Ask Paul at the RSIC: Embrace prayer, new rituals to relieve stress |

Ask Paul at the RSIC: Embrace prayer, new rituals to relieve stress

By Paul Snyder | Special to First Nation's Focus
The sun rises over Pyramid Lake in this photo — starting your day with prayer and meditation can be a great way to help reduce stress.
Photo: Getty Images

RENO, Nev. —

Client: I hate being stressed out.

Me: Me too. What is your opposite feeling of stress?

Client: What?

Me: What would you like to feel?

Client: I want to be happy

Me: How do you describe being happy?

Client: Time with my family and friends, eating good food, laughing and feeling good about myself.

Me: I hear you want to spend more of your time with family, friends and do healthy activities that make you feel good. Is that right?

Client: Yeah, that sounds good.

Me: Let’s start with feeling good about yourself. Have you noticed when you feel good and happy, people react to you in a good way, and when you feel stressed and rushed, people react to you in a not so positive way?

Client: Yeah.

Me: If your feelings impact how other people react to you, then your emotions — feelings of happiness and attitude — can be contagious. Let’s discuss how you can project good feelings with yourself and others as the day begins to relieve some of your stress. Tell me about your morning.

Client: The alarm clock goes off, and I run to wash my face, get the kids ready, then grab some food to eat on the way to work.

Me: Just hearing that makes me feel stressed. Can we look at alternatives for waking up and setting the tone for your day?

Client: OK.


The Elders teach us that life is made up of cycles. Each stage in the cycle has attributes and characteristics. For example, the life cycle begins in the East, which represents a baby; grows in the South, which represents adolescence; advances in the West, which represents adulthood; and finally moves to the North, which represents Elders.

The Elders show us that a day is also a cycle starting in the morning (East), moving into noon (South), sunset (West) and finally midnight (North). Start the beginning of your day in the East to set the tone.

Many mornings we are on autopilot, which means we wake up the same way, wash and shower the same way, and eat the same food. We do a routine out of a habit we’ve created.

Let’s look at your morning to see if extra time would help you incorporate healthy behaviors and enjoy your morning instead of rushing through it. Also let’s look at your thought process in the morning. Let’s change your thoughts toward “being” — instead of “doing.”

When we are in a “doing” mindset, we tend to think about future tasks that can cause anxiety and stress because we are chasing the completion of the task thus giving our power to a clock. When we allow ourselves to “be,” we are focused on the present. Allowing we to be completely present in the situation keeps our power (and peace) internally.


When you are feeling stressed, or beginning to feel stressed, bring yourself into the present. You can ask yourself, “What’s wrong with this moment?” This simple exercise allows you to recognize you are OK and you become present.

You can also pay attention to your breathing, listen to your heartbeat, and allow yourself to relax. Talk gently to yourself. Say four times to yourself, “I am safe, I am loved, I am valuable, I am healthy, I am worthy of good things, and everything is OK.”

Check how this makes you feel in your body. If you feel less stress and feel better physically, it’s working! You can do this throughout the day when you feel the need. However, please don’t do this while driving or in a situation that needs your full attention.

Now, let’s use the same thought process to create a morning ritual, one that that serves you. Start by waking up earlier than you usually do to give yourself plenty of time to begin your new day. Think that you are open to opportunities and available for the best life has to offer today! Think that this is going to be a great day. You are going to be safe today. You don’t have to compete or compare yourself to anyone. You are able and sufficient just the way you are.

We can also use the wisdom in the book, “The Red Road to Wellbriety: In the Native American Way,” on page 92 (Morning Prayer), to begin your day to add peace and balance to your day.

Below are the 8 directives for the Morning Prayer and Meditation:

  1. Ask the Creator to direct my thinking today.
  2. Ask Him to keep me from feeling self-pity.
  3. Ask Him to keep me from being dishonest with myself.
  4. Ask Him to keep me from having self-seeking motives.
  5. As the Creator for inspiration when I am faced with indecision.
  6. Do not ask for anything for myself, unless others will be helped.
  7. Pray that I will be shown what the next step will be.
  8. During the day when I become doubtful, ask for the right thought or action.


Experiment with these methods in your morning and see how you feel. Remember to try these a few times to create a behavior. The stressed-out thought processes and behaviors took time to develop — as such, this new peaceful way also will take time to develop.

We can also look at our evening rituals to create a peaceful mindset before we fall asleep. The Evening Prayer and Meditation, on page 93 of “The Red Road to Wellbriety,” says these are “13 Questions to Ask Myself”:

  1. Was I resentful?
  2. Was I selfish?
  3. Was I dishonest?
  4. Was I afraid?
  5. Do I owe anyone an apology?
  6. Do I need to discuss anything with anyone? Is there something that I have been holding inside?
  7. Was I kind to everyone?
  8. Was I loving to all?
  9. Could I have done anything better today?
  10. Was I thinking only of myself today?
  11. Was I thinking of what I could do for others today?
  12. Did I ask the Creator’s forgiveness?
  13. Did I ask what I can do to make amends?


The Red Road reminds us that Native Americans have always been people of prayer. The old ways included prayer when the sun came up, prayer for a good harvest and prayer for taken animals so people could live.

Starting your day with prayer and meditation and ending your day with prayer and meditation can bring life into perspective of what’s truly important and reduce stress.

Remember, we are people and will make honest mistakes. The idea is to be gentle, kind and loving to others and us. It all begins when you wake up in the morning.

Think of the new day as a gift from Creator and honor Creator by participating fully and giving your best in everything you do. The more you give and invest in your core beliefs and values the more happy and peaceful you will become!

“Ask Paul” is a health column by Paul Snyder, MA, LADC-S, a Substance Use Counselor at the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center. It publishes each month in The Camp News, the monthly newsletter for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony community. Have a question for Paul? Email him at