My name is Michael Erwin. I have been doing Centering Prayer on a daily basis for several years during my incarceration at San Quentin State Prison. I have found that Centering Prayer goes beyond all other forms of meditation that I have done in my life. For me, Centering Prayer truly is a gift from God, a path that leads to God transforming my mind and my heart. This is a simple practice where we simply surrender to God and sit silently in His loving presence. We also open our hearts with the express intention of allowing God to work on the inside of each of us. After all, He knows what we each need in this moment in time.
The changes that have occurred in me have been gradual but amazing nonetheless. One of the main ways God is working in me is He is slowly transforming my selfish spirit, awakening in me a spirit of compassion for others. I now see people around me and look at them in a different way. This is no small thing in a hostile and chaotic prison environment. It is in fact a miracle.
Four months ago, I was introduced to another aspect of Centering Prayer; it is called The Welcoming Prayer. I am forever grateful to Ms. Cherry Haisten, who introduced this practice to our Centering Prayer group at San Quentin. I have found this practice to be a gift from God for my continued spiritual growth and personal healing. I have found this practice to be both profound and powerful.
The Welcoming Prayer is a method we can use when confronted with the hardships and temptations of our everyday life. It gives us an opportunity to “welcome” or invite the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit into whatever we are feeling or going through in that moment. The Holy Spirit empowers us to respond in a spiritual way to these daily challenges. It is my experience that the more I utilize this practice, the more I have seen my old habits and patterns of behavior pass away. When we let go of our selfish desires, God can begin to awaken His desires in our hearts.
When everything we desires changes, then everything we think, say or do begins to change as well. I have found that I no longer have to try to control my anger because it is no longer there. Instead, God has placed in my heart a spirit of kindness, understanding and forgiveness. Through the practice of Centering Prayer and the Welcoming Prayer God has given me victory over my old nature, and replaced it with a peace that passes all understanding. I am so grateful that God has led me along this path that leads to my true spiritual home.
San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin, CA
August 6, 2012, the Feast of the Transfiguration