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Musings of a Part-time Centering Pray-er
About five years ago, I was searching for a spiritual practice. One day, a notice appeared in our local paper about an event called “A Taste of Silence.” The rest, as they say, is history. The practice of Centering rayer appealed to me immediately. Shortly thereafter, two other fellows and I traveled to Portland for a workshop. We got lost using a GPS, which was my first indication that being lost is perhaps a good way to approach one’s spiritual life.
Part-time refers to my inability to find more than one twenty-minute slot of time for Centering Prayer. Typically, I begin with Father Keating’s four Rs (resist no thought, retain no thought, react to no thought, return to be). I consent to the presence of the divine One in my life, then, I sit for twenty minutes.
This practice is supported by my participation once a week in a small group at the local First Presbyterian Church, a fifteen-minute walk from my home. See how easy this spiritual path was made for me! Here we listen to an introductory tape, which provided two ah-ha opportunities. The first came as I tried to imagine how Jesus could be closer to me than my breath. Over the course of almost a year, I struggled with this concept. Where is my breath? How could anything or anyone come between me and that breath? Eventually, it dawned upon me that this is the One. There is no separation. The second ah-ha moment occurred when I fully heard the statement: the heart beats, the lungs breathe, the mind thinks. I had been struggling for so long with the so-called monkey mind. Yet, this is what the mind does. Think. The realization allowed me to approach Centering Prayer in a much more relaxed manner.
Last spring, I decided to do a three day fast/Centering Prayer retreat in the Badlands, a desert place east of town. Each day, I gave myself over to several periods of Centering Prayer separated by hikes. I opted to sit on a perfect rock chair facing a large rock wall, which was marked by large cracks both vertical and horizontal. As one of these sessions ended, the rock wall appeared almost like the spaceship command center in Star Trek. As I glanced around, I realized that what looked like the accelerator and the brake pedals of a car were some six or seven feet beyond my reach. How funny! A visual reminder that there is so much beyond my control, including my Centering Prayer practice. I just continue to show up. A second insight this desert experience offered me was that I really did have enough time to have a second session of Centering Prayer each day. I would guess I’m successful 4 days each week.
So, there you are. Life isn’t perfect, and neither am I. I show up. I’m not in control. I let be.