Centering Prayer During Times of Unrest

Q:  Extreme injustices and inflicted cruelty are buried in people’s lives.  When these experiences arise (often unexpectedly) as a response to the asking participation in one’s own spiritual journey, it is advised to slow down the evacuation process.  How does this affect a daily Centering Prayer practice?  We cannot take away another’s hurt or suffering.  When one can’t even quiet to sit for Centering Prayer during these times of unrest, from the contemplative point of view, what can we suggest?    

A:  Thank you for your question.  It points to the need to be generally faithful to the practice.What is the contemplative point of view that you ask about?  It is always trying to see our experiences in a larger context. Extreme injustices, etc., are buried in people’s lives; we use the expression, ‘the issues are in the tissues’.  In the process of consenting to God’s presence and action in Centering Prayer, over time these issues will come to the surface so that we may gradually heal and let go of them, with the grace of God. Remember they are coming up in order to come out.

There are a number of approaches to consider here:

  1. It is recommended that fidelity to the Centering Prayer practice continue, even if there is much unrest.  This helps keep the intention of letting go active.  It also keeps trust in God active.
  2. Thomas Keating, in Open Mind, Open Heart suggests that, during those moments of unrest, you make the feeling you are experiencing around the injustice your sacred symbol.  Then return to your regular sacred word or symbol when the feeling begins to dissipate.
  3. Outside of the prayer time, it is very helpful to make use of the Welcoming Prayer and the Forgiveness prayer practices, as they will continue the letting go and deepen trust in the process God is working.
  4. For many, it is very helpful to seek professional counseling or therapy for additional support and tools.

However, there may be times when it is advisable to slow down the evacuation process by practicing less Centering Prayer.  I would advise this only when the person is seeking the additional help mentioned in #4.

Blessings – in my prayers,

Fr. Carl