Q: I have a question regarding my Centering Prayer practice: Lately, I have noticed that as I finish my sit, open my eyes and come back to the external, I have been experiencing lightheadedness. It has happened a couple times even before I stand up. I am not worried about it, just curious about your insights that could maybe help me understand what is going on physiologically?
Leslee: Thank you for your fidelity to build a relationship with God through your Centering Prayer times. Before I address your question within the context of Centering Prayer please check with your medical doctor to ensure that a physical condition isn’t responsible for the lightheadedness you experience after your prayer time.
That being said, the Centering Prayer method is a Christian form of meditation and at times things happen out of our normal experience. Fr. Thomas taught us that “thoughts” was an umbrella term for every perception, including body sensations, sense perceptions, feelings, images, memories, plans, reflections, concepts, commentaries, and spiritual experiences. If we find ourselves engaged with any of these, we are to return ever-so-gently to our sacred word. Your experience of light headedness is a body sensation and, if there is not a medical reason for this phenomenon, it is a thought to let go of during your prayer time and also as you return to ordinary awareness. After our prayer time we are encouraged to remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes. During this transitional period, we may choose to pray a prayer of gratefulness inwardly or recite the Lord’s Prayer. It allows us to bring our practice into our normal activities.
Scientists have found that dizziness during or after meditation can be caused by tension in the neck and shoulders. This tension may affect your inner ear or you may simply have an undetected ear infection. Be aware of how you hold tension in your upper body and head during and outside of the prayer time. Consider doing a body scan prior to Centering Prayer to notice if you are holding tension in that area. As you scan, release the tension in any areas before starting to pray.
Dizziness may also be a feeling of disorientation after the experience of oneness or sense of unity with Divine Reality. For most us, this is not our “regular” experience so when it happens our bodies may choose a disorienting dizziness to “try and make sense” of the unknowable.
Whatever it is, this is your own personal experience with your God, and we are taught to let those experiences come and to let them go – to not hold onto them and not dwell on the psychological experience of the prayer. If you take this attitude of surrender and letting go in the prayer time, you will bring the same attitude as you remember God with you in your everyday moments.
I hope this has been helpful. Please let us know if you discover anything new about these experiences.
Peace be with you.
And a reader wrote in to share this: “I experienced dizziness during Centering Prayer (CP) several years ago a few times in the middle of my morning prayer. At the time I was recovering from hip replacement surgery. In the morning upon awakening & after using the restroom, I would sit for the standard 20 minute practice. About half way through I started to feel dizzy. I stopped & measured my blood pressure and discovered it was very low, almost dangerously low. I laid down and rested for a few hours. My blood pressure returned to normal. It happened again the next day. I decided to eat a light breakfast & do the morning sit later in the morning. I also reached out to Tilden Edwards who suggested that I use Visio Divina as a prelude. I did that for several weeks and eventually returned to the standard CP practice. My take away from this experience is that CP, like other mediation practices, lowers the blood pressure. For people with low blood pressure, they may need to be aware of this effect and adjust their practice to maintain a healthy blood pressure.” – Lydia M.