Q: A friend is a marathon runner. He says he prays as he runs and he comes to a place of peace where miles seem to go by and he is unaware of them. He wanted to know if one always has to sit for it to be Centering Prayer. Or perhaps he was asking if he had reached a contemplative state. I told him I didn’t know, that he might be having a “runners high.” However, the way he asked the question made me think something different was happening to him. I know real contemplative things happen to us when we are awake and not in a sit, like Merton’s 4th and Walnut experience.
A: All disciplines have guidelines and particular purposes. The posture for Centering Prayer could be liken to Our Lord washing our feet; I see it as a chance to be ministered to rather than God having to chase after us. It is an opportunity to receive. The runner can certainly pray the active prayer to the rhythm of his running and be consenting to God’s presence and action, but it would not be Centering Prayer. It would be more like the contemplative walk we do on intensive retreats. I hope this very simple answer is helpful. Blessings, Fr Carl