Click here to see Ha’Am’s Fall 2017 Print Edition: “Growing Pains”
As I rolled up my yoga mat upon concluding the day’s class, a strong feeling of deja vu washed over me. I remembered that I had felt this great feeling of inner peace somewhere else before, but I could not place where or why I had felt it. I moved on from my attempt to remember, and I basked in the deep feelings of bliss and calm for a while. But then, as I walked out of the class, it suddenly hit me: the last time I had felt this free was when I used to pray.
I grew up attending religious Jewish day schools, where I was taught that prayer would always be my key to happiness. Prayer, I was told, possesses the power to create miracles and will forever be my lifeline to God. As a nine year old and even an 18 year old, I thought I understood what that meant; however, I now realize I had no idea just how precious and necessary prayer is for me, and I only remembered after losing sight of it for some time.
After I graduated from high school and began college, there was no longer a set time for prayer in my schedule. That was just one of the many changes that came along with leaving my little high school bubble. Others included taking on a part time job, spending less time with friends and becoming so much more anxious that I could no longer recognize the person I had become.
The worst part about this change was that I did not understand why I felt so stressed. Even as a full time student, my work load was manageable. I was living at home, which meant I did not have to make large payments for housing or food. In fact, my work load was manageable enough that I felt comfortable taking on a stressful part time job with children on the autism spectrum – I loved the work, but it required a lot of patience.
The majority of college students have packed schedules; many are not as privileged to be living at home while doing so, and many need to make payments for not just housing and food but for school tuition, too, without support from parents. The responsibilities on top of school work for the average college student can be overwhelming, and I wasn’t even facing half of those problems.
I tried to be as aware of my blessings as possible. And yet, I still could not shake the constant exhaustion and anxiety which I felt becoming part of my personality. Week after week, I caught myself in draining thoughts, worrying relentlessly about what the future would hold and wondering whether I am really doing the best possible job in everything I set out to do.
As a psychology student, I learned in a few classes about the potential for yoga and meditation to help practitioners relax and relieve stress. After broadening my once-narrow mind and, truth be told, listening to my mom (who is always right — don’t tell her I said that) I decided to take a yoga class. The class involved learning to balance in different poses while breathing deeply, alternating between moments of silence and the instructor’s repetition of words full of positivity and gratitude. The entire experience was out-of-this-world.
When I finally realized that this mediative experience strongly paralleled my past prayer experiences, I felt silly. Why did it take so long for the light bulb to turn on in my head? Prayer was one of my favorite hours of school growing up for just this reason. The strength and stability I felt after praying is what kept me going day in and out. If anything, I needed it now more than ever, as my life has really just begun. The scheduled time for stillness and silence everyday is what kept my perspective focused in the past. Every single day, I was given a chance to verbalize my worries, my gratitude and my wishes to the Creator responsible for it all.
Why did I feel so stressed? Even with ample support from my family and friends, without my strong communicative relationship with God, I was all alone: alone in trying to figure out the future and alone in my responsibility for every outcome. With prayer as a priority, I now always remember the falsity of these sentiments. I, along with everyone else, am responsible to make my best effort in life, but at the end, the Almighty runs the world.
As I rediscovered this, I made a goal of setting aside a time for traditional prayer each day, and the faithful girl I once knew returned. I returned to a life marked by clear awareness of my abundant blessings, and I became more mindful in knowing and acknowledging that the Big Guy is on my side.
The meditative effects of prayer — separate from the stillness, silence and words of gratitude it contains — are just icing on the cake. This time of daily meditation and my restrengthened relationship with God now allows me to be the best daughter, sister, friend and me that I can be.
My wish for my fellow peers reading this: take advantage of this ironically priceless gift you have — prayer. Long or short, in a group or alone, in any language: take some time everyday to introspect and remind yourself that the weight of the world is not actually on your shoulders. Take time to give thanks for all you have, wish for what you want, and have faith that what is right for you is what will be. We can so easily muffle our perspective in this fast-paced world, losing sight of what is worth our attention in the grand scheme of things. As emerging adults, there is no better time to figure ourselves out and realize that we are not alone on this crazy roller coaster ride we call life.