Centering Prayer - A Christian Meditation Practice
I recently attended a Centering Prayer workshop hosted at a local Presbyterian Church. It was a wonderful experience and has certainly influenced and enhanced my regular meditation practice.
Centering Prayer has its beginnings with Father Thomas Keating. He is an American monk who has written several books on Contemplative Prayer, connection with God, and 12-Step Recovery.
Father Thomas Keating's most well-known book on Centering Prayer is Open Mind, Open HeartSpiritual Books). In this book he defines prayer as, "the laying aside of thoughts." He further explains that this doesn't mean we stop thought as this is impossible. Rather, we recognize thought for what it is and then let the thought go, like a leaf floating down a river. This is recognized as detachment or letting go of the power of the thought.
Centering Prayer is defined as "consenting and surrendering to God." Surrendering in this context is recognized as allowing God's presence to be fully with us and does not result from any sort of sacrifice. In the Centering Prayer practice, we still the mind and turn to our inner space of prayer with God. As is recorded in the Gospels, our "interior openness [is] filled with the luminous presence of the Divine."
There are Four Guidelines for Centering Prayer
Choose a sacred word as the symbol for your intention to consent to God's presence and action within.
Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word.
When engaged with your thoughts, return ever so gently to the sacred word.
At the end of the prayer period (20 minutes recommended), remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.
Father Thomas Keating's book elaborates fully on these guidelines. The book not only sets the stage for Centering Prayer, it contains numerous question and answer sections to help you work through any difficulties you might experience with this practice.
The leader of our group used a simple timer and a gong bowl to begin and end the Centering Prayer session. Of course, our Meditation Timer will help with this so that you do not have to be mindful of the time while practicing Centering Prayer.
This is a wonderful practice. Long term it offers tremendous benefit to one's well being. The world becomes a more peaceful place, you find yourself being more calm and compassionate in this stressful world, and you may even find it helps heal health issues over time.
Thank you for reading,
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