THE SPIRIT LEADS US ONWARD, VIA ZOOM

By Lindsay Boyer

When I was invited to write an article about Zoom fatigue, I set out to interview some of the many who have been attending Centering Prayer groups on Zoom, one of whom asked me this wonderful question: “Is it cheating if I do ALL my Centering Prayer in online groups?”

My interviews suggest that the main story is not Zoom fatigue but an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the new technologies that make it possible for us to pray together in the amazing multitude of Zoom groups that have sprung up. While some of us are longing to return to our in-person groups, others are saying, “Please don't ever end this online group!” and "I hope things never go back.”

Zoom fatigue is a term that has been created to describe the exhaustion that some feel from attending too many online meetings during the pandemic era. It can be very demanding to follow a conversation when we can’t read body language in our usual ways and are interrupted by blips and delays. Latency issues change the rhythms of how we talk back and forth. Add to that the weirdness of seeing our own faces as we speak and the need to master the ever-changing controls on our various devices—there is a lot to negotiate! But do the factors that create Zoom fatigue apply to contemplative groups? We are not involved in crosstalk. We are not struggling to read each other's body language in the way we might be if we were in a business meeting. We spend much of our time on mute and some of us turn our cameras off, especially during the meditation. Sometimes we have our eyes closed while others are speaking or even while we ourselves speak. For much of our time together we allow ourselves to go within rather than struggling to make ourselves heard or to take in information. For those of us who experience Zoom fatigue in other areas of our lives, our contemplative Zoom encounters may be an antidote rather than part of the problem.

Meditation Chapel now has over 100 facilitators, over 140 groups, and continues to attract new participants. Busy people can use time zone differences to squeeze in a group early in the morning, late in the evening, or even in the middle of the night. Quite a few people join online groups every day and some do virtually all their daily Centering Prayer sessions there rather than alone, an option previously available to almost no one. People love not having to drive at night or travel at all. They love seeing each other's cats, dogs, partners, babies, decor, and window views. While some may have quibbles about the details of group format, for the most part these represent the same kinds of differing preferences that participants also have regarding in-person groups: do we enter on mute, or start with a little chat? How much sharing do we do, as opposed to spending most of our time together in silence?

At the beginning of the pandemic I met with Pamela Begeman, on staff with Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. and on the steering committee of Meditation Chapel, to brainstorm together about how to help Centering Prayer groups on Zoom. Recently we checked in again to exchange notes on where the events of the last eight months have taken the Centering Prayer community and where the Spirit might be leading us next. Pamela expressed her excitement aboutthe way the movement into online groups has led us "beyond mythic membership consciousness.” On Meditation Chapel, there is no longer a sense that “I go to my church and meet with my prayer group.” We’re in an environment where we don’t get to pick who our group is, we just show up, and “that has interesting effect on consciousness, the fruits of which will show up down the road.” Sometimes we don’t even know what part of the globe our fellow group members are from. As we join from different time zones we exist almost beyond time. There is something very egalitarian about our images in their little boxes of equal size and random order. While we may lose something by not knowing each other in familiar and localized ways, we gain something in our sense of ourselves and each other as equal partners in a global community of prayer. The seemingly random assortment of people who come together for prayer prevent us from over-identifying with the group and underline that we have been brought together by divine providence.

Pamela and I identified what we see as emerging trends. While online quiet days and shorter retreats have become more commonplace, there is a hunger for longer online retreats. Some communities are experimenting with five to eight day retreats in which participants are not on Zoom all day long but spend some time in silence in their homes, punctuated by times of coming together on Zoom for talks and practice.

Now that many people have more opportunities for practice and greater access to groups, their committed contemplative practice is taking them deeper, and many of them are hungry for increased spiritual sharing to help them process their experience and insights, yet they aren't always looking to do that within the Centering Prayer groups themselves. One group has developed a pilot program of offering group spiritual direction to some of its members. What other opportunities might online groups offer their participants to help them bond together and deepen their sense of online community, all the while protecting the sacred space of contemplative prayer time?

