Stop. Breathe. Pray. How Our Practice Makes Perfect

Mar 27, 2019

Photograph by Elcarito

Sometimes our greatest gift to self (and others) is our practice — one that can calm us, help us regroup and remember who we are

So, you may not know this about me, but they call me ‘Lea Long Prayer’…and not without good reason (wink). Well, I like to pray…not just pray. I like to stop, breathe and pray. It’s my true practice. It brings me back to the moment, it centers me, protects me and reminds me that I’ve got this. It also softens my heart — no matter what gets tossed my way.

It’s how I’ve survived many of the twists and turns that life’s journey has taken me on thus far. Even before I identified it as a ‘practice’…I practiced it. And trust me, when I don’t — it reminds me that it’s the only way things work for me. I’m lost and disconnected without it. I don’t feel quite like me.

Life is full of triggers, the things that trip that emotional switch and can thrust us into chaos at a moment’s notice. And ironically, that’s a good thing because it alerts us to where we need to go — back to paying attention, back to self-love.

How can we connect to others if we aren’t connected to ourselves first?

We can run at high speeds in all directions, but without that self-nurturing — we’re sunk. It’ll catch up to us eventually. Whatever your practice may be: meditation, yoga, walking in nature, playing with your dog, cooking, etc., — ‘practice’ it. Give it room to grow and to fill you — to calm you, make you laugh, to ease your heart, to soothe a hurt.

When we spend our time rushing from thing to thing, we miss our divine moments of interaction. We misread one another. We miss out on the point of it all.

Connection is everything. Trust me, tons of energy passes in and out of a restaurant on any given day. Everyone from staff to customers to people delivering produce come carrying their pain, disappointment, joy, celebration, frustration and any gamut of emotions. And sensitive souls can even feel energy waft by them.

And you know what? When we practice our own practice, we can more compassionately serve others — not just in a restaurant, but in life. We can recognize the experience of another with kindness. We can protect ourselves from being triggered and reactive. We can identify our reflection and we can help each other. Remember, never underestimate the power of a smile or a kind word.

When a situation or an individual triggers us (and they will) — we are being called to see a wound that needs healing.

That person is just a placeholder for your pain. Usually we get so caught up in the heat of the moment that we miss the bigger picture. We make it about the issue at hand, not the one from where it truly originates.

Years as a server has given me a window into many people, many emotions, many stories and how they all comingle and converge. I’ve seen people disrespect one another — and I’ve also seen the power of kindness.

I often think about a memory I have while serving with another co-worker a few years ago. I saw that she was being deeply affected by a situation and was spiraling quickly (we’ve all been there). In the midst of the busyness, I grabbed her to the side, placed a hand on each cheek and told her to look at me. As we stared at each other I said, let’s just STOP (block out all the noise), BREATHE (take in fresh perspective and calm our nervous systems and PRAY (ask for the ability to shift and to remind ourselves all is well).

In those few minutes, the world didn’t stop — but the emotional spiral down did. Mission accomplished.

When we stop, breathe and pray, we tell the emotional wound we’ve been carrying: I am here. I see you. You are safe. I will take care of you. Time stops and life resets.

It also reminds us of our humanity, gives us new sight and allows us to recognize the pain in another. Suddenly, when I realize they may have had a bad day, lost a job, had an argument, been ill or are just hungry — when I see these things differently, I can show up differently. I can help.

And when we do, things shift. I’ve witnessed it a million times. When we find a way to see each other, to connect and to soften our hearts…things shift. This is what my daily practice does for me. Sometimes I need reminding, sometimes I fail it and ignore what I know…but it hasn’t failed me yet.

It’s never going to  be perfect. We’ll get rattled.  But just know that when you do, grab onto the stuff that grounds you. And just maybe you might want to give ‘Stop. Breathe. Pray.’ a whirl.

—Lea Haas, Owner, The Garden Cafe Woodstock

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