Q: I have had numerous people tell me that they have no difficulty carving space for the first sit of the day, usually in the morning. But once the day gets going it is most difficult to find time for the second sit. I myself find the second sit difficult to find time for or even to remember. One solution I have heard is to do a longer sit in the morning. But it seems if I do that I am not replenishing myself later in the day when I feel tired and worn out. I have suggested to people that they find a place at the lunch hour where they can sit in silence. At one time, I would visit a small historic chapel during my lunch hour and practice CP. Of course I am aware of God's presence with me during the day and that is pure gift. So, Fr. Carl, I was wondering if you have any solutions to offer folks on the "second sit" question?
A: Thank you for your question and thank you for the creative ways you have been able at times to enter into the second period of Centering Prayer. Praying the second sit later in the day is a recommendation – a guideline not a rigid rule. We recommend one sit for maintenance and two for transformation. Not that transformation doesn’t happen with one sit, but it is useful to recharge our reservoir of silence after a day engaged in life. You mention the need to recharge as well.
I have never been able to get into the routine of the second sit later in the day. So for years I make time in the morning for a 40 minute period of Centering Prayer. When possible I will on occasion enjoy a sit later in the day. I have trusted that the Lord would understand the rhythm of my life. God help me – I am a morning person.
Your thoughts about using the lunch period and going to a local church are helpful. I know someone who informs their staff that they have an important call at 2pm and are not to be disturbed for 20 minutes. At our Contemplative Outreach office we set aside time each afternoon for Centering Prayer. Folks have shared that they make time as soon as they get home from work at night, before doing anything else. Some have created space just before they get ready for bed, preparing for the night like they prepare for the day. That is not a bad idea although it may make you too alert to sleep; you would need to experiment. Some who travel or commute are able to pray on trains, airplanes and in airports. It’s a very portable practice!
So there are so many ways of making time, but you have to be realistic. The important element is your intention to be with God by praying two periods of Centering Prayer a day. Just do the best you can do under the circumstances and in spite of your humanity. Prayer is a relationship not boot camp. As we know, any relationship almost always needs adjustments while reaching for the ideal. Start each day with the intention that today will be the day for craving out time for the second sit. Be surprised.
I would like to hear from our readers with their recommendations on this very common issue.