I've never been completely sure I know how to pray. Even when I say to myself, "I am going to pray" or "I need to pray" or "I am praying," I'm not ever convinced that what I'm doing is actually praying.
I've tried many different recommended techniques over the years. I went through a period where I was praying formal prayers (an example might be the Lord's Prayer). In another phase, I practiced simply opening my inner space to the silence and asking it to teach me
Rosaries (despite the fact I'm not Catholic) and rudraksha beads have also been periodic favorites, especially when I feel the need to pray while out walking, traveling or even while trapped in social situations I haven't yet figured out how to escape from.
Whether tackling the proper prayer position, the recommended length for the prayer time or even dividing up how much of the time period should be spent talking (praying) versus not talking, it is all a particularly slippery slope in my world.
For example, while my lightly Christian upbringing brought with it countless reminders that the "on your knees" prayer position is ideal, I can count on one hand the number of times I have ever prayed while kneeling - and most of those were in context with publicly kneeling on something comfy and padded during some type of religious service. Otherwise, my knees simply won't stand for it and the rest of me isn't enthused either.
The line between meditation, contemplation and prayer feels particularly blurry. They sound like three separate things. So I have experienced some amount of consternation in regards to whether I have completed adequate amounts of each on a regular basis as well as which one of the three should be done first.
Mostly these days, I have found myself gravitating towards meditation and contemplation rather than prayer, because I am not so plagued with worries about being too self-centered when I am doing these practices. I figure whatever comes up - or out - that is what was needed for me to grow, grieve, evolve, whatever.
But then recently I was reading Martha Beck's memoir called "Leaving the Saints." In this memoir, she talks about her experiences with religion - and specifically Mormonism - growing up and then again in adulthood.
While I've never been especially drawn to self-identify with a particular religious path (although there are times I have absolutely done in during attempts to fit in), I have found this book especially intriguing from the perspective that one particular branch of my family is devoutly Mormon.
But that is not why I decided to read "Leaving the Saints." I decided to read it because, like Martha Beck, I experienced trauma and abuse at the hands of religious leaders and I wanted to learn more about how she healed from that in her own life.
So far, reading her book has been so helpful! And one of the most helpful parts has also been one of the least anticipated.