Recently, I published a post on creating your own labyrinth as a way of making sacred space in a place where you may not be able to find a way to retreat to your preferred sacred space. This is a continuation upon that theme-creating sacred space in the midst of everyday living.
One thing my Spiritual Director and I agree upon is that I MIGHT have spiritual ADHD. Meaning, I need a variety of spiritual practices to keep me grounded. This totally makes sense since on the unofficial adult ADHD test I recently took, on a scale of 1-6 (6 being the most ADHD), I scored a six. Oh, yes. This penchant to need change and to be easily distracted often must be hemmed in by being very grounded in my own spiritual path while allowing myself the freedom to choose exercises, patterns, or methods from beyond my immediate experience.
This led me to take a workshop on praying with beads! Now, when I signed up for the workshop I knew that it was sponsored by an ecumenical organization so I assumed that it would be somewhat wide-open in its approach. I was wrong. It was a class on praying the Rosary. I am not Roman Catholic, and this was an ecumenical retreat, so I was a bit taken aback by the specific nature of the workshop. However, I decided to simply enter into the spirit of the situation and puzzle out my response later.
I am very glad that I did!
When I was able to reflect on the experience, I thought, “There must be a protestant version of this practice that would fulfill the tactile & prayerful longing that I have!” And I was right! Thank you search engine! I found a Unitarian Universalist Prayer Bead Practice. I cogitated on what I read there and then created my own practice. Now, I make prayer bead bracelets and use them to remind me to stay in touch with the sacred in my everyday living. It is one of the tools in my ADHD spiritual toolkit.
I adapted the main principle of the UUA prayer bead practice and utilized them for myself. I also make these for other folks selecting colors and images that I think will suit their spiritual journey. However, if you don’t have a bunch of beads lying around along with a crimper and all the stuff you need to make a bracelet, you can still do the prayer practice that I am about to outline by using your five fingers, starting at your thumb!
So here it is:
See the “tail” on the bracelet? That is where you start or you can start with your thumb (lightly grasp the very end bead or the tip of your thumb) if you don’t have a bracelet or cannot make one. Sit still. Ground yourself. Rest gently with your eyes relaxed and gazing lightly or close your eyes, whatever is most comfortable to you. Here, focus on your image of the divine. Greet the divine and enter into the presence of holiness and join into a sacred moment. Hold this beloved image closely to your heart. Greetings of love, peace, serenity wash over you, through you, and into you. When you are ready, move up the tail of the bracelet or up your thumb to your hand. Feel each bead or feel each bend in your thumb.
- As you go up the beads, breath in and breath out at each small bead. Soon you will land on the large bead (not the clasp) or your fore finger. Here take time to envision those things you want to celebrate! This is a time for adoration, celebration, joy, happiness! Give all of this to your image of the divine and receive the gift that comes back to you whatever that may be. When you are ready, move to the next large bead (or your next finger tip) traveling slowly, thoughtfully, and with divine joy.
- At the next large bead, is the time to turn inward and look back at your day (or days before) and to offer a confession of where you have fallen short. For me, this is a time to admit where I have not been loving, peaceful, or justice seeking. Or a time to confess my lack of patience! This can be a time of sorrow, but it should not be a time of shame. We all fall short. Knowing we have, learning from it, and moving to the next bead is what this moment is for. When you are ready, move to the next large bead traveling slowly, thoughtfully, and with the knowledge that you can make mistakes and still return to a place of holiness and sacred healing.
- At the next large bead, it is time to name the things, people, and beings in the world that you are thankful for. Let love for the other wash over you and let gratitude sink deeply into you. It may be as simple as a favorite stuffed bear that has traveled with you since childhood. Gratitude in itself is a spiritual practice. Let it flow here. When you are ready, move slowly to the next large bead, touching each smaller bead and breathing in – breathing out at each touch. Do this with the understanding that as you find gratefulness in those around you, others are grateful for you and for who you are.
- At the final large bead, it is time to bring your concerns into sacred space. It could be concern for someone’s safety, for healing, for friends or family. Anything that is laying on your heart. Bring them into sacred, healing space. Here, depending on your space and time, you could do many things. You can talk with what is laying on your heart; hold it in love; offer it out to the world or the divine; or even do something creative with it.
- Finally, as close this part of the prayer, you will travel back to your initial image. Return to your thumb or return down the tail of the bracelet or beads. Breathing in and out at each small bead or bump along the way. As you return to your image, hold it, sit with it and when you are ready, leave it in whatever manner you are comfortable with. That could be namaste, amen, or a simple good-bye. Whichever way speaks to your path. Return to your every day living, bringing the sacred space you have made with you. Let it travel with you as you go about your day. Remembering that each time you touch your thumb or grasp a bead, that sacredness walks with and in you.
Shalom and Amen,
© 2013, post and photos, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved
REV. TERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual. (The 2014 issue just released!)
Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk. To reach her for conversation, send a note to email@example.com