August 1, 2012 | 8:00 am
Posted by Susan Esther Barnes
If you asked me whether I pray, my initial reaction would be, “Of course I do. I pray at services on Friday night and Saturday morning. Every morning I say ‘Modah Ani’ to thank God that I am still alive. I pray every day.”
In a sense, those prayers aren’t my prayers. They are prayers written by other people, in another time. Sometimes, they express the things I want to express. Sometimes, they just feel like words. There a moments when the repetition of the same words feels tiresome; there are intervals when it feels comforting. And I never know when one of the “old” prayers will cause something new to pop up.
But when I go beyond my first reaction, the next thing I think about is my time in the car on my way to work. Often, I use this time to admire the scenery, to check in with God informally, and to think about what is going on in my life. This, too, is a form of prayer.
When I first got my iPhone, I made the mistake of loading it with various podcasts, and listening to them on my way to and from work every day. After about a week, I felt something was wrong. It didn’t take long for me to realize what was missing was my time of reflection and communication with God. Now, I listen to Podcasts only a few times a week.
R. Nachman of Bratslav said, “The days pass and are gone, and you find that you never once had time really to think…You must therefore make sure to set aside a specific time each day to review your life calmly.”
I need that time in the car, for my personal piece of mind, as well as in order to blog.
Since I started blogging for the Jewish Journal, I’ve gotten a number of questions about it. One of them is, “How long does it take you to write a post?”
My answer is, “It takes days; it doesn’t take any time at all,” How is that possible?
During that time in the car, my mind wanders over what has been happening in my life, and it starts to put the pieces together. Whenever I find a quiet time, whether in the car or elsewhere, I set my mind to wandering. I try not to think about writing. As any creative person will tell you, most of the work of creativity is getting out of the way and allowing the process to happen.
It takes me no time to write the blog, because, in a sense, the blog writes itself. My mind wanders, until words and phrases start to form in my mind. Then I know it is time to sit down and type it out. I do edit what I write, but the final version is usually remarkably close to the first draft, because all the work is done beforehand, in the background of my mind while it wanders.
I don’t write in order to blog; I started blogging because I was writing, and putting it up on a blog seemed like a more efficient way to distribute my writing than just emailing my pieces to friends, like I used to do.
In her book, “A Spritual Life: A Jewish Feminist Journey,” Merle Feldsays, “What is a prayer? A prayer is the articulation of something very particular at the core of one’s being, flung out into the universe. Perhaps it finds its mark, perhaps not. The essential thing is the articulation and the flinging.”
My time in the car and at the keyboard is my act of articulation, and my act of posting on this blog is my act of flinging. I don’t know whether this post or any other will find its mark, but it is my prayer, in all its particularity. Do I pray? Yes, I pray the prayers of others every day, and, once a week, this blog is my prayer. What is yours?
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