Thursday, July 21, 2011

Prayer

I have prayed in some form all of my life. Regrettably, most of the prayer was selfish and senseless whining, but that was where I was at the time. In the past few weeks I have experienced a new kind of prayer which I can only imagine is available to me by the grace of God. I have employed it to guard my heart and mind against the constant influx of negative thoughts and haunting memories that have been my existence for as long as I can remember. This is life-altering for me.

Awhile back I wrote about the doubt I have lived with and how it is gone. This entry is in a similar vein, but this new development with prayer is something I never dreamed of. In fact,  just weeks ago, I recall falling asleep with a resigned thought, 'I will never be free of these thoughts and memories. I will simply have to hide them'.  I remember wondering if everyone in the world was just hiding, pretending. But there was more to it than hiding something that plagued me.

I loved my mind full of terrible memories and fantasy. It had kept me company through all the hard things. I would not exist if I hadn't hidden inside its comfortable sanctuary as a child, a teen, an adult. I loved this ability, I felt like I owed it something, and I had a lot of fear when I thought of living without it. I had become so good at this escape that I could 'turn it on' at will, day or night, during any task. It was a good thing. Lost in thought, good or bad, was better than being present sometimes, or so I thought. I was aware that over time the substance of my thoughts changed, but the amazing feeling of protection remained.

This love of mine had been threatened ever since I opened The Orthodox Way, the first book I read on the subject of the Church. I had read many more since, and at some point it was revealed to me that my most valuable skill was a profound wrong in my life that I had to reject. Initial exploration, internally, into what this would take left me feeling powerless. It was at this point that I told myself I would just never speak of this part of me, that it was too hard to imagine letting go.

I can't say there was a moment where things changed, but I did begin to apply prayer to this work of letting go. Not unlike Cognitive Processing Therapy, which I have used to some degree for PTSD, prayer has allowed me to see outside of the process that attaches me to my dissociative behavior.  But it is so much more than any therapy or method. I found that prayer, anywhere and anytime, transports my heart back to the Divine Liturgy, standing before God in a timeless place. Everything else fades away. Calling my heart back to God, even taking a moment to say His Name aloud, has given me the strength to turn away from the thoughts tormenting me.

My mind does not like to be present. The present, especially now, is not a comfortable place. But there has been success, God has granted me freedom.

I expect this to remain a struggle. There was a single moment of failure a week ago where I felt like giving up. I allowed myself to relax into my old (mental) patterns, and the rewarding, narcotic feeling it gave me was frightening. I am so glad I was able to realize this rewarding feeling was false and turn back to prayer.

I am writing this down, nearly certain that no one who reads this could really understand. I wish I could know I am not alone in this, but part of it is a feeling of incredible isolation. Occasionally I think of all the good things about escape in the mind, but now that I have done without it for a bit I realize that the escape does not make up for the torment, and this new life is what I want.

The truth is that any soothing effect my mind might have is nothing compared to the mercy of prayer.


4 comments:

  1. I can see this... prayer in Orthodoxy leads to this healing... I have a long way to go in learning to pray but just knowing that there is actually somewhere (good!) to go is huge... Lighting candle for you all...

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  2. I know what you mean, and I don't say that lightly.

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  3. I am astonished at the healing power of prayer. I spent much of my life praying for stupid things. I have only lately learned, thanks to my husband and his spiritual wisdom, that all of my prayers will be answered if they are the right prayers.

    I know what you mean about holding on to the comfort of sin and sinful thoughts, thought patterns. It is tremendously frightening to think of being free of them! Like any addiction, thinking of doing without it brings panic and fear.

    But to begin to be free of them, to feel their clutches loosen, is an amazing thing.

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  4. I can so identify with this posting. It is so like my reality it might have been posted just for me. Recently I have discovered that not being present is not an option. I have started using the Jesus Prayer as I go to sleep. This means I always go straight to sleep. Before I used to "opt out and dream" and not sleep well. I think I have learnt the lesson. PRAYER. I find it easy to "day dream" on buses but have started trying to memorize the Psalms and this also keeps me present. God is helping me drop one habit, by acquiring another. What wisdom from Him. To drop one would be almost impossible and God in His mercy knows this and shows us a way through. Praise Him.

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