Something holy in the darkness

prayer-beadsSome nights, I wake up around three.

I wake up with a sense of alarm or urgency.

The room seems shadowy and ominous.

Forgotten tasks on my to-do list surround me, unearthed from my unconscious while I slept. Worries that seemed manageable during the day become fat monsters, sliding their bellies around the room, claws dragging, teeth sharp as glass shards.

I want to go back to sleep. I know I can do little about any of these troubles at three a.m. The middle of the night is no time to let fear take the reins.

So I pray.

I keep prayer beads in a wooden bowl next to the bed. I hold them in the darkness and let prayer soften the edges of my anxiety.

I pray the simple prayers I know by heart. Sometimes I pray the Lord’s prayer but more often, “all is well.” I pray for anyone who comes to mind: people I love or strangers I only saw in a momentary exchange.

I pray and relax, accepting the time as a sacred slice in my life too full of rushing. My fingers on each bead bring me back to a steady rhythm.

Instead of panicking about my lack of sleep, I enjoy the quiet of the house. I hear smooth breathing around me and feel body warmth. The house rests. The cool night offers relief and peace. The world goes on in its worldly way.

I remember others are awake somewhere too. I pray for them. May they be well. May they be happy. May they be calm.

May they know love.

I roll each bead in my finger, a little piece of earth grounding me. The word bead comes from the word for prayer.

prayer-beads-hangingI tell myself that if I don’t go back to sleep, a few hours praying will be time well spent. The room offers a soft murkiness that seems gentle. The worries nibbling me no longer have sharp teeth. I can ignore them.

I wake in the morning with prayer beads still in my hand. The round stones are warm. I wake feeling blessed and calm.

We can resist the 3 a.m. insomnia and fight the darkness. Turn on the light and fuss.

We can accept being awake and recognize it as a time for the holy.

Just pray. Just listen. Just soften.

This is the choice.