Intention, Mindfulness, and Centering Prayer

Q:  Our Centering Prayer group got into a discussion about ‘mindfulness,’ which I understand to have to do with attentive presence, awareness, being in the present, etc. The question arose, “What is the relationship between ‘mindfulness’ and ‘intention,’ as we use the latter in our Centering Prayer practice?  My sense is that I am mindful as I enter my practice, but this attentive presence is, in some measure, given up to my intention to be open to God. A related question might be: “What do we mean by ‘intention’ in the Centering Prayer tradition?”

A:  Thank you for your question – I refer you to our website under Resources>Newsletters, in particular Spring of 1996, where you‚Äôll find an article by Fr. Thomas on Attention-Intention. I believe that the distinction between Mindfulness and Heartfulness is spelled out with these two terms. Attention is about mindfulness; intention is about heartfulness. Mindfulness is the outward work and heartfulness is the inner work of the spiritual journey. Like all things in life these distinctions are always shaded by grey. But it is a good beginning to start a discussion with your group in this matter.  See how the Spirit inspires the discussion. After all, it is all the work of the one Spirit.

You also asked, ‘What do we mean by ‘intention’ in the Centering Prayer tradition?‚Äô Our intention is to consent to the Divine presence and action in our lives. Our theological principle #5 states ‘The Divine presence affirms our basic goodness made in the image of God’, and theological principle #6 states., ‘The Divine action is the process of transformation in Christ which inspires and deepens our consent’. I suggest that your prayer group may like to read, discuss and pray the Vision of Contemplative Outreach and the Theological Principles. These are also found on our website (under About Us).May the Holy Spirit continue to bless you and the prayer group.

– Fr. Carl