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What I Do When I Can’t Pray

photo: Bruce Fingerhood on flikr

Have you ever heard the expression “The darkest hour is just before dawn?”

How about “A prolonged period of cranky, disgruntled, rabidly-toxic cynism precedes grace.” Have you heard that one?

Probably not.

It’s true, though. Take it from me. The recently cranky-and-disgruntled one.

photo: D. Sharon Pruitt on flikr

Here’s what happened.

A few weeks ago, I had to take a test. This was not just any test. This was an oral examination to evaluate my readiness to be a Practitioner at the Center for Spiritual Living in Santa Rosa. You know what they test in this exam? They test your consciousness.

How’s that for intimidating?! That’s like saying, We’re going to shine a search light on the inner recesses of your soul. You got any gunk in there, any petty thoughts or dark ideas, we’re gonna see them, buddy. We’re going to suss them out.

photo: Fiona Wen Hui C on flikr

That’s not actually how the exam goes. The Center is an amazingly loving and supportive environment, and the exam is designed to lovingly and supportively assess one’s readiness for the task of Practitioner.

Part of me knew that. The grown-up, spiritually-aligned part. Another part wasn’t so sure. Another part was just-a-wee-bit nervous. I was trying to stay on the chillaxed, mellow, no-worries side, but the testy, anything-but-mellow, all-worried side kept creeping in.

I was fretting. I wasn’t sleeping well. I developed a sty on my eye. Is there anything more attractive than a tired, fretting person with a sty on her eye?

I don’t think there is.

It all came to a head the day before the test. I was in a mood all day. And by mood, I mean mooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood.

Everything sucked. Especially me. I was the suckiest of the sucky. My appearance sucked. My attitude sucked. Every idea I’d ever had sucked. It was as though a dimmer switch had been activated on every aspect of my life. Crap crap crap. Everything was crap.

photo: Bart Everson on flikr

Even as it was happening, I knew it wasn’t true. My life wasn’t really crap. I was just scared. Scared of taking the exam. Scared of being a Practitioner. My mood was a tactic to escape the task ahead of me, an attempt to prove I didn’t have the proper attitude to past the test. Though I also knew that allowing and loving the resistant parts of me is a vital part of being a Practitioner.

Regardless, I was a cranky-pants. 

For those of you who are thinking, But Z, why didn’t you just pray? I know you believe in the power of prayer. I read your blog post about it. Why didn’t you do an affirmative prayer to get yourself out of your mood? 

photo: Vinoth Chandar on flikr

To those people, I say this: Because I couldn’t. I didn’t want to. Sometimes it’s not possible to snap out of it. At least, it feels like it’s not possible. You’re stuck in the muck. You want to wallow in it. You want to pout. You want to rant and cry and soak in your own toxicity.

Or something like that.

I did meditate, though. I’m a seasoned meditator. I’ve been doing it twice a day for years, and my Cranky Day was no exception.

Right before I began my meditation, I had an idea. A tiny idea that crept in my head like a whisper.

photo: Stuti Sakhalkar on flikr

Ask for Help.

It’s always when I need it most that I forget. Forget that I can turn to Spirit to get me out of anything – any problem, any challenge, any pesky, grouchy mood.

So that’s what I did. It wasn’t a structured, intricate prayer – I wasn’t capable of that. Not in that moment. This was a simple request. A turning over of my mood to Spirit.

That’s all I did.

About two-thirds of the way through my meditation, I heard another voice. Or maybe the same one. And this is what it said:

Use me.  

I knew what it meant, the minute I heard it.  

It meant that being a Practitioner is about letting Spirit work through me, as me. All my fears and worries can come along too, they’re a part of being human. But I also get to turn my life over to Spirit, to let the Divine work Its magic in my life.

Because it’s not all about me. It’s about surrendering to the Energy and Power that’s bigger than me and letting It run the show.

I immediately felt better. A remnant of my mood remained, but it was transformed.

I took my test the next day. And I passed.

photo: Yuval Haimovits on flikr

So the next time I say, A prolonged period of cranky, disgruntled, rabidly-toxic cynism precedes grace, you’ll know what I mean. And you’ll know I’m still asking for Help. Always.

What do you do when you’re in a rut? How do you ask for Help?

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14 Responses to What I Do When I Can’t Pray

  1. Laura August 30, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    GREAT post, Z. I can certainly relate.
    For me, finding the humor often helps…and it helps that I have a funny husband and kids :)

    • Z Egloff August 30, 2011 at 11:30 am #

      Hi Laura, Finding the humor is always a saving grace. Funny kids and husband helps too! 😉 XOZ

  2. Rafe A. Ellis, RScP August 30, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    Thank you Z…

    I could so completely relate to everything you shared – we really are One in every aspect.

    Sometimes it’s as simple as saying to myself, “Self – really? This is how the face of God is showing up as you today?” I talk with myself A LOT – I think because I know I’m really praying in those moments without calling it prayer.

    In those really dark times when nothing seems to work I recall the movie The Never Ending Story. I imagine myself climbing along the cliffs above the bog of eternal stench. Sometimes it’s all I can do to hold on tight and not fall until I remember Spirit as my Dog Dragon.

    If the “condition” persists I take two Tylenol and call my Practitioner ;0)

    • Z Egloff August 30, 2011 at 11:35 am #

      Hi Rafe, I love it! The bog of eternal stench. I always appreciate hearing how others navigate these moments. We’re never alone, are we? I love and appreciate you. XOZ

  3. Squirrel August 30, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    lovely, z. i am VERY familiar with wanting to “soak in my own toxicity”. i do that for a while then i ask for help… well, once i get over myself enough to ASK for help… 😉 until then, i sit in the willingness to be willing. and at some point i’m willing to let it go. then i go to others for prayer if i still can’t get to a head & heart space to pray. :)

    • Z Egloff August 30, 2011 at 11:40 am #

      Hi Squirrel! Remembering to ask for Help is key, isn’t it? And good to know that there other wacky folks out there to share the journey. XOZ

  4. Lili August 30, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    LOVE this, Z… and you, so much! Thank you for this beautiful post. XOL

    • Z Egloff August 30, 2011 at 8:05 pm #

      Hi Lili, Glad you liked it! Wonderful to share the journey with you. XOZ

      • Cornelia W October 1, 2011 at 11:47 am #

        Hi Z, Thanks for sharing. I also can relate to the monster inside. 😉
        The traing for me is, to spot the shadows and bring the light in.
        Karl K.gave me VERGE last week. Great story. I felt as if I was right there.
        Is there another one?
        Hope you happy.

        • Z Egloff October 1, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

          Hi Cornelia, Great to hear from you! I’m glad you liked Verge – the next book is called Leap and it will be out in the spring of 2012. That’s the latest word from my publisher. Hope all is well and groovy and good with you. XOZ

  5. Lori Louise Lawrence January 28, 2016 at 8:43 am #

    Thank you SO MUCH for reposting this on exactly the day I needed to see it! I was up several hours early this morning, because I couldn’t manage to replace fear thoughts with truth-thinking. So many changes are in process at the same time: job, home, community, relationship — that I’m starting to have physical stress symptoms even though my mind and emotions feel mostly fine. Then the middle of the night fear hit … so thanks for help in redirecting my attention. :-)

    • Z Egloff January 28, 2016 at 2:33 pm #

      I love this! I was just starting to wonder if it was worth reposting the old blogs. Yes! Thanks to this comment, the answer is yes. Perfect Timing strikes again. Sending BIG blessings and love!


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