Centering Prayer and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

 Q:  I have been doing active mediation for some years. I have found great satisfaction in applying Centering Prayer in my daily prayer practice. However: I have been suffering from OCD and generalized anxiety for a long time, and so the repetition of the sacred word sometimes proves very difficult. I frequently experience choosing a word and then after some time, I neurotically want to change this word. Then, if I change it, I typically get so annoyed that I have to quit repeating the word altogether during that particular session. My question is: do you have any experience in this regard? What do you recommend for people who suffer from OCD?

A:  Fidelity to prayer has been a powerful gift in your life.  Prayer is a relationship and there are times in any relationship that communication becomes hard because of things that are going on within us. Just begin again. You have dealt with your OCD and I am sure have sought the help that you need to live a fruitful life each day. As for your Centering Prayer practice, I would suggest that when you are tempted to change your sacred word – which is a symbol of your desire to consent to God’s presence and action in your life – that you do not choose another word. Choose another symbol (read the guidelines for Centering Prayer on our website). Another symbol for your consent can simply be the sacred breath – ever so gently allowing your breath to be your symbol for that particular prayer session. When you pray again then return to the word which you have chosen. In a sense, take a breather or a break from your word on occasion but do not replace it with another word – replace it simply with your breath.  Hopefully this will be a help in giving you a way of approaching your situation with a sense of peace. Thank you for your faithfulness to prayer.

Fr. Carl