Moving Through Discouragement


Q: I pray Centering Prayer two-three times daily for an hour each. I started two years ago but I didn’t take it seriously until last year. I am currently going through a mix of emotions such as sadness, anger, fear, confusion and frustration. I feel also that the life, job, career are becoming a routine. I don’t think God has abandoned me but don’t feel God’s presence either. How should I  know where I am in my spiritual journey and  how to help myself not to get discouraged? I love God and truly believe in God.

A: Thank you for these tender reflections on your journey. I’m glad that you have found the time to go so deeply into the beautiful practice of Centering Prayer.

Thomas Keating calls Centering Prayer “the divine therapy” because it results in an unloading of emotions. During this unloading process, Centering Prayer helps to free us from the compulsive habits that we have been using to repress the emotional trauma accumulated over our lifetime, and as these emotions are released, we may feel all the pain that we have been trying to hide from ourselves. So it’s natural that as you spent so much time in the practice you are feeling many emotions, including the sense of dryness you describe in your life.

You don’t mention your relationship to community. Are you practicing Centering Prayer as part of a group? If not, you would probably find it helpful and supportive to practice with a group at least once a week. Many people have been resisting joining online centering prayer communities during the pandemic, but these can be just as meaningful as in person communities, are easy to find, and could help to ground you as you experience an intense array of emotions. You could consult the schedule of Meditation Chapel to find a convenient group.

You might also find it helpful to have one on one companionship to support you on your spiritual path. Is there spiritual direction available to you, either individually or in groups? Might a therapist or a trusted spiritual friend help you to process the emotions that are coming up?  Everyone needs some form of community in order to grow in contemplative maturity and to make sense of the profound changes that contemplative prayer can create in our psyches. If you are practicing with a group, you might ask the people there for ideas on how to find more spiritual companionship.

It sounds from your description like you are spending two to three hours a day meditating. This is similar to the amount of time that one would spend in Centering Prayer on retreat, and retreats often result in a particularly intensive unloading process, which is easier to deal with when one is surrounded by the supportive structure and community of a retreat. If you are finding your experience too intense, you might consider cutting down your Centering Prayer time to two 30-minute periods a day so that you may progress in a more gentle and manageable way, at least until you have more supportive community in place.

What a blessing that you are able to trust that God is with you even when you can’t feel God’s presence! Your trust in God and in the practice of Centering Prayer can sustain you through this emotional process, and a supportive community can help to strengthen your sense of trust.

Warm regards and blessings on you and your practice,