Teachings on Centering Prayer/Silence
From the "Masters"
It is good to actually experience/practice centering prayer (silence in God's presence) in order to grow in the practice and to experience the wonderful benefits it brings to our ordinary lives.
But it is also beneficial to gain understanding as we go along. Each morning silence we will take one question and then post on this page the question or experience along with some helpful insights.
Question/Experience: Sept. 14/21
I seem to spend more time trying to get back to the silence from all my thoughts!
Insight/Answer: Yes! Everyone experiences this. It is because we are not still very often and all our thoughts are in our bodies (the mind being part of our body). We are often unaware of how busy our minds are until we sit down to be still before the Lord. Then they all clamour to be heard!
We tend to judge ourselves even here - but we are invited to not judge our prayer period on the basis of our psychological experience. Sometimes we may be bombarded with thoughts all during the prayer but but it could be a very useful period of prayer. Our attention might have been much deeper than it seemed. Rather then judge the prayer time, we can look for the fruit of that prayer time in our ordinary daily lives. If we are becoming more patient and not as reactive, more at ease with ourselves, feel less hurt when the family complains about our cooking...all these are signs that another set of values is beginning to operate in us. God is transforming us in silence!
Practical Help: Some people find it helpful to use their breath, being aware of breathing in and out. Other people find it helpful to have an image to return to. The main method of centering prayer is to return to your holy word (not that the word itself is holy but your intention of being still through using the word is holy). But Keating does allow for using breath or an image for the same purpose.
Question - Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021
What is my expectation in Centering Prayer? What is its purpose?
Insight/Answer: Centering Prayer is meant to be void of specific expectations. We are so result oriented and not only result oriented, we want to see the result yesterday! :) Centering Prayer is a matter of consenting - this is the main point...consenting to detaching from all thoughts (remember, we let them come out/up and then we gently let them go). We are consenting to only God. I find this concept hard. It seems a bit illusive to me...like trying to nail down jello! But I think that is because I am so full of my own thoughts, feelings, plans, etc. So if we are "expecting" anything, we are expecting that God is in our center and God is who/what we need more than anything. We can expect not to experience this, but rather to give this reality space and stillness.
Here are a few words on this from Contemplative Outreach Organization: Have no expectation in this prayer. It's an exercise of effortlessness, of letting go. To try is a thought. That's why we say: Return to the sacred word ever so gently. To struggle is to want to achieve something. That is to aim at the future, whereas this method of prayer is designed to bring you into the present moment. Expectations also refer to the future, hence they too are thoughts. Detaching the mind of its customary routines of thinking is a process that we can only initiate, like taking the stopper out of a bathtub. The water goes down by itself. You don't have to push the water out of the tub. You simply allow it to run out. You are doing something similar in this prayer. Allow your ordinary train of thoughts to flow out of you. Waiting in God's presence without expectation or effort is sufficient activity.
Practical Help: Before you enter silence, you could talk to Jesus and tell Him how you are going to surrender to just being still in His presence. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you.