Local Contemplative Outreach chapters have new discernment issues to explore. The whole idea of a “local” chapter is becoming obsolete. What does local mean in this new context? What do we put in our “local” newsletters when we have access to international events but not enough time and space to publicize all of them? It's time to rethink everything, which can be both exciting and bewildering. Perhaps chapters that once were local will rearrange themselves around themes that call specifically to them and the competencies of their memberships rather than their geography. It's all being reordered, and our contemplative practices can help open our hearts and minds to the extraordinary possibilities that lie before us. Many local chapters are in discernment about whether to go beyond the one hundred person threshold of a regular Zoom account: “Okay, I can kind of wrap my head around one hundred people, but am I ready to be the facilitator of an event that might reach five hundred?”

While contemplative groups don't have large financial resources to promote the practices that are so dear to them, events and technologies have suddenly given them new power and reach. Contemplative Outreach service teams are seeing that their offerings can appeal to vast new audiences. The Centering Prayer Introductory Team recently reached more than 400 people with an introductory workshop, while the 12-Step Outreach team had more than 800 registered for a weekend retreat. Small groups may sometimes even be nervous about how many people their events attract, and wonder if they need to set cut-off points.

Rather than being fatigued by Zoom, we can be energized by the new ways our contemplative practices equip us to approach this unique situation. While the pandemic has created many hardships, losses, and challenges, our odd and wonderful new online communities have helped us nurture spiritual resources that we can offer to our anxious and disrupted world. Our practices allow us to cultivate an openness to the movement of the Spirit that enables us to follow the twists and turns of this adventure we are on. As Pamela observed, “You start to see how the mind has constraints you didn't even know it had and you're being asked to blow through all of them all at once.”

Let’s use our beloved contemplative practices to break down our own barriers and resistances to what is suddenly and astonishingly possible. The Spirit flows forth like water that will go wherever there’s a channel open for it. It has taken us to surprising places and it is not done with us yet. May we continue to follow its exciting, creative, and holy movement.

MARY WAS THE PERFECT CONTEMPLATIVE

At the incarnation of Christ, (the Annunciation) Luke 1 vs 29, the evangelist introduces Mary as one who ponders. “She was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this may be.” Bob Lewis explores just why Mary is the perfect contemplative.

At the incarnation of Christ, (the Annunciation) Luke 1 vs 29, the evangelist introduces Mary as one who ponders. “She was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this may be.” After the birth of Jesus and at the visit of the shepherds who informed Mary and Joseph of what they had been told, Luke again, 2 vs 19, informs us that Mary “treasured these words and pondered them in her heart.” Luke again, 2 vs 51, reminds us of the contemplative posture of Mary, when after locating the child Jesus lost in the temple but hard at work teaching, Jesus’ mother “treasured all these things in her heart.”

We note other opportunities to get insights into this amazing woman. We hear how a pregnant Mary, leaving self behind as contemplatives are hoping to be able to do, has concern only for her cousin, Elizabeth. We know the story. She set out on a difficult journey that presented many risks and visited her cousin. The gospel indicates the depth of her spirituality when Mary delivers what we now refer to as the Magnificat. This is a song of praise of the goodness and greatness of God.
This marks Mary as a contemplative of the highest order. She is one who lives in a high state of consciousness. The ideal contemplative is one who lives in a constant state of praise and thanks whilst still present in the moment. This is Mary. This part of the gospel glibly states, “Mary remained with her about three months and then returned home.” I say, glibly, as Mary is now more heavily pregnant and the journey home is no less arduous. I cannot emphasize enough the aspect of ‘leaving self behind’ portrayed here.

Mary’s sensitivity to and empathy for the hosts at the marriage feast at Cana underline her natural high state of spirituality. Maybe Mary, in responding to what she observes and discerns, is the first to say, and not for the first time, “Not my will, but your will be done.” In mothering her Divine and fully human son, did she instill this mode of thinking and acting in him who would one day, in his agony in the garden as his passion and death was imminent, remember his mother’s lessons about, “Only the Father’s will. Only the Father’s will. Only the Father’s will. ………”?

It is fair to ask, “Why was Mary chosen as the Mother of God?”

I believe it is very clear from Mary’s obvious easy humility and actions, that she was a woman who was completely emptied of attachments to anything that was not ‘of God’. Mary had overcome her egoic self. She was the most spiritually detached person in history. As a result, Mary was the perfect receptacle in which Christ could become incarnate.

We – males and females – are called to be Mothers of God.

