Feel exhausted all the time? Dreaming about going to an ashram and disconnecting? Whether you're chronically exhausted or not, here's a quick tip to help you feel more relaxed and rested: pray.
I have coached many exhausted women and again and again I've noticed that to shed deep layers of exhaustion prayer is necessary. Why? Because prayer makes us feel safe to walk down the stairs to meet and greet our shadow side, and then like a beloved wise elder it helps us rise up to the light.
It amuses me that I would suggest people pray. I didn't grow up praying. My family wasn't against prayer, we just didn't believe praying was for us. So I didn't pray. But my step sisters prayed, every night, and secretly I was jealous. I wanted to lean over my bed and pray too.
My prayer envy wasn't long lived. I had drank the "I don't pray" Kool-Aid and absolutely nothing could get me to switch my drink.
Or so I thought. My father's death changed that. How ironic that death has a way of waking us up, reorganizing our emotional drawers, and giving us safe passages to shed layers of exhaustion and be more of who we truly are.
"HELLOOOO!" Prayer announced herself loud and clear one day while I was riding my bike down a cobblestone street in The Hague, my mind focused on graduate school like good girls who follow the rules do.
I'm not here, I told her.
"I KNOW YOU'RE IN THERE!" She growled.
Why is it in life that when we really want to hide, when we're at our lowest, messiest moment, the opportunity to be found presents itself?
Prayer found me on that cobblestone street on a cold day, riding my bike back to the squat where I lived.
"PRAY NOW," she told me.
I don't want to. I'm too tired.
"THIS IS WHY YOU NEED TO PRAY," Prayer responded.
Will it help my exhaustion? I asked. Will it heal the deep hole I feel of losing my father at 22, before I even began to know him?
"YES," Prayer said unequivocally.
So I arrived at the squat, went to my room, kneeled down and there was a knock on the door.
Saved from prayer, I thought to myself.
It was Magnus, the Swedish guy I cooked dinners with at the squat.
"Time to cook," he told me.
"OK, two minutes," I told him.
Can I pray in two minutes? I had no idea. My mind felt empty and my body even more empty. No prayer was coming to me. I tried a page from my step sisters' prayer book, or at least the words I could hear from the hallway as they prayed when they were in elementary school.
God now lay me down to sleep,
I pray the lord my soul to keep,
guide me through this stormy night,
wake me up with morning bright,
Oh no, I couldn't. That prayer sounded ridiculous. I don't pray.
I went to get up. Magnus shouted out again for me to help him cook dinner.
Ever notice how the moment you're about to change a habit or label or emotion you cling to it like it's a life line? You know it's sucking the life force out of you, but you just can't give it up.
It's like a new diet. The moment you say, "That's it, I'm going to stop eating ice cream" that's when you'll go so far as to eat ice cream out of the garbage can to get some in your mouth.
I'd been trying so desperately to hold my life together since my father had died. To not fall apart. To keep going.
Have you lost someone and done this too? Just continued on like, sure they died, but life goes on and you cried at the funeral and cried when you went through his stuff so the next bunch of tears have to be "I'm over it tears" but then you realize you're not over it and you're exhausted and now what do you do?
That was me. Holding on for dear life and wanting the pain to be over.
But I knew. My body knew I wasn't over it. It had been falling apart for the past year. I had seen doctors. Nobody knew why I was losing weight. Or why I was so dang tired and required monthly vitamin B shots to maintain my energy.
Exhaustion often feels like this either/or trap; either it's a sexy snake calling you back to yourself or it's swallowing you whole.
Perhaps that's Prayer's job. Her job is to sense when people are being swallowed whole, when they're asleep at the wheel of their life, and step in.
She definitely had my number. And I thought I was unlisted.
So I prayed that night before making dinner with Magnus. I prayed in my own way, without many words, quietly, but from a place I had never touched before. Was it my soul? All I knew is that it felt like the magic of a starlit night.
The next year I prayed every night.
Some years I've prayed with one word, a song, or a poem. Prayer is simple a deep reverent pause. Prayer doesn't judge how you pray.
I prayed with this Maya Angelou poem for four years when I went through another bump along the journey:
A Woman in harmony with her spirit
is like a river flowing.
She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination
prepared to be herself
and only herself.
I pray most days. I don't wear Prayer on my sleeve telling everyone I meet that I pray, that's just not me, but I do sit and pray every night after I take my bath with lavender oil.
And here's what I've learned: it works. If I'm in the dark, I can see the light. If I'm in light, I say hello to darkness.
But most of all after I pray I feel layers of exhaustion flowing out of me. I feel more energized, alive, and radiant.
Like the yoga nidra meditation that I've taught so many women at Bold Tranquility, prayer helps me access the peace inside me; the woman who knows who she is and honors her true self. The well-rested woman.
Some days I can't believe I'm a prayer person.
Other days I can't believe I never prayed.
Today I hold it all. Just as it is.
Do you pray? If so, how has prayer helped you shed exhaustion? If you don't pray, tell me about that too. I love hearing your thoughts.