It was a Monday night, and I was teaching a restorative yoga class. I was sitting cross-legged in the dimly lit yoga studio gazing at the sun mural. My students were resting in savasana, corpse pose, the last pose in any yoga class. The room was quiet, and I was trying to stay present while my students rested. I was running my thumbs over each finger over and over while I focused on my breath. I listened to the ticking of the clock. I tried to be still.
It was mid-breathe when my mind started to wander. And then a thought emerged: Crysta, you are living the life that you have dreamed. You’re a teacher (I’ve wanted to be one since 4th grade), and you’re a yoga instructor (I’ve wanted to do this since I was in my thirties). Even on the hardest of days, you are doing what you always intended on doing. All of my being began to feel and hear these words: Thank you, thank you, thank you. These words became my unspoken prayer to whatever higher power there might be.
That being said, I don’t really pray anymore. There are several reasons for this. First of all, I don’t believe in prayers of petition. I don’t think that prayer works in that way. I also don’t believe in praying for things like a new car, a job, or a relationship to work out. I don’t pray for these things because I don’t believe this is how the universe works. I believe in a higher power. I am constantly questioning what this higher power is, but I do think that he/she/it is filled with love. This higher power doesn’t grant wishes like a fairy godmother; instead, I think that he/she/it is with us always, giving us strength. I think that this higher power knows our deepest longings and our deepest worries. This power is always with us, even when we feel the most alone. I don’t need to pray, because my prayers are already known.
I do believe in gratitude. Expressing appreciation for the many beautiful things in my life is a form of prayer. My life has been far from perfect. I have regrets. I’ve made mistakes. I have experienced deep loss. But I believe with all my being that there is always something to be grateful for. My daily prayer practice is to write in my gratitude journal, to document the experiences and the people who make my life better. I am grateful for beautiful sunsets, books that I don’t want to put down, friends who keep me going, my family who supports me, a steamy cup of mint tea, an afternoon at my favorite coffee shop, memories of my children, a job that sustains me, a hug from a student. Gratitude is a prayer to the universe, a prayer to the higher power, a prayer of thanksgiving for all of life’s small blessings.
As I sat in my yoga class contemplating my life, I felt fully aware that life, despite its difficulties, is good. Life is also challenging, complicated and unfair. Yet my life feels fuller — richer — when I acknowledge the small, daily things that bring me joy.