From The Path of Centering Prayer: Deepening your Experience of God
Chapter 2: Renewing your Practice of Centering Prayer Part IV of IV:
Grounding your Centering Prayer Practice by Letting Intention and Consent Flow into Your Life (con’t)
Reconnect to the fourth basic guideline: at the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes. ‚Ä¶
Thirdly, I suggested that Jane might offer the Centering Prayer period that she had just finished to someone in need. She might choose a specific person she knew to be ill or suffering or find a more general situation in the world‚Äîsuch as hunger, social injustice, or the degradation of the environment‚Äîwith which she might unite her own spiritual journey. By offering her prayer for the needs of others, she would practice giving up the sense of self focus that affects some people on the spiritual journey if they are not sensitive to the needs of the world around them. We do need times apart from the needs of the world to pray, as the gospels show Jesus himself doing. However, offering your silent prayer for the needs of the world brings you into the central insight of Jesus‚Äôs teaching and life: you are not separate from others. The spiritual journey does not take place in isolation from others.
Jane found that as she concluded her prayer in this way, over time the natural effects of centering prayer, union with Christ and unity with others in God, flowed more easily into her life. When we surrender that which is most dear to you‚Äîthe beauty and meaning of your spiritual journey‚Äîwe really penetrate the mystery of sacrifice and open to union with Christ. Contemplation is not a self-focused activity.
A fourth way of bridging Centering Prayer and activity is, after letting go of your sacred symbol and resting your mind for a moment, to briefly visualize a scene from your coming day. Let your sacred symbol return to you while you visualize this event, as a way of blessing the day with the effects of your Centering Prayer. Then let the symbol go, along with the imagined scene.
A fifth way of creating a bridge from Centering Prayer to activity is to use the concluding moments to say or listen to the Lord‚Äôs Prayer. The simple sentences of the Lord‚Äôs Prayer contain a wealth of meaning. We will explore the way that this prayer is the capstone of Jesus‚Äôs teaching on contemplation, the prayer in secret, in Chapter 8. Entering into a prayer in words, especially the Lord‚Äôs Prayer, after Centering Prayer allows you to begin integrating silence and words, interior silence and thoughts, contemplative prayer and other prayers, the divine life within you and the human world around you.
I am not saying you should follow all of these suggestions. Instead, use those that allow you to renew your practice in a way appropriate to your own situation. Jane, for example, was drawn to practicing the second and third suggestions. At the conclusion of her Centering Prayer, she brought her attention to her breath and body and then prayed for others. Afterward, during activity, she found she was more grounded in her body. After offering her Centering Prayer for the needs of the undocumented immigrants in her area, whose situation she did not sympathize with politically, she found herself being more compassionate and connected to everyone around her.
These five suggestions are not the only ways of bridging Centering Prayer with activity. Choose one or two, or use them as inspiration for building your own bridge between prayer and activity.
Growth on the spiritual journey comes when the divine life within us, which we need only receive, breaks into our conscious experience, changing the structures of our consciousness and even, as we will see, changing the way you experience and relate to God. Let your exploration of the subtleties of Centering Prayer practice flow from God‚Äôs life within you, opened to you by practicing the basic guidelines of Centering Prayer.
Go to Part I of this series. Go to Part II of this series. Go to Part III of this series.
David Frenette’s website is Incarnational Contemplation (link to site). He is available for spiritual direction by phone. Go here for more information: www.incarnationalcontemplation.com/spiritual-direction/what-is-spiritual-direction/