How? John’s gospel is very clear. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1 vs 1). In the same chapter and vs 14 John boldly announces, “The Word became flesh and lived among us.” Mary was the mother who physically brought forth the Word (Christ) as real flesh and blood and nurtured that child and brought him to maturity.

Our challenge, too, is to continually bring forth Christness (the Word). We can do this, for example, by living a life that is a continued response in loving and discerning obedience to the will of the Father. To do so is being, in an ongoing way, a mother of God. This, almost certainly, makes seriously embracing the contemplative path something that is essential.

Prayer:

Hail, Mary, Mother of God and my Mother of Faith, you, the woman who was so emptied that God chose you as the perfect receptacle in which to incarnate Christ, please guide my spiritual life in such a way that I progressively imitate you in becoming more and more emptied.

Taken from Contemplative Light, 2020

“Centering Prayer is an anticipation of the Eternal Now! You try to do away with everything except God! You can’t do away with God even if you wanted to. You place yourself in a face to face situation; you are living on earth the life that the saints live in heaven, but they don’t have the problem of distractions. It is the prayer of heaven, the closest you are going to come in this world to God!”

                                      — Fr. William Meninger

LOVELY?!

By Rita Weick

Each time it’s the same: the men file into the chapel, sign in, say hello to Robert and I and find a seat in the circle. Anywhere from 4 to 12 show up for the twice a month Sunday Centering Prayer circle. For months we’ve been reading and discussing Ray Leonardini’s book Finding God Within and this time we have something different – multiple copies of the December 2019 edition of “Contemplative Outreach News.” Inside is an article entitled, “Finding Wonders in the Desert” written by the members of the Graceville Correctional Facility Centering Prayer Group.

After praying, we dig into the article, going around the circle reading one sentence at a time, hearing the words from multiple voices. We read:

We lack many of the usual distractions: no internet or social m edia, no clubs or events, no bills or obligations. For us, this simplicity of life becomes lovely.

And then we stop, for a word in the last paragraph read aloud has stuck in someone’s craw: lovely. I jot their words (with their permission) as fast as I can for the interchange is lively and intense.

“Prison experience is NOT lovely. Not my reality. We learn in th e midst of it. I’m afraid that it WILL become lovely. What’s that mean when I leave here? Will I want to come back?”

“There’s truth to the simplicity of being here. It’s an opportu nity to focus on ourselves. We can redefine lovely.”

“I created a lot of suffering in life. Being in this moment, I can turn any situation into lovely and rewarding.”

And the open and deep discussion continues, line by line, paragraph by paragraph. And before we know it, the hour has passed. Some sigh at the realization and all express deep gratitude for the opportunity to experience the deep silence together. As they file out thanking us, Robert and I with heartfelt honesty tell them how thankful WE are for this time with them.

CONTEMPLATION AND ACTION

By Betty Florendo

When I decided to come home for good after 42 years living abroad, I knew I wanted to give back to the community – but how? I felt like a stranger in my own country and was totally lost as to where to begin looking for places/communities to serve. As I set foot at NAIA in 2009, I heard myself saying “Here I am Lord, I have come to do Your will." A long period of discernment followed and with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and inspiration derived from my long practice of centering prayer, I found myself volunteering at L’Arche Punla (Ang Arko ng Pilipinas Inc.). L’Arche Punla is the Philippine affiliate of L’Arche International founded in 1964 by Jean Vanier. We welcome people with mental disabilities and those who want to share their lives with them. I have been working at Ang Arko ng Pilipinas for close to 10 years now. I started as a volunteer, became a member of the board and now I am the Chair. What I thought initially as a part-time job has now become almost a full-time job. But it is very rewarding. God's special children teach me the virtues of humility and charity from their simplicity and innocence, love and generosity. Nothing matches the feeling of being told "Ate, I prayed to Kuya Hesus for you" as I report for work. I believe that when the handicap pray, God listens.

It is in L'Arche Punla where God has put me in touch with people I would never have met had it not been with my involvement with the mentally handicapped. I met people who knew common friends and the circle of my friends grew wider and networking began. I no longer felt like a stranger in my own country. It became easier for me to contact donors willing to support our community - donors who understood and believed in the spirit and values of Ang Arko ng Pilipinas.

