Centering Prayer: It’s Divine
Can practicing Centering Prayer ground an out-of-balance life?Going through a divorce, my world was askew. Physically, I was paying attention to my core with exercise, but emotionally I was a wreck. When my yoga teacher, Claudia, who was also a Benedictine oblate at Holy Wisdom Seminary, told me about Father Thomas Keating and the Centering Prayer movement I wanted to be open. Keating (along with other Trappist monks) brought the concept to the American public in the mid 1980s, reviving a practice that had been prominent during the first sixteen centuries of Christianity. During the Reformation, this mystical experience was discarded in favor of Rationalism and it wasn’t until the Western World discovered Buddhist meditation that it became popular again.
The goal of Centering Prayer is to know God’s love and feel God’s grace. To do so, you must get quiet, focus on a sacred word of your choice, and relax and enjoy the moment. The result—at least sometimes—a mystical experience. What’s not to like?
Well, for me, the God stuff was a problem. Having left organized religion, I wasn’t sure I believed in prayer or God. But when seeking inner peace, it’s hard to ignore the value of prayer to comfort. Meditation is one path to serenity, said Claudia; prayer is another. They both calm the mind and open the heart.
I met Claudia in her meditation studio. Sitting cross-legged on a cushion, she struck a chime and had me repeat after her: “Be still and know that I am love” (a slight modification of Psalm 46:10). “Be still and know.” “Be still.” “Be.”
I tried to clear my mind of thoughts, focusing only on the sacred word I chose. I tried “Home,” thinking it is so close to “Om” that it will be easy to find my meditation point. Nothing. Then “Freedom,” “Peace,” “Nothingness.” Finally, I settled on the word “Divine,” and fell through time and clouds into a space where I felt comforted. Then the chime sounded. Twenty minutes had passed.
I didn’t know where I had been—it was like I had found a silent sanctuary in my mind that was there all along. Claudia says entering into Centering Prayer is similar to falling in love—all boundaries collapse and you feel authentic and fearless. The real payoff is in the regular practice of Centering Prayer. Knowing you will be calmed and comforted in the loving arms of the universe is a sweet retreat at the beginning or end of a day.
For more information on Centering Prayer retreats and workshops visit Contemplative Outreach.
Since practicing Centering Prayer, Judy Kirkwood’s favorite response to uncertainty in life is "How divine!"