My January Experiment in Review: Centering Prayer
"In prayer it is a matter of being present where we are." Douglas Steere, 1962
As I posted previously, I set out in January to better my relationship with God through the practice of silence. I chose to experiment with centering prayer, an ancient method of quieting oneself once a day. Now, after a full 30 days of the process, some final observations.
First of all, I can to appreciate the monks who use centering prayer every day. This humble practice is not something which will get you a raise, notoriety or accolades. It's the simplest of prayers, calling the practitioner to be still, stop the noise of daily life and just "be" with God. It's not about praying for others or even really talking with God. I do that at other times during the day. Centering prayer is more about sitting with a loved one, in this case God. They say that the ones you love don't require words to know how you feel about them and centering prayer is surely a step in this direction.
I began to notice the gift of symmetry as the month went on. It worked better when my body was symmetrical- hands, feet, etc. If I lay down, it would not work and if I was too casual in a chair, it seemed to obstruct my breathing. By sitting across from a window or the corner of a room, I found that this simple step helped my prayer. In some small way, I was drawn deeper into the process, aided by my surroundings.
Silence became tangible for me. Just one minute into my prayer, I could almost feel the silence wrap itself around me and provide me with a sense of peace. As I prayed at the end of the day, this gift of silence was even more significant as the house was quiet and my body had a chance to downshift and look at the day in focus. I think that 99% of us rarely take time to be silent so centering prayer is a bit of antidote for the hustle and bustle of daily life. There's nothing technological about it. Purely simple.
I learned more about the use of a sacred word. The monks would use a phrase such as "Come Lord Jesus" or "Peace" to ground them in the gentle pushing back of distracting thoughts. I had no trouble choosing a word or phrase but I learned as the month went on that the word is meant to be a symbol of one's surrender to the action and presence of God. Most of use are pretty quick to go for the presence of God but the action, that's another matter. To acknowledge that God is at work is a bold move and one which implies consent to whatever He might do. Scary but powerful at the same time.
In conclusion, I will definitely continue my practice of centering prayer. I'm by no means an expert but the simple process of slowing down once a day is worth the effort. I feel like the last thing I do in the day is consider God and in what ways my faith was evident in the day gone by. If you're considering centering prayer, there are plenty of resources online. Try it for a month as I did and see how it feels and fits for you and your life.
*Photo by IronFillings