Think & Pray with Andrew Jeselnik

Tweeting a prayer is worth less than shit.

If you hate Anthony Jeselnik you hate human nature.

People are dark. They don’t always act that way, but press them hard enough and, like a cold Vermont cider, those opaque juices will start a-flowin’.

Why are we dark? Maybe we just like to be a bit of everything. Or maybe we need the ability to derive pleasure from suffering, because without it we could not bear witness to the excruciating nature of our evolution without drying into clumps of dust and blowing back into the sea…

In any case, my little Jeselberry here is solid. He knows what his comedy is courting and he understands its worth.

Listen to him spell it out in the titular moment of his 2015 Netflix special, Thoughts and Prayers. Handy, isn’t it? I wouldn’t disagree with a single word, and that’s coming from someone who once banked her worth on reaping 👍s on social media micro-eulogies! I can say that now, because people like Jeselbuns teased me into seeing it, and I’m glad they did.

But!

I still don’t feel the need to throw the twin babies of thoughts and prayers out with the bathwater of Jeselbooty’s oh-so-poignant mockery. The problem is not thoughts and prayers; the problem is they’ve become compressed into a low-res GIF of what they’re meant to be.

Reacting to a tragedy is a psychic chore. As adults, each of us is responsible for understanding how we need to process the shock and disturbance to our nervous system. This means we may all react to tragedy differently and we’re wasting time by judging each other.

Example: I remember on the week of 9/11, I was a sophomore at Emmanuel College and had a few days earlier exchanged numbers with a very dreamy, curly-haired British lad on the Green Line. We were so enamored with each other upon first meeting, it felt like a love-at-first-sight scenario. I even indulged myself in wondering if he was “the one”.

When the towers fell, our plans to go out dancing that night seemed to me even better timed, because I needed to blow off some serious steam. But when I called to solemnly confirm the details, this dude was shocked I still wanted to go out, even disgusted. He never returned my calls after that.

For years I’d think of him from time to time and regret that I hadn’t been more empathetic, internalizing his perception that I had done wrong — but now that I fully accept myself, I understand it’s good he and I didn’t become a thing. I want to be with someone who loves that dancing is part of my grief process.

So: I like to dance, Jeselnuts likes to joke, and 98% of American presidents like to play golf. That is how we deal with grief.

Now, what about the people who prefer to pray?

They do exist, let’s not deny it. Let’s not pretend that just because life would be easier if we all got enthused by the same things that there isn’t indeed diversity in what lifts our spirits — and a tendency to condescend toward other people’s techniques.

An IMDHA-certified hypnotist like myself undergoes training in “spiritual hypnosis”, which is not a technique but a philosophy that allows the practitioner to table their personal beliefs and script a session from within the belief system of the client. I personally love the opportunity to tour private cosmologies (I call it cos-hopping), so these sessions are among my very favorite!

And while just one session is often enough to resolve whatever issue the client came in with, I think a good practitioner uses the intake interview to understand if someone’s coping ritual is really meeting their needs. In the case of reflection/prayer, it does be easy to phone it in, as Jeselnibs lampoons. This would be claiming that you’re taking the time to gather your thoughts but really diving straight into a speech based on what you already believe. Or, praying as a way to grab the spotlight and fill the air. It’s not actually processing; it’s all talk, the prattling of the conscious mind — but, it doesn’t have to be.

Prayer is a very powerful exercise when it’s initiated from within the body. Does it “work”, as in does it have a magical effect through quantum riggery? I’ll leave that to your belief system — I don’t think having a theory is necessary to benefit, so I don’t think about it much.

When I say it’s powerful, I mean that (when done well) it’s a powerful exercise in empathy, an effective way to calm the nervous system, a time-honored technology for synchronizing communities, an accessible threshold to larger perspectives, and a reliable structure for clearing time to abreact (spontaneously release stress through emotional discharge). But again, only when initiated from within the body.

In the therapeutic field we call this “grounding”.

Grounding means that before you attempt to start making sense of your thought forms (and before you start forming requests for what you’d like to be different), you intentionally release all the other thoughts and stories you’re juggling and call your awareness back into your body.

This step is essential because we can’t access our wisest insights while disconnected from our bodies. Trust me, you don’t want the Universe to answer your prayers if you came up with your wishlist from inside Plato’s Cave (not sure if I’m using that allegory right but still, trust me!).

There are many ways to ground, and you can see versions of it poking out through the rituals of religions around the world:

Catholics tap their head, heart, and shoulders to engage the body in prayer; Pagans lead some kind of rooting meditation before casting the circle of magical space; Muslims orient themselves to a physical location and lay down on their knees, and of course in most all traditions, a prayer-er closes their eyes to block the outer world and connect to the inner world.

The problem of course is that anything that becomes ritualized can become tedious, and when the grounding gestures turn into a reflex they lose all intended impact.

So if you or a client finds comfort in prayer, feel free to change up your grounding method to keep from going through the motions. Show Mr. Jeselnuts that thoughts and prayer aren’t total trash by using these techniques to get in the zone of whole-body processing:

🌈 Move your body.
Full exercise is good, but even slow and gentle stimulation of the joints and stretching of the muscles will shift your state of mind.
🌈 Get in some cold water.
Your shower is one of your finest spiritual companions!
🌈 Find breath work that works for you.
The real yogis I know recommend exploring this with supervision,
since certain breath regimens can “awaken” powerful energy that requires specific direction, but deep belly breathing is a sure bet to start.
🌈 The ol’ classic: stand or sit on the ground and imagine roots growing from your body down into the center of the Earth
(or for you Flat Earthers, imagine them poking through the tinfoil into the galactic Petri dish).
🌈 Engage your senses with the smell or taste of Earthy foods like root veggies and bean-based treats (chocolate!!)
🌈 Hum.
Feel those vibrations from the inside!
🌈 Use EFT (tapping) or gentle patting, on your chakras if you like.
🌈 Drum mindfully and deliberately.
(Note that drumming is also used to shift into a hypnotic state;
its effect really comes down to the pace and mental focus used.)
🌈 Hold a comfortably-weighted object in your hands
and focus on the texture, the sensation of it;
imagine your skin relaying this information up your arms into your mind, and then down from your brainstem into your spinal cord.
You may want to use an object that signifies groundedness to you,
such as a piece of wood, or a stone like Jasper.
🌈 Take your shoes off and trace the shape of your feet with your hands, including between your toes.
🌈 Crack your knuckles individually
(but not within earshot of me please).
🌈 Invert your posture until your face feels weird
(please don’t attempt this if it’s going to get me in trouble with your doctor).
🌈 Slap yourself gently whilst repeating “There she is! There she is!”

Just like taking 20 minutes to plan your week, taking 20 seconds to get fully present before prayer will really help you make the most of your energy. And if I’m wrong, please feel free to Tweet something mean about me!

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