Centering Prayer Day 1

Centering Prayer is a method of silent prayer.

This past Sunday I began a pre-worship time of Centering Prayer at church.  I knew that I wanted it to be more experiential than a lecture or an informational Sunday School class.  I wanted to give people time to actually practice centering prayer together.

I also knew I needed to explain it a bit and prepare people to incrementally develop time of silence and stillness in order to practice this ancient and yet new again way of praying.

From the Contemplative Outreach website I began to pull together language to use in class. http://www.centeringprayer.com

Centering Prayer prepares us to receive a sacred gift.

In this prayer time we experience God’s presence, gentle as a butterfly, within us; closer than breathing; closer than thinking; closer than consciousness itself.

We detach from what holds us – what holds our attention, our emotions, our biases, so we can be open to God’s presence. “I sleep but my heart is awake.” (Song of Songs).

It is a visceral way to be in touch with the deeper yearning inside you. Cynthia Bourgeault (Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, 130).

In centering prayer, the inner observer’s job is to connect your mind’s lofty ideals with your embodiment’s actions. (Bourgeault, 131).

This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.

“The actual work of centering prayer is consenting to God’s presence and letting go of the present moment and all its content.” Thomas Keating (Intimacy with God, 26).

In the quiet of centering prayer, the consent to return to a sacred word, or your breath, or a sound, is all the activity you need.

At this point in the group (ok, it was only two of us this first week) after getting to know each other a bit and butterfly outlinelearning a little about what Centering Prayer is, we took an outline of a butterfly to trace with our finger and then focus on the image to use as a signal, when our minds strayed, to come back to center.

We ended our time together agreeing to practice Centering Prayer for 10 minutes twice a day – morning and evening. We are not necessarily expecting to get to that blissful state in the first week :0) but we are intending to practice settling in and looking for the Sacred One inside us.

So, this morning, after my morning walk (thank you for no more snow), and some yoga to release my bound up muscles, I sat on my mat in search of a quiet mind.

It was illusive.  It’s really ridiculous how many thoughts come into my mind.  I admit I AM a creative person and it seems to be on all the time! Some people tell me I have too much going on inside my head. Whatever, it’s the way I’m made.

I felt like there were moments when I was on the edge of it and then I’d think “Oh yea! I’m getting it!”  Darn… I’m not supposed to judge or think. I’m to be aware, but not analytical. So, I didn’t get it – yet.

I resolved to say to my mat “To be continued”.sitting by water in the country

Meditations of the Heart (Thurman) Day 11

Today’s meditation by Rev. Howard Thurman calls us to be honest about ourselves, warts and all, when we are in prayer.  He rightly say, that when we pray we don’t want to expose the most unseemly parts of our behavior, but rather the most worthy. He says, the ugly things in us we almost instinctively seek to hide, to cover up, so that we may seem pleasing in God’s sight.

I just want to give that a big “OH YEAH!” to that. I can’t honestly say when I last put all my foibles on the prayer mat.  I try not to go into that zone of confession, that place where I have to say things like, “I really didn’t like… when he/she… and that was because I wanted to go my way”; or “I hate it when …. because I get so irritated. Why can’t it be like…. the way it would work out better for me?”

But, I’ve learned that sometime what we THINK would be better for us, in due time turns out that it might have been wrong for us afterall.  Not ALWAYS wrong, but; there seems to be some poetry to letting “bad” things test our mettle and our capacity for grace.  If I could admit the ‘unsightly’ things (since God know them anyway), perhaps I’d take the time to sit with them and find a lesson or a blessing despite them.  Or I’d just learn to live with them and keep asking for grace.

Thurman prays this way, “teach us to know that Thy (yeah, he used the King’s English back in the 1950s) love is so whole and so healing that nothing less than all of us can rise to meet Thine all-encompassing care.”

Next time I’m on my yoga mat, my prayer mat, I’ll try to “BRING IT” to God, especially when I’m in child’s pose, which I consider to be a position of full submission to Christ.

Namaste  Child's pose

Meditations of the Heart (Thurman) Day 2

Rev. Howard Thurman begins his second day of devotions this way: “There is very great virtue in the cultivation of silence, and strength to be found in using it as a door to God.” (18)

I remember my cancer days when I was living alone, trying to fight in and through the imposed silence of illness and recent divorce.  I remember the endless days of prolonged silence, prayers and tears.  I remember focusing on pink healthy tissue and talking my body into warrior mode. I remember thinking God was disciplining me for some infraction in my past – some direction I had or hadn’t taken, some choice I had made that went against God’s divine will for me. I remember, and still experience at times, a depression so pervasive that not only my spirit but also my body ached.

And, during those cancer days, I’ve come see that I cultivated a silence that sanctioned an opening to the Presence of the Holy One.  I was sent messengers who cradled my broken spirit, e.g., Rev. Alois Ososo, a pastor from Kenya who was in the country for a few months and in my care for a few weeks. My most-honored-best-friend, Pat, who was my ever present island of refuge. And, I developed new and strong friendships that would not have come to pass, had I not traveled that debilitating road and truly needed others.

A man, a musician and mystic, whom I met right after finishing my protocol treatments, has engendered my mystic soul through his pilgrimage retreats.  Each August I found myself in a wooded retreat center practicing a monastic rhythm with Stefan, aka Macushla, and a wide variety of other retreat participants. These retreats included long periods of silence and featured original chant music with a profound alchemy of Celtic joviality and spiritual transcendence.  I learned to sit through the painful renderings, mine and others’, that comes from being still in the presence of God, and particularly while sitting quietly in community.

I miss those days.  I miss how we usher one another to God’s door and then step aside to allow each other our own entrance.

Draw Me Nearer                             

Deep…

          O My Heart’s Desire

                    Dip me deep beneath the surface

Lower…

          Let me glide effortlessly to you in the center of life                        

                    in the depth of senses                                    

                                in the nook of what can be possible

Nearer…

           Draw me into the cubby that fits my shape

                    that serves my work

                                that protects my heart

                                              that prospers my contentment  

water-flowers