I had gone on "Sabbatical" from my centering prayer group when I volunteered at L'Arche Punla. I was invited to rejoin Contemplative Outreach, Phil. on Recommitment Day in 2014.Not long after I was chosen member of the Circle of Service. I had no idea what I was getting into but I was convinced events happen for a reason. It all happened in a dizzying pace but so be it. Before I knew it, I was elected Head of Retreats and Workshops. It was a hard act to follow the outgoing head who worked tirelessly for 17 years on the job. Then I realized that when God calls, no point saying "No" or "Just a minute, Lord." I accepted the position hands down. "God does not call the equipped. He equips those He calls." I am still a work in progress.

Organizing retreats and workshops is challenging, but the results and rewards are enormous. Inviting men and women to come away and spend a weekend of solitude, silence and prayer with the Lord and seeing their response has inspired me tremendously. A big bonus assisting at every retreat is I get to sit, listen, and learn centering prayer and Lectio Divina with new insight and perspective everytime. I love spending time in the prayer room after a hard day's work in silent conversation with my loving God.

The parable of Martha and Mary had a great influence on me growing up. It still does as I continue in the service of the Lord. I see Martha as the ultimate example of "action in contemplation." I see her as I go about soliciting for more substantial or more regular funding to L'Arche Punla. I see Mary as the ultimate example of "contemplation in action." I see her sitting at the feet of Jesus listening. . . listening . . . praying. When I find myself concerned and worried, like Mary, I try to be steadfast in my prayer and trust that the Lord is in control. Without the practice of centering prayer, my day is not complete. My daily sits give me the energy and strength to consent to do the work God lays out for me at the dawn of everyday. I thank Him for giving me the chance to be of service to Him.

A LIFE IN GOD'S HANDS

By Chuchi de Guzman-Daroy

The introduction to Centering Prayer in my spiritual journey came at a time when I most needed a way, a practice to express and share the great love God made manifest in many events in my life.

Learning to keep my two periods of quietly sitting in His Presence and listening to Him call nourished the ground of my soul to bear even more fruit.

Before I went into semi-retirement, I was able to keep my centering prayer and lectio divina appointments with God 98% of the time, inspite of the busyness of my life.

Now going on with two years of less work and having more quiet time for prayer, my days revolve around these communions with God. These two prayer times are simple gifts from the Lord that I cherish each day for they have brought a lot of graces to handle the disappointments, setbacks, and temptations of each day; as well as the joys, the consolations and revelations that come with them. Being faithful to these prayers for the past 21 years may seem to be a routine and sometimes I feel they are too simple to answer my complex needs and trials, but they never fail to give the inches to my ascent in the spiritual journey.

For this I praise and thank God for these gifts of prayer and the perseverance in little acts of faith each day. As I look back through the years, I realize that the slow but faithful steady pace of my prayer life brought much fruit in healing, forgiveness and love.

Since the time my eldest daughter was diagnosed with leukemia, she has not experienced the debilitating symptoms of the disease at all but has managed to lead an active, normal life, even giving life to a happy, healthy daughter. A series of positive helps I believe came through God’s hand in strengthening us in prayer, deepening our faith, and bringing about her healing.

In prayer and in life I praise and glorify God for His goodness and mercy.

MARITE'S ARTICLE

By Marite D. Briñas

Fr. Thomas Keating once said that people do not need so many devotions and prayers if they practice centering prayer. Not to say that we drop them including the holy Mass altogether, because in fact centering prayer enables us to appreciate them better. We see our spiritual practices from a more informed and encompassing perspective.

I find this so true. Centering prayer has been my go-to prayer especially during those times when I feel lost or alone. I have been blessed to learn about centering prayer and Lectio Divina since 2005, when I was still single and not having too many responsibilities and concerns. I just remained faithful to the prayer.

During my pregnancy I found new insights on the prayer as well as my relationship with God. I made the videos of Contemplative Outreach, many of them about Fr. Keating and his teachings, especially the Spiritual Journey tapes, my companion as I went thru a delicate pregnancy. As I see it, I was praying with my baby while he was inside my womb, listening and being soothed by my own peacefulness as I maintained a posture of stillness and quiet.

Now that our little one is a toddler, she sometimes joins me in the prayer, sitting on my lap for 5-10 minutes silent and still. That short moment of silence brings a special kind of bonding between the two of us. As I get so busy during the day attending to both my online business and my responsibilities as a housemaker, I wish I could spend more time , quality time to him.

