Extending Time in Centering Prayer

Q: Our group had a recent discussion about increasing one’s practice to two to three hours per day.  What insight does Contemplative Outreach have in regards to this type of extended practice? Our only insight into this is that it is more like an intensive retreat setting.  This being said, the discussion revolved around doing this at home, rather than on retreat, and about the unloading process increasing with extended sitting.  We are far from experts on this and are seeking insight from those with more experience.

A: Good question.  You are quite correct that a retreat setting is the most appropriate for extended sits of an hour several times a day.  I am not sure what your current practice is, but folks with some length of time in the practice often move from 20 minutes twice a day to 30 minutes twice a day.  If one‚Äôs lifestyle allows, it is also possible to add a third 30-minute sit.  For most of us, going to several hours a day is both unfeasible and not recommended.  The community support and structure of a retreat lends itself best to more intensive sitting. ‚Äì Mary 


Mary Dwyer is a long-time student of Thomas Keating, a retreat leader and a teacher of the practices of Centering Prayer, Welcoming Prayer and the Forgiveness Prayer.