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I recently began to experience Zoom burnout, feeling like I was dragging myself to the screen to my commitments. A prayer gathering — also on Zoom — helped me gain some perspective.
I joined the digital version of a women’s prayer gathering that a few friends have held every month for some time. As this time of social isolation progresses, I’ve found it increasingly hard to begin any digital meeting with joy and motivation. Even though this meeting was to pray, before it started, I caught myself feeling the same subtle irritability I experience before other Zoom commitments.
But once the call began, I quickly noticed that my attitude shifted. We opened with some light conversation, and the genuine and the casual nature of the group eased my mood. I stopped thinking about the meeting as an obligation and let myself get more comfortable —pausing my camera when I walked around to make tea and letting myself forget the pandemic’s influence on our circumstances. We then moved on to state the intentions behind our prayers. Each of the women in the group shared what they wanted to pray about, from more loving relationships to the environment’s wellbeing.
I felt myself settle into the conversation, excited to pray with the group of women. Abdu’l-Baha, the son of the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, said: “Joy gives us wings! In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness.” I could feel that we were building joy through our honest and meaningful conversation, even when we spoke about the stressors and struggles we each faced.
The Baha’i writings describe prayer as a platform for us to ask God for whatever we want. One passage encourages: “Close thine eyes to all things else, and open them to the realm of the All-Glorious. Ask whatsoever thou wishest of Him alone; seek whatsoever thou seekest from Him alone. With a look He granteth a hundred thousand hopes, with a glance He healeth a hundred thousand incurable ills, with a nod He layeth balm on every wound, with a glimpse He freeth the hearts from the shackles of grief.”
As I bounce between the ups and downs of quarantine and navigate Zoom burnout, I try to keep prayer at the forefront of my mind. It’s one of the things that eases me out of irritability and helps me feel focused, present, and joyful.
Abdu’l-Baha also wrote: “When a man has found the joy of life in one place, he returns to that same spot to find more joy. When a man has found gold in a mine, he returns again to that mine to dig for more gold. This shows the internal force and natural instinct which God has given to man, and the power of vital energy which is born in him.”
Yes, I sometimes still feel Zoom fatigue — and yes, I wish every day that we could be having prayers together in person instead. But I appreciate how we can keep finding creative ways to connect and uplift each other spiritually. Practicing letting myself be open, honest, and conversational in my prayer with loved ones is a wonderful source of joy that protects me from emotional distress.