Centering Prayer and Biofeedback

Q:  What do you think about doing Centering Prayer while wearing a biofeedback device such as an emWave? I have been doing this for about 2 years now and it seems to be bringing about some very profound changes in my life and relationships, and a big shift in my perception of God. But sometimes I wonder if using the emwave may make the prayer less pure. There are certainly times when my will gets distracted from simply consenting to God’s presence by paying attention to the small “beep” which indicates what level of “coherence” my para- and sympathetic nervous systems are in (by measuring smoothness of the rate of change in heartbeat) and “trying” to return to deeper coherence (i.e., by breathing more calmly, etc.). On the other hand, I find returning to the sacred word is the best way to get the beep to change back to the deep tone which indicates deepest coherence. I also notice that the tone sometimes gently reminds me that I’ve wandered off into some thoughts or worries and it’s time to return to the sacred word.

In my morning prayer I always use the emwave with Centering Prayer. When I manage an evening prayer I usually go without it. I’m not sure if I can tell a big difference. I wonder if I should separate the Centering Prayer practice and use the emwave in a separate time and think of it more as a physical discipline. But then again the spirit and body are very connected…

A:  I invite you to refer to a similar question which you will find at

Besides these comments from this past Q&A, I once again remind you of Guideline #3 of the method of Centering Prayer: “Whenever you become engaged in any thoughts, ever so gently return to the sacred symbol.” So every beep that you become aware of is an opportunity to let go and be present to the Lord. I wonder however if you are getting overly ‘beeped’ because the system is not measuring your intention but your attention on a more superficial level. You may not be resting deeply in a spiritual sense. As an example, Guideline #3 used to read “whenever you become aware of thoughts, etc.” Fr. Thomas changed that to ‚ÄúWhen you become engaged with thoughts, etc.‚Äù because we noticed that people were returning to their sacred symbol too often; on a certain level you are always somewhat aware of thoughts. There is a profound difference between being aware and being engaged. Just some food for thought.

You mentioned at the end of your email, “I wonder if I should separate the Centering Prayer practice and use the emwave in a separate time and think of it more as a physical discipline.” You may like to try that and see what happens, as the fruits are manifested in your daily life. 


Fr. Carl