Music During Centering Prayer

Q:  I once asked my prayer group if it was permissible to have a melody running through one’s head while centering, and their answer was no.

Often I have a melody through my head, and it’s usually a melody of a hymn.  I mean, it’s not always the same hymn; I know many hymns, so it can be any one.  I don’t hear or think of the words, but the melodies tend to stay.   They’re not easy to get rid of, meaning that sometimes I succeed at dropping them, and other times I don’t. 

What do you have to say about this?

A:  I remember years ago some friends of mine were learning Centering Prayer for the first time.  After the first 20 minutes, one of them was feeling so good about it doing the prayer right because he keep hearing and singing along with the words of the hymn, Amazing Grace. However, he soon learned that the words became more distant; now he is not aware of them at all, as he returns ever-so-gently to his sacred word. He believes the hymn is still playing as background music, but he has learned to let it come and go.
What is your intention regarding the hymns? My suggestion is to treat them as you do all thoughts during the prayer.  Remember, there is no such thing as absolute quiet in Centering Prayer; there is always something going on at different levels. For you, it is these special hymns – so your guideline is whenever you become ENGAGED with a thought (in this case a hymn with words and melody, and you begin to join the choir) ever-so-gently return to your sacred word.  Let it come and let it go. This way you are giving more glory to the Source of the music, rather than the music itself.

As you consent to the ‚ÄúHymn of Letting Go,” may you be composing your own silent music of praise to the Lord!

Fr. Carl