Friday, February 02, 2007

449. Prayer meme

Mata H, Religion and Spirituality editor at BlogHer pointed me to this meme, just what I like to write about. Anyone who wants to take up the meme challenge is invited to post a link to their posts here. I look forward to the resulting, fascinating glimpse into a bunch of women bloggers' spiritual lives.

1. Do you pray/meditate? Which? How often?

I attend prayer services just about every Friday evening and Saturday morning, as well as on most Jewish holidays. I also sometimes attend weekday morning services, or pray alone at home.

2. Why is it that you pray and/or meditate?

It brings me enormous peace. Prayer somehow allows me to better focus my joy, sorrow, and all emotions in between. During and after prayer, I'm able to feel and understand on a deeper level than usual.

3. Is there a place/setting/time in which you are more likely to pray and/or meditate?

It's less the place than the community with whom I pray. My synagogue meets at various locations including a glorious, jewel-like sanctuary and a big stone church, and I always feel safe and comforted no matter where the physical location of services.

4. Do you use any physical objects to assist your prayer/meditation?

I wear a tallit, a prayer shawl, at morning services, as well as occasional evenings (Yom Kippur, and when I'm helping to lead). I've been wearing one for about five years, having grown up with the traditional practice that only men get to wear a tallit. It still feels kind of new and transgressive. I love the sensation of fabric wrapped around my shoulders like a physical manifestation of God's embrace.

5. Are you most likely to use established prayers/meditations, or to create your own style?

I prefer established prayers and songs in Hebrew. Their insight and poetry always seem to say, with utter beauty, what I need God to hear. Since I'm not fluent in Hebrew, at the moment of prayer I only absorb the gist of intention and can't focus on individual words. But that vagueness is part of what drew me closer to Judaism; I love the strong sounds of Hebrew and the continuing, unfolding mystery of the true meaning of those prayers. I'm constantly reminded of how much more there is to learn and discover and (unless I ignore the Hebrew and think only about the English translation during services) am never in danger of taking those words literally. I think this is what the study of Torah is trying to teach us: possibilities of interpretation are endless and unlimited, and God's ear is open to all.

6. Are you more likely to pray/meditate alone or in a group?

I prefer prayer and meditation in a group; I just wrote three posts about this, in fact.

7. Have you ever asked anyone to pray/meditate on your behalf? If yes, and you are comfortable sharing that experience, please do.

Only once, before I went into the hospital a few years ago and thought I might be very sick. (I was just fine, Baruch Hashem.) In the days and hours prior to my surgery, I could feel--physically--the force of everyone's good thoughts and wishes, and have no doubt this added strength helped me through the experience.

8. If asked to describe your religious affiliation/practice/belief, how would you do that?

Jewish, mostly following Conservative practice and open to exploring different paths along the same road. I belong to an unaffiliated synagogue.

9. What would you like to say about prayer/meditation that has not been asked here?

Far too much for a meme--please see the rest of my blog!


Cynthia said...

I've really enjoyed reading your responses to the meme. The ways we reach for God all inspire me. Until reading your entry, I didn't know that women would wear a tallit at all. I did think that was something limited strictly to men.

Regina said...

Loved your answers, aa... as always, very insightful. I can just picture you wearing your tallit...

alto artist said...

Thank you, as always... And Cynthia, thank you for visiting! and, yes--much of what I write about in this blog (chanting Torah, leading services) was in fact not "officially" permitted for women to do until 50 years ago or so. I too often take for granted the ability to participate in my religion in these ways--I'm so fortunate to be living n this particular place and time.