or uncertain, the ocean roars on.
You don’t need to have a religious revival to be connected to a god, or many gods—whatever you believe. What you need is the desire to feel connected and rooted to positivity, love and peace. You need that desire to channel good energy both to others and to yourself. At the end of the day, it’s not whether you’ve got those baptismal papers, but who you are, what you do and how you make yourself and others feel that is truly indicative of your spiritual being. I know some people will argue with that but to me, if you can end the day knowing you tried to leave the world better off than when you started your day, you are truly winning at life!
About the Author
Laura Lifshitz is a pint-sized, battery-operated writer, comedienne, single mother and chocolate fanatic. A former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate, you can find her work in many places, like the New York Times, DivorceForce, Mom.Me, Women’s Health, Worthy, Working Mother and numerous other sites. Follow her on Facebook and her own website, frommtvtomommy.com.