May 20, 2019

Prayer Forces a Person to Slow Down — and That’s Good

Photo by Pexels

As a workaholic, the last thing I think about before I go to sleep and the first thing I think about when I wake up is work. I’m constantly brainstorming how to fit work into my schedule by using life hacks and productivity tips to do everything faster. 

I never shower longer than 10 minutes, I work out in an hour max and I prep my meals in a few minutes. Unhealthy, I know. But I’m embracing ways to slow down. 

One of the baby steps I recently took was extending the time I take to pray. I used to recite only the morning blessings and say the Shema when I woke up and before bed. Now, every day, I do those along with the Shemoneh Esrei, Aleinu and the Song of the Day. Usually, I’m frantic in the morning because, oh my gosh, another workday has started and I have so much to get done. But now, because of prayer, I’ve added meditation and calm into my morning routine. 

There is a trend — especially among millennials and especially in Los Angeles — to meditate. Apps such as Headspace and Calm teach users how to slowly incorporate more meditation into your day. People are supposed to sit quietly, release anxious thoughts, take deep breaths and slowly become a Zen master. The same is said of yoga. 

Although I love that meditation is trending, and yoga is popular, Jews should remember that we have built-in meditation in our practices that we should be proud of and utilize. We don’t need to say, “Namaste” or adopt a Buddhist lifestyle to achieve inner peace. 

It’s good to always seek truth. In my opinion, the ultimate truth lies in the Torah and siddur and not solely in a yoga studio or meditation room. Using a combination of yoga, meditation and Jewish prayer is ideal in order to stabilize your central nervous system and help you feel balanced. 

“I believe that after you’ve promised yourself to implement a Jewish practice, there is no going back. You’re obligated.”

For 15 minutes every day — longer for men who wrap tefillin — a person can focus on thanking HaShem; learn valuable lessons from the prayers, such as the importance of visiting the sick; and be grateful that he or she is alive and free. 

While on occasion I’ve abstained from Facebook for a week and turned off my phone, the only truly calming practices I’ve maintained are praying daily and observing Shabbat. When there isn’t some higher meaning behind it, I find self-imposed practices hard to sustain. But I believe that after you’ve promised yourself to implement a Jewish practice, there is no going back. You’re obligated. And you’re making a great spiritual change in the universe, even if you don’t see it. 

I’m constantly fighting that frenzied feeling the world imposes on us nowadays. We’re all busy with cellphone messages, jobs, the pressure to achieve the American dream and the desire to keep up with the news of the day. 

I say, to heck with all of it. Start praying, and you’ll be calm and stable and learn, internally, what matters most to you. You’ll be able to determine where your heart and soul wish to guide you. Prayer centers you, helping you block out all the unnecessary noise, and giving you the opportunity to listen to yourself. 

I encourage you to open a siddur and start slowly. If you don’t understand the Hebrew, then start in English. Think about the meaning of the words. Take in your beautiful traditions. And give yourself a few minutes to shut out everything else and know yourself. Only then will you be able to conquer the day and thrive as you go out into the world.

Kylie Ora Lobell is a contributing writer at the Jewish Journal.