* This is a guest post by Shiraz Janjua, Associate Producer
I admit it: I struggle with prayer. The month of Ramadan is coming up in the Islamic calendar, which means I’ll be fasting from sunrise to sunset everyday for 30 days. (If you’re counting, that’s no food or drink from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m.)
It’s a time of introspection and prayer. Yet when I’m deprived of a good night’s sleep and regular food, I tend to space out. A few years ago, after my pre-dawn meal and morning prayers, I returned to bed for a few more hours of sleep before the start of the day. In a state of half-sleep during this holy month, I imagined I was in the Emperor’s throne room in a musical version of Return of the Jedi. The old guy can dance, let me tell you.
Yet despite the difficulty (and the show tunes), Ramadan is an essential part of my spiritual life. So is daily prayer; there are times in my life where prayer actually helped me survive. These practices help me cultivate a sense of gratitude and even optimism about my life. So, creating a space for that practice is important to me.
A new interactive documentary
That personal sacred space—and what we all do there—is at the heart of a new interactive documentary project we’re developing at the National Film Board.
We regularly see headlines about religious controversies in this country. Somehow, though, those headlines don’t paint a telling picture of spiritual life outside that momentary news blip. And yet that life continues to be deeply meaningful to millions of us, and it keeps pressing up against our pluralistic culture.
Photo credit: “Prayer For Victory, ” by Elisa Deljanin
We live in a pluralistic society, but we rarely witness with any intimacy the beautiful core that inspires our friends, our neighbours, our co-workers. That space remains unspoken and unknown. It’s no wonder, then, that we’re so polarized by the headlines.
So in this new (still untitled) project, we’ll explore religious practice from an intimate, personal perspective. In a collection of short interactive films, we’ll go inside the daily rituals of a variety of people. We’ll explore an inner landscape that is sacred yet surprisingly accessible. We’ll be as close as a heartbeat, and listen to private thoughts and conflicting emotions that swirl around in the minds of everyday practitioners. We’ll go past dogma and enter unconventional spaces where prayer survives despite distraction, time and temptations.
A call for stories
But, um, what will this project be about—exactly? Well, we’re researching a number of daily practices, rituals and prayers we are intrigued by. But our own research isn’t enough. It’s just one point of view. We need others. We need to hear from you.
Tell us about a ritual or prayer or practice that you do regularly and that is central to your spiritual/religious identity. It can be traditional or unconventional, as long as it’s important enough to you to do regularly and with intent.
Don’t worry, we won’t consider you an official spokesperson for your entire religion. Just speak passionately about what your practice means to you. We’re looking for personal experience, tension, wonder, eloquence and depth. Tell us a story! We’ll contact the writers of our favourite submissions for further participation in the documentary.
We want to collect a variety of stories, so please share this call for submissions with others. The call is open to people of faith, of no faith, and to everyone in between.
Email your submission to email@example.com.
Photo credit: “puja varanasi,” by stayhuman images
Header photo credit: “Evening Reflection and Prayer,” by mac mitchell