On Struggling with Exercise and with Prayer
Exercise and Not Making Excuses
I recently started an exercise program, thanks to the great, 100% free (no BS) site www.neilarey.com which made it ridiculously easy to get started. I’ve struggled for years to find a regular exercise routine to help me stay healthy. I tried running but my flat feet made it too painful. I tried an elliptical machine in our house (given away by some friends) but found it too boring and time consuming. Eventually I found this routine that I can do at home, with no equipment, with no payment, and with a short daily time commitment. I decided I would accept ‘no excuses.’ Even if the timing doesn’t seem right, if I just had a meal or am hungry, if my muscles are sore, if I have the sniffles (but not if I have a fever!). And y’know, I may not always have a stellar workout, but I’ve made it almost every day for the last two months and it feels great.
Struggling with Daily Prayer
I have an ongoing struggle with daily prayer as well. Everybody who is committed to a Jewish life certainly has some aspect, or two, or ten, that they struggle with, and rabbis are no exception. And I don’t just struggle to have ‘proper intentions’ during my prayers, to properly incline my heart to G-d. I struggle to get myself to do it at all. There are ‘external’ circumstances I can blame this trouble on, mainly an eye condition that makes reading for extended periods painful (yes, even large text). Because of this, trying to do the entire daily prayers becomes painful and frustrating. When I sit in the synagogue with a minyan (the prayer quorum of ten, required by Jewish law) to pray I either strain my eyes to read too much and give myself a headache or get frustrated and bored sitting waiting as they go through parts of the service I’ve decided to skip.
My Exhausting Dance with G-d
Praying in the synagogue, for me, is the equivalent of running with flat feet. Ideally I would love to do it, but it’s too painful. So most of the time I pray at home, doing the minimum required by halachah (Jewish law), giving particular attention to the parts I know by heart and can therefore recite slowly without hurting my eyes. It’s a dance I do with myself and with G-d, when to push myself to go to synagogue and when not, how much of the prayers to do and what to leave out. This dance can be emotionally and spiritually exhausting, and sometimes I simply don’t pray three times a day as I know and believe that I should. I am considering adopting a similar ‘no excuses’ attitude for my daily prayers and am sharing that process here. I’ll update you all on how it goes.
In the mean time, please share something of what you struggle with in your religious/spiritual routine? What (if any) strategies have you found helpful? And no, this question is not just comment-bait, but me asking for ideas that might help!