prayer beads

These Prayer Beads (Teri Ashley’s Reflection on the Disciplined Series)

Listen to the reflection here.

Hello. Good morning! I’m Teri Ashley.

I was here two weeks ago, when Reverends Sean and Gretchen introduced the theme of Discipline and invited us to share three practices over the course of this month. They asked, “Who was in … 100%?” and I held my hand up high. I like the idea of embracing practices that add meaning to life.  I like experimenting. 

In addition to challenges, I love accountability, so I thought I’d give you an update today regarding those prayer beads…

Historically I have not been much of a pray-er. However, when my mom died seven years ago, I was overcome with what the experts call “complicated grief.” Mom and I had had a brutal falling out 20 years before, and we’d JUST managed to negotiate a truce before she died. I had deep-seated hope for a mother/daughter peace treaty, but that never happened. My first act of self-care was to take my sad self to a silent retreat center for four days because I was so afraid of what I might say out loud. While I was at that center, poking around their book shop for something transformational, I found myself wildly attracted to a set of rosary beads. It felt wrong to take them home – I don’t identify as a Christian — but the thought of those beads wouldn’t let me go. So, after I returned home, I built a personal rosary: a special bead for each person in my life who knew me well and loved me with kindness and compassion. When I went to bed at night, heart heavy with thoughts of my mom, I would run those bead through my hands and recite all those names by heart. So much of creating a joyful life is learning to focus with gratitude on what we have rather than focusing on what’s missing.

So these prayer beads, the ones we’re sharing here at church, really light my fire because they connect me gratefully with all of you. I love going to bed at night and remembering this enlightening, challenging, sustaining, beloved community.  I love knowing you’re saying these prayers too. 

I’ve gotta confess that I’ve renamed the beads — well the blue breathe beads are the same — but I was having trouble remembering the names of all the other ones without my paper, so I‘ve given them simpler names: grounding, gratitude, grace, listen and love. Three “G”s and two “L”s.  Grounding, gratitude, grace, listen and love. The meaning behind them stays the same, but now I can say my prayers with the lights off.

I especially like the GRACE bead: it’s about taking a fearless moral inventory and forgiveness. It reminds me to value the tangles that come with our blessings. When I get to the LOVE bead, I still stay the names of all the people who know me and love me with kindness and compassion. Over time, I find more and more of these people here in this space.  I also try to remember the names and faces of the strangers I meet every day: the grocery clerk, the waiter, the bank teller. I wish them well, too. Every night, I ask myself if there are any amends I need to make, any forgiveness to offer.

I think of this ritual as a way to un-knot some of those tangles while I still have time. And I think of all of us doing this together, a way of sending silky, shiny filaments of love to each other every night. Ram Dass says, “At the end of the day, we’re all just walking each other home.” Instead I think, when we say our prayers, connecting with one another, we’re all tucking each other into bed.

Thank you for joining me in this practice.

2 thoughts on “These Prayer Beads (Teri Ashley’s Reflection on the Disciplined Series)

  1. The blue beads where we breathe in peace and breathe out love has become part of my regular daily reflection. It comes up spontaneously when trying to change a habitual thought or behavior. Those words provide a much needed pause so I can make the right choice.

  2. “sending silky, shiny filaments of love to each other every night” — what an amazing image! <3

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