One of the blessings of the Spirit is the ability to be more aware and conscious of my child’s needs, both physical and emotional. I pray that I will grow in this gift. While motherhood is meaningful and fulfilling, there is still much room for my personal growth as a mother and wife.

Thanks to centering prayer and Lectio Divina, my two favorite spiritual practices, I am secure that I am on the right road in living God’s will in my ordinary daily life.

A CONTEMPLATIVE GLIMPSE

By Loy Dichoso

What does it mean to be a contemplative husband, father, and grandfather to my growing family in the midst of this pandemic? It means everything if you wish to have a peaceful, and happy relationship with your wife, children and extended family. A contemplative disposition helps you be constantly aware of God as Someone who is present within you, with everyone else, and in all of reality.

This awareness leads to self-knowledge. You realize that you need God for guidance, help, and sustenance in every aspect of your life. You seek His Presence in your relationship with your spouse, your children, even with your extended family. His Presence brings peace, unity and harmony, aided by your practice of tolerance, forgiveness and unconditional love.

You realize that God is at the center of your life, disposing you to measure matters and events, big and small, based on His standards. You realize the importance of doing things based on His rules, not on human considerations. Consenting to His presence and action in your life helps you change your attitudes and outlook. Your values change from being self-centered to one that is more giving and thoughtful towards others. A simple but concrete example is your desire to help in household chores, for instance, instead of indulging in extended hours of watching TV, Netflix or social media.

Loving others becomes paramount in your life. Where there is love, there is God. With a loving disposition now entrenched deep in your heart, you bring peace, understanding and serenity to yourself, your family, your community and society. This is a small taste of heaven on earth, a participation in God’s Kingdom here in this world.

TRYING IS PRAYING

By Len Hizon

Here I am, asked to write an article on prayer when I’ve been experiencing dryness in my prayer life. I can’t seem to pray, I can’t seem to concentrate or focus on what I consider the most important part of my life. If I were to be honest with myself, I can say sometimes I don’t pray because I don’t feel like it or somehow I didn’t think God was listening, or that praying wouldn’t do any good any way so why show up…?

There are also too many distractions, too much noise, anxiety and worry… Often I cannot hear myself above the din, much less listen to what God wants of me or to the movement of the Spirit. I like to put the blame on outside noise - people, work, errands, not enough time… But the sad part is– all this noise, it’s inside me, it follows me everywhere I go.

Then doubts set in, the feeling of not being good enough, the guilt, the shame - all major roadblocks to prayer. It’s a vicious cycle.

A dear friend mentioned to me the other day that she makes it a practice to pray for the first person she sees when she wakes up in the morning.

What an amazing thing to do so I tried doing this and of course after Day 1, I forgot to do it on Day 2. On Day 3, I tried again, then forgot, and forgot, then tried again and again and again.

Then it suddenly hit me - to try to pray IS to pray. God does not need us to focus or concentrate, He just wants us to be there, to show up, to trust that He has our back, to be present to His presence.

And for me, today, this is perfect. This is prayer.

Silence is a very powerful force, true silence. Not the negative silence of ‘I’m not going to speak to her ever again’, or the negative silence of brushing under the carpet just in case people get upset, or deceiving the world about it because it is too dangerous to let out. Not that negative silence of repression or deception, but the true silence in which we experience an expansion of our minds and opening of our hearts, and we experience a new kind of communication and communion with other people. This is the test of silence, that it brings us to peace with ourselves and with others. And in this work of silence, our true self emerges.

Laurence Freeman
 

ABOUT THE SACRED WORD

By Leslee Terpay

Q: “How do I choose my sacred word for Centering Prayer”

Dear Friend,

Thank you for asking for clarification on the first Centering Payer method guideline: “Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.”

The sacred word is a symbol that expresses our intention to consent to God’s presence and action within. It is sacred not because of its inherent meaning but because of the meaning we give it as the expression of our intention to consent. In other words, the sacred word is sacred not because of its content but because of its intent. Our intention during the Centering Prayer is to be with and surrender to God whatever that looks like.

