Often I am more aware of my pulse than my breath

Q: I have used the sacred word and the sacred breath at different times in my practice of centering prayer. But often I am more aware of my pulse than my breath, and have used "the sacred pulse" in my practice. Is there anything wrong with this? Have other people found this helpful?

A:  Thank you for your question- I wish we could talk about it – but from what you have written let me respond.

Two things come to my mind:

1) Why are you changing your sacred symbol? Are you hoping to find the right one, are you looking for a specific result in the prayer? I have prayed the same sacred symbol since 1975 – why? Because it finally dawned on me after shopping around that I was trying to get it right – subtly looking for a certain feeling, a certain result. The sacred symbol is only a container for my consent, which I present to the Lord and I letting go of expectations and results.

2) You say, ’I often am more aware of my pulse…’ Being aware is a thought, and the guideline is to, ever so gently, return to you sacred word or symbol.

You asked if there is anything wrong in using the ‘sacred pulse’ as your sacred symbol – and the answer is ‘no’, as long as it remains a ‘symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within’, as stated in the first guideline of the practice of Centering Prayer. So, when you are engaging with your thoughts (thoughts which include body sensations, feelings, images and reflections), return ever-so-gently to the sacred word, or your sacred pulse. Taking time to re-read the Method of Centering prayer listed on our website might be some help to you.

Helen, responding to you, I am thinking that maybe it is time to update the Centering Prayer guidelines changing the phrase ‘sacred word’ into ‘sacred symbol’ and giving examples of what those symbols can be.

I do not know anyone using the ‘sacred pulse’, however I would love to hear how you use ‘the sacred pulse’ yourself.

Look forward to hearing from you

Fr Carl