Try saying a little prayer for yourself

A few weeks ago I returned to a daily habit I’d once embraced for several months, but later abandoned, which is to begin each day with some form of meditation. It doesn’t have to be of the wu-wu variety. No bells, incense or tambourines required. 

Some times I follow some conventional prayer format, others I practice mindful breathing—or just mentally shut up and listen to the sounds of nature on our terrace. Three days ago a mourning dove perched on a tree branch directly in front of me and sweetly coo-cooed for ten minutes. I’m convinced it was putting a show for me. 

I encourage everyone to try their own adaptation of this routine. 

With the remodeling of our terrace recently finished, I’ve recreated my minimalist meditation nook, which consists of an old patio chair we brought from Chicago and a small companion table made here. The only other prop is a Kindle tablet with a pair of wireless earbuds. 

Sit down and shut up.

The location is as obvious as it is lovely: An opening in the foliage between an alder tree and a large prickly pear cactus that lets me peek at the beautiful landscape below, which includes a large manmade reservoir farther out in the distance, almost reaching the mountains in the horizon. 

Most days I tune in a daily Jesuit prayer app originating in London called Pray As You Go, whose format is a bit of music, an introduction, a brief Bible passage, some discussion, prayer, and a closer. The entire exercise takes about ten minutes. 

I tend to respond to this app when it deals with common sense, but often ignored, reminders about being a decent human being, most often revolving around the Golden Rule. 

Just as often I tune out when the daily prayer takes a deep dive into resurrections, triune deities, virgin births, ascensions and other religious arcana that is destined to elude me as long as I live. 

In particular, I’ve never mastered the skill of “talking to God,” much less expecting a response. 

But many of the homey parables of Jesus frequently resonate with me. So can one of a thousand Buddhist sayings or adages that seem as prescient today as they were 4,000-odd years ago. So can observations by the Stoic philosophers from the time of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, from about 121 AD. I even tune in to quotes or sayings relevant to recovering alcoholics emailed to me daily by a friend in St. Petersburg, Fla. Even a simple newspaper story about some pleasant curiosity will help me focus.

Gratitude is a big, but often neglected, item, as I reflect on my good fortune to have a beautiful home in a beautiful locale and, most of all, a great life companion.

Whatever works for me that day. I am constantly reminded how, regardless of the place, time or historical setting, human beings keep grappling with the same ethical and emotional dilemmas. In the arena of human existence, truly there seems to be very little new under the sun. 

I do my meditation immediately after breakfast, as a brief prelude to my day. I’m not one of those “rise and shine” types than jumps out of bed to salute the sun. I instead tend to slither out bed rather morosely; for my feet to land firmly on the floor I need the jolt of a couple of cups of black coffee or one of my dogs jumping on the bed and licking my nose.  

I try to avoid mental to-do lists, and most of all, worrying about news items I might have heard while still in bed. The future of the tormented people of Afghanistan can wait another fifteen minutes—not that I could influence it anyway. 


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