My first encounter with Centering Prayer was in 2010 in Cambridge, England, where I was taking a two-year course of study on The Art of Spiritual Direction.
One of my fellow students invited me to a Centering Prayer group meeting. From the very beginning I knew that this was just right for me. I have been practicing it ever since.
When I came back to my country – Czechia- I started a small Centering Prayer group in my village.
I continued to be in contact with the Cambridge Centering Prayer group (for it was my only support) and attended the first Holy Isle Wisdom School with Cynthia Bourgeault. I have continued to attend every year.
There I met Jill Benet, and I asked her whether I could be trained as a presenter of Centering Prayer.
The Servant Leader Training took place in February 2016 in London, facilitated by Sr. Fionnuala Quinn O.P. and Jill Benet .
I was asked to teach Centering Prayer in my country, and four months later I led my first Introduction in Czechia.
In February 2018 I was invited to England for another training led by Jill Benet and Brenda Bayne.
After that I was invited by the global team of Contemplative Outreach to be their contact for Czechia and Slovakia.
Since 2016 I have been coming back to London to make my eight=dayCentering Prayer Intensive Retreat with Jill Benet, to whom I am deeply grateful for helping me on my spiritual way.
Centering Prayer is slowly blooming in Czechia and Slovakia, thanks to some faithful practitioners. So far there are three Centering Prayer groups in Czechia and three in Slovakia.
Recently, I received an email from a Capuchin Friar from Bratislava. He had found my name on the Contemplative Outreach website as an international contact. We agreed to talk via Skype. To my pleasant surprise I found myself talking to a young, handsome friar, still studying, with final vows, already acquainted with three of Thomas Keating books. On behalf of his superior he asked me to come give them an introduction to Centering Prayer workshop. Not only would they like to learn it, but they would also like to teach it in their monastery. He asked me to come a weekend in February.
Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia, I live more than 200 miles from it to the west. Since I have a very good headmistress I planned my journey for Thursday so I could have a rest before working with the friars. Just the night before my departure it started snowing. The country looked like a pretty Christmas card and I thought that was the end of my journey even before it even started.
Fortunately the snow melted the next morning so I started my long journey. Everything went well and I arrived in Bratislava at 5.30 pm. My friend was waiting for me. I spent the night at her home, but in the evening I had a very interesting meeting with a young student who wanted to talk to me. We arranged another meeting for the next day. Before seeing the friars I went to see a nun, who had Cynthia´s Centering Prayer book in front of her. She uses the book with her group and they sit in silence. She was delighted to talk to me and wants me to come to their center to give an Introduction to Centering Prayer. She and the friars both would like to learn about it and teach it. Isn´t that lovely?
Finally I got to the Capuchin church where they had a Mass for the children, after which I was taken to my room and to my surprise I had supper with all the monks in their private section of the monastery.
I was introduced to each one of them. There were about 20 monks .
Seven of them were interested in Centering Prayer, five young students, their superior and one older friar. A lovely group.
The eager friars wanted to start with Centering Prayer straight away after supper at 7.30 p.m. All our meetings were in a small chapel in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
Having introduced myself, I humbly appreciated their yearning to know about Centering Prayer. The first thing I had to explain to them was that we do not do Centering Prayer in the evening after a meal. Disappointed, they accepted our rules. I told them about our plans. First, I talked a bit about Contemplative Outreach and how Centering Prayer started, and then we did the first session [of the Centering Prayer Introduction] "Prayer as Relationship." We closed our first evening with 30 minutes of adoration.
On Saturday morning we started at 7.30 a.m. The Mass was in their private chapel, the singing was very good. After breakfast we started our second session, "The Method of Centering Prayer," followed by the first 20 minutes of Centering Prayer. There were quite a lot of questions about the sacred word and various other things. Before lunch we had the third session, "Thoughts and Use of the Sacred Word," followed by a second 20 minutes of Centering Prayer, discussion with a lot of questions and comments. We laughed a lot, they were teasing each other. We had lunch, a small break and we met again at 2 p.m. to finish with the fourth part, "Deepening Our Relationship With God." To make the most of my time here they kept on wanting to hear and know more. (Like in Oliver Twist – I want some more?!) Since I could not go there for the next six weeks [for the post introduction follow up sessoins] as required, I used some of my translated material and we did one of the six follow up sessions, "What Centering Prayer is Not." We finished our afternoon before 5 p.m. I have to admit I was a bit tired, but with my capacitar dance and a promise of visiting a pub with the monks I gained new strength. The monks took me to the pub, where we had supper and then they showed me a part of the old town. We all had an early night.
Because I told them about back-to-back meditation, of course they wanted to give it a go. So that was our Sunday morning start. We met at the chapel and had two 20-minute sessions accompanied by the song, "Slowly blooms the rose within." Then we had breakfast.
This was a very special time. There were two girls aged 11-12 (the age I teach at school) who were one of the brothers' nieces. When I see children, I always try to teach them how to sit in silence and also to do the leadership dance. So I took this opportunity to ask them whether they would help me to teach the monks something new. My cunning plan was really to teach them, but I used the monks as an excuse. By the way, the monks teach the children as well, and we were talking about my experiences with my children at school, so I wanted to share it with them. The girls were quite willing, and it was absolutely wonderful. We sat in the refectory in silence for about one or two minutes, and then danced the leadership dance.
After breakfast the monks and I continued our work. They still wanted to hear and learn more. Fortunately, I had with me the Open Mind, Open Heart translation, and they wanted to hear the chapter "Wandering Imagination." Then we talked and I taught them: "God is, God is, the heart of the heart … All shall be well." and we finished with Mass. It was beautiful.
Pictures were taken. My things were packed. Hugs were given and off I went westward,
HAPPY and FULL of GRATITUDE.