For the past few years, I have enjoyed an almost daily yoga practice. It helps me to feel stronger, more flexible, and like I am taking the time to do something important for myself each day. More importantly, however, my yoga practice has become my prayer time. Connecting to my breath, stilling my mind, and letting God speak to me has become more important to me than any of the other benefits that got me into yoga in the first place. Last summer, I was even able to continue my practice on the road, and so I was entering the fall feeling grounded and connected and ready to put a whole lot of energy into whatever God had in store for me next.
Then, August 15th happened, and I narrowly avoided a high-speed head-on collision. Both myself and the driver of the other car were able to walk away from the accident, but the deployment of air bags messed up my left shoulder, both in the front and in the back. Suddenly, I wasn’t able to stretch my arm over my head, let alone bear the physical demands of a yoga practice. Because of the constant pain, I felt like I couldn’t even take a deep breath. And because of the seeming randomness of the accident, I was too angry to really want to speak to God at all. And things sort of fell apart for a while.
As my physical therapy began, and the pain began to lessen, and I had some time to process the accident, I realized that, although I could not yet practice yoga, I was really anxious to begin connecting to God, praying, again. After trying some of my old standbys (coloring prayer, Praying in Color, breath prayer), I returned to a prayer practice that I hadn’t done in some time: prayer beads. When I had learned prayer beads in the past, it included upwards of forty beads to individually pray, and, at this point in my recovery, that was too intimidating. For those of you who are Roman Catholic, they are like a set of rosary beads, but patterned on an Episcopal method of praying the daily offices with verses of scripture. What follows is the practice that I developed for a mini set of prayer beads, which was far more manageable for me at the time (and a bit more portable, as well!)
STEP ONE: Making the Beads
I believe that if you are going to use something to pray, the making of it should be a holy experience as well. Take the time to notice what you are doing. Be fully present. What do the beads look like, smell like, feel like? What do they sound like as you string them together? Are they hard or soft? Warm or cold? Rough or smooth? Stop and say a little prayer as you complete each section. Pray when you snip off the loose ends.
- 21” length very thin hemp cord (you can use what pleases you, but this cord makes knots that stay and has a pleasing sound when the beads slide over it. I got mine at Walmart.)
- 1 small 7/8” wooden cross bead (available for purchase here: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B073XHFMSS/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1 )
- 1 – 14 mm natural stone lava bead (this is for essential oils. You can also use a natural wool ball. Available for purchase here: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B01COPTBYO/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 )
- 2 small 10 mm round unfinished wooden beads (available for purchase here: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MXRWYT9/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 )
- 2 medium 14 mm round unfinished wooden beads (available for purchase here: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MXRWYT9/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 )
- 7 large oblong wooden beads (mine came from a church member who bought them for me for 25 cents a bag at a thrift store.
- String about 3 inches of the cord through the top of the cross bead. Tie three knots (one for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).
- String both ends through one of the small wooden beads. Tie three more knots (one for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).
- String the long end of the cord through the lava or wool bead. String that same end through the next small wooden bead, one medium bead, all seven large beads, and the last medium bead.
- Go back through the small wooden bead that is between the first medium bead and the lava bead. Tie three more knots (one for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).
- Clip the loose ends of the cording.
Now that your prayer beads have been fashioned, you have lots of choices as to how to use them in prayer.
Two blogs posts will follow with the practices that have been the most helpful for me.