The sacred word is chosen during a brief prayer to the Holy Spirit, a word of one or two syllables as recommended in The Cloud of Unknowing written in the fourteenth century. Examples of the sacred word are: God, Jesus, Abba, Father, Mother, Mary, Amen, Mercy, Yes, Love, Listen, Peace, Let Go, Silence, Stillness, Faith, Trust. You can even choose a word from another language or a lyrical one such as Kyrie. Please notice if the word you receive causes an emotional reaction within you– whether negative or positive. If it does, you might want to pray for another word, as an emotional reaction during Centering Prayer is considered a thought and will take you out of the prayer.

There isn’t such thing as a right word, a wrong word, a better word or a more sacred word. The sacred word is only a symbol that expresses your intention to consent. Any one or two syllable word of love will do. Many people choose their name for God as theirs.

Having chosen a sacred word, do not change it during the period of Centering Prayer because that would be engaging in thoughts. I invite you to commit to the sacred word that you were gifted from the Holy Spirit for at least 30 days. You don’t have to shop around for a better word. For instance, one day thinking before praying, “I really need peace so I’m going to use the word Peace for my sacred word today.” Since Centering Payer is based on your relationship with God, this would be trying to manipulate God. God as our Divine Physician heals and gifts us as He sees fit, it is up to us to let go and let God during this prayer. Spending time with God in this way, is accepting his anointing and love. Jesus says in Matthew 10:30 that even all the hairs on our head are counted. If God knows each one of our hairs, He must know us more than we know ourselves and what we need.

The longer you have the same sacred word the more you don’t have to think about using it , it will say itself. Long time Centering Prayer-ers will tell you they have had their scared word for years, perhaps never changing it.

That all being said, there are two other means of returning our attention to God during Centering Prayer the sacred breath and the inward sacred glance. In terms of the breath, this is a noticing not an effort to follow the breath. More artistic or visual folks may be drawn to the inward glance, a noticing of God within.

I hope this helps clarify any questions you have about choosing a sacred word. Let the Spirit guide your choice. If not, please let me know. Here is a little more on the sacred word from Fr. Thomas’s book Open Mind, Open Heart. You may want to read this book in its totality to learn more about the Centering Prayer.

“The sacred word is a way of renewing your intention to open yourself to God and to accept Him as He is. While this does not prevent anyone from praying in other forms at other times, the period of Centering Prayer is not the time to pray specifically for others. By consenting to God, you are implicitly praying for everyone past, present and future. You are embracing the whole of creation. You are accepting all reality, beginning with God and with that part of your own reality of which you may not be generally aware, namely, the spiritual level of your being.”

All of Fr. Thomas’s Spiritual Journey videos are available on the Contemplative Outreach YouTube channel. Part 1 of his teaching on the Method of Centering Prayer is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FWvxwfN_CE

Enjoy and celebrate the journey to Love. Peace be with you.

Leslee

from December 2020 E-News

SIT ONE HOUR WITH THE LORD

By Germelina L. Salumbides

Fully aware He was going to be crucified and die, Jesus first shares a meal with His friends, and then invites them to pray and “watch” with Him.

“Watch… sit in quiet contemplation, preparing both mind and soul.”

In the past, I would do my Holy Hour with the Lord equipped with my Bible, a missal for the litanies, a novena or two, and definitely my rosary. And when there is time left – meditate.

Now, I have reversed the process. I do my contemplation – and then I recite my prayers. I do my “watch” – by being in quiet contemplation. Instead of reciting my praises, needs, and wants – now I prefer to just sit and listen to Him. It is no longer my agenda of what I need to say to Him, rather, what He needs to say to me. To sit and be with Him.

Definitely, God’s words and thoughts are in the Bible and in devotional prayers. Of course our Lord always wants to hear from us. Always. A loving Father who is always attentive to our concerns.

But in Matthew 26:38, He asks to just to be with Him. To “watch” with Him. This, to me, is the essence of centering prayer.
A sage once wrote: a smart man knows all the answers. A brilliant man knows how to ask the right questions. A wise man knows how to listen.

How does one listen and “hear” the voice of God and know the desires of His Heart? Surely not by our physical eyes and ears – but with our spiritual heart and soul. This, I do in centering prayer.

I close my eyes, take my breaths, and rest in Him. Beyond my words, beyond my thoughts.

