Praying in the Lap Lane

by Helen Redman
by Helen Redman, please see her website for more of her fabulous artwork.

You cannot have it all, do it all, be it all.

It is impossible to have a healthy body, family life, yummy and nutritious food, spiritual practice, community engagement, strong friendships, political involvement, mental well-being and fulfilling work that pays all your bills. I am a very positive person, but the myth of perfection in our society makes me feel crazy. There is a cost for everything we do. We are humans, flesh and blood. There are just only so many hours in a day. A person can maintain a career and a healthy relationship, but can they juggle a spiritual practice, time with friends and time to work-out and also be active in the community? What about family illnesses or any other number of circumstances. There is just no way to do it all. Letting go of being able to, is critical.

I am giving up trying to be perfect and trying instead to be present in lots of areas of my life, but I no longer think I can do everything in a magically balanced way. Something will have to give in one or more areas of my life in order for other things to come to the foreground. Letting go of the myth of perfection is a daily and ongoing practice.

We have to start being honest about this in a MUCH bigger way than we are. So many people are weighed down with guilt or shame or pain around the things they just cannot manage or handle and they think they are doing something wrong or are deficient in some way. I deny the allegation and I deny the alligator or the crocodile on our collective backs!

My body has taken a beating of sorts for the duration of my life as a mother. It has been the vessel of life for three amazing children, physically and has paid the price in multiple ways for that. You cannot grow babies in your body without depleting systems. Every pregnancy brings cavities and some bone loss, even if you supplement. My body rightly chose to put the calcium and other nutrients it deemed necessary into the babies in my womb as they grew. When my third child could not make it through the birth canal after two days of labor, he had to be cut out. That was me getting sliced through and sewn back up. The muscle tissues never completely have healed and additionally I developed a thyroid condition around this time. So, my metabolism is not working the way it used to. Every person has their own body story.

Addressing my body is a very time consuming practice. Beyond the feeding and shopping and cooking of healthy food for it trying to exercise is a whole other matter. If I spend fifty minutes swimming and twenty minutes in the shower, ten minutes if I drive to the gym or twenty minutes there and back if I ride my bike, that is about two hours all told. Sometimes if I really rush I can get it all done in slightly less. Whether I take a Zumba class or some kind of other weight-training or strengthening class the time it takes is still the same. Those two hours are not something I can always afford. They certainly take a back seat to the care and feeding of my family, any illnesses, religious observances, or friends in need.

I choose to honor and perfect my heart and soul muscles first in EVERY situation.

I love this body I am in and I want it to be well for a long time, but I cannot forgo the covenant I have made with the Universe/The Holy One to be of service and to tone and tune my heart. It is not an either or equation, but often the body piece comes after the others. Everyone makes their own decisions about this. I can tell you, for certain, that when I die, folks are not going to sit around talking about what a sexy body I had or how pretty I looked once I lost thirty pounds. What they will remember is the soup I made for them, the time I sat with them at the hospital while their friend, mother, brother, sister was dying, the advice I gave them about being kind to themselves or their children. The energy I build that is based on the work I am doing for others is and will always be present long past when I am. My body will eventually turn into earth and no longer be of service to anything other than the worms and soil.

And, I need to keep this vessel that the Holy One gave me, in good enough shape to sail the waters for as many years as I can. The day I am bound to die is not in my control. I could be an Olympic athlete and the number of days due me this lifetime would still be controlled not by me, but by a force or forces way beyond me. So, how do I find a way to pray, grow and honor my body now? Since my youngest is almost out of the house and his need for me is less, in many respects, than they have been, I have a little extra time for self-care.

I have found that I cannot pray while I am doing Zumba or intensive weight-lifting, or strength-training in teams at Healthsport. I can and do pray when I swim. I know yoga is a mind/body practice and I love doing that, but I need something metabolically stimulating right now for optimum health. So, here’s what I’ve figured out. There are many folks in my life who are in compromised situations, either a divorce, loneliness, illness, injury or distress for any number of reasons. I imagine this person in my mind and I surround them with light and healing or visions of love or laughter, whatever they need. I do this as I swim a length of the pool. I do it everyday except Shabbat.

If my list of folks in need gets much longer I might be swimming for several hours, but I could always alternate folks to different days or combine several into one length. This seems to be working for me and I love the blending of my body moving through the water and my heart and soul engaging in practice for those I want to be sending love and healing to. I will still occasionally do other forms of exercise, but for now, praying in the lap lane is one of the ways I have found to combine two very important elements of my life into one discrete packet of time. Both the exercise and the prayer are different as a result. The exercise is improved, the prayer, I’m not so sure. I will have to spend more time alternating between concentrated prayer for folks and this kind of praying in the lap lane and see. For now, though, I’m doing it this way.

If you see me in the lap lane, perhaps you’ll remember that you too can find a way to juggle your many commitments and remember to laugh when some of the balls fall down and start over again.

Originally published in the Mad River Union on Wednesday, March 19, 2014.

Nicole writes to you from her home in Bayside, she didn’t get a swim in today, but she did write about it! ©Nicole Barchilon Frank 2014


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