Centering Prayer and Breathing

Q:  I’m rather new to Centering Prayer. Perhaps the most common thought I have while practicing, which takes me away from my sacred word, is an awareness of my breathing. I’ve noticed that although I’m not mouthing my sacred word, “Abba,” or saying it aloud, I do seem to kind of “breath it out” while exhaling. If you can image, rather than exhaling in one smooth motion, I seem to let out the air in rhythm with my word, so that it comes out in gentle spurts, rather than one continuous, smooth exhale. It’s very subtle, but for some reason it’s distracting me. Is this common? Has anyone else noticed this? Perhaps I’m so much of an audio learning that I can’t help but link my thoughts to my breathing? Anyways, is this a concern? Might it compromise my practice? Anything you’d recommend? I think part of the distraction is my surprise that I can’t seem to unlink my thought of the sacred word from a physiological expression (the breath that would be required to speak it) of it.

A:  Your experience is not uncommon. As you enter into the prayer you begin to notice things because of your heightened level of awareness. You are not deliberately joining your breath to your word.  From your description, it seems to be happening naturally and then when you focus on it, you become distracted.  If you start thinking that you are doing it wrong, let that thought go and gently return to your sacred word.  If you become distracted by your breath, treat this as another ‚Äúthought‚Äù and gently return to your sacred word.  Let me know if this helps.

Fr Carl