Since my earlier post on meditation, I have been looking for a way of organizing my prayer/meditation life so it’s not just sitting there with no clear objective.
In searching for Christian meditation techniques from the esoteric to the more-conventional, I came across a an interesting one: Centering Prayer. This method is both easy and difficult. Easy, because you can start in minutes without extensive training. Difficult, because of the busy mind.
In centering prayer, you follow four guidelines:
1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
3. When engaged with your thoughts,* return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.
4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.
*thoughts include body sensations, feelings, images, and reflections
Pretty simple, eh? The only problem is that it’s hard to sit still for twenty minutes, and letting go of thoughts (a process called kenosis) can be sometimes difficult. But I’ve found that it’s worth it.
Through this practice I’ve found some more inner peace and the ability to let go of disturbing or sinful thoughts. Instead of battling against the unsettling thought by declaring “That’s not who I am in Christ!” or somesuch, I find myself able to gently let the thought go and proceed in life as if nothing happened at all. I’ve heard it said that thoughts are like birds – one may land on your head, but you don’t have to let it build a nest. The practice of letting go of thoughts and embracing quiet is valuable because quiet is where the deepest presence of God dwells.
One of the great things about centering prayer is that you can’t really fail at it. The only failure is in not doing the practice. It’s relatively easy to chop out twenty, or even ten, minutes of my day, to do this simple practice. It’s not always easy to let go of overwhelming thoughts, but God always helps me through it. Highly recommended.
For more on the practical aspects of centering prayer, see this post.