In Matthew’s narrative, the disciples failed and fell asleep at the Lord’s request to watch with Him. I, too, have failed. But when I have stayed and watched with Him, I open my heart, open my mind, set aside ego concerns – and lose myself in God’s infinite love. At times the Lord gives me answered prayers, sometimes new instructions, but more often it is just being with Him – where no words/thoughts are needed – attuned to His Will and resting in His Love.

INTO ORDINARY LIFE

By Fr. Carl Arico

“At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.” (CP Guideline number 4)

The creation of space in our lives is so important. Sometimes even in Centering Prayer we rush to get finished. We need to allow time to be nourished by the prayer. Here we pause and allow the process to sink deeper. It opens us up to the gift of the present moment.

By learning to leave space in our prayer we begin to make space in daily life so that the breath of the Spirit can enrich us. All these gifts which we offer in the prayer splash over into daily life – continuing all that we consented to and teaching us how to do it. We live out the command to, “love the Lord our God with our whole mind, heart and being and love our neighbor as ourselves” (Luke 10:27).

OUR DOORWAY TO PEACE

By Joan Chittister

The great spiritual problem of the day is being “like fish out of water.” A life without spiritual regularity drifts through time with little to really hang onto when life most needs an anchor. Instead, we often get caught up in someone else’s agenda most of our lives. We put the cell aside for work and its never-ending deadlines. We forget the cell when we need it most and make play a poor substitute for thought and prayer. We think that we can run our legs off doing, going, finding, socializing, and still stay stolid and serene in the midst of the pressure of it all. And then we find ourselves staring at the ceiling one night and thinking to ourselves, “There must be more to life than this.”

The fact is that human beings need spiritual rest as well as physical rest. Psychologists deal daily with the effects on clients of stress and pressure, of frenzied work and frantic schedules, of open-plan offices and crammed buses, of swarming trains, planes, and automobiles. They see the weary and the worried, the angry and the anxious, and all of them say the same thing: I need time for myself. I need to be able to think for a while. I just need someplace quiet. We find ourselves struggling between having no job, losing a job, trying to find a job, and being smothered by the job we have. Our bills pile up and our energy goes down just trying to meet them.

It is precisely then, when life is at its most frantic, most frightening, that we each need a place to go to, a place that wraps us around in silence and calm. No matter who we are or what we do, we need someplace we have put aside, a small, simple place we have designated as our doorway to peace, where we can sink into ourselves and find the God who awaits us there.

— from In God’s Holy Light: Wisdom from the Desert Monastics by Joan Chittister

 

“Creator Spirit, breathe into our wounded
hearts and minds Your healing Gifts of
forgiveness, understanding, and wisdom. Amen.”

Thomas Keating

REMEMBERING FATHER THOMAS

By Kimberly Holman

I remember the year Father Thomas Keating came to speak at Naropa University. I, quite by accident, happened to meet him as he was coming down a long dark hallway. Here was this tall, commanding figure dressed in the white robes of a Trappist monk. Yet what really touched me was a deeper presence that quite honestly left me dumbstruck.

The encounter was brief but the awe remains. Having heard the news of his passing, this poem stirred inside my heart.

Enlightened master,
Beloved saint,
You will never really be gone
Because you live in our hearts forever.

I still remember that time
When I met you in the hall.
Your commanding presence
Left me speechless,
Which is after all the place where you
Encouraged us to dwell - in silence.

Your talk that night
Left quite an impression.
I still remember how jokingly you called God
Izzy.
”Since God is all things and no thing,”
You said,
”I have to ask,
Is he?”

In that moment, my heart sang.
I felt liberated from the dogma
Of my own conditioned mind.
I realized we can ask these questions.
God doesn’t care.

For God is love
Amidst the doldrums of fear,
And God is a comfort
Drying the aching flow of tears,
And God is who I saw that night
Shining brightly in your eyes so clear.

Thank you, Father Thomas,
For all that you taught us.
Thank you as well for all that you gave.
I’m confident I’ll see walking the halls again some day,
For nothing can hold you,
Not even the grave.

Kimberly Holman is a contemplative writer and mystic with an M.A. in Religious Studies from Naropa University. She is a student of A Course in Miracles, as well as a Certified Mindfulness Meditation Instructor. She is passionate about helping people recognize the already perfected state of being within themselves.


 

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