Q: My mother is 92, lives with us and has for the last 5 years. This is during the time when I also started Centering Prayer. It is so hard to find time to sit in quietness. People are here and mama has her needs. Still, I try. I go into my bedroom and shut the door. And try to shut out the noise. My question is, can you truly center even if you can’t find a quiet place in your home?
A: The answer is a definite ‘yes’!
Let me look at you question in a number of different ways. First of all you have been taking care of your 92 year old mom for 5 years. There is a scripture quote which says ‘that a multitude of sins are forgiven those children who do not lord it over their parents in the old age.’ Your consent to this task is already placing you in God’s presence in a very special way. In meeting her requests to the best of your ability, you are consenting to your transformation because you are living out the teaching, ‘whatever you do to the least of these you are doing to me.’ Over this 5 year period you have been trained to listen to various sounds that give you clues of what is going on. You are on ‘alert’ – nothing is going to happen on your watch. Does this sound true? And thank God there are people coming to visit her, plus whatever services are coming from the local community, etc.
When you enter into you room for Centering Prayer, you are not alone, as all these various obligations, thoughts and expectations are coming in with you. The challenge is to leave them at the door – after you make friends with them. They (the sounds) are opportunities to learn to let go. This means living out Centering Prayer guideline #3: ‘whenever you become engaged with your thoughts, etc, ever so gently return to the sacred word.’ This is the ‚Äòlet go, let God‚Äô guideline. It is trusting that God will be present especially when you are carving out the time to pray. Remember, we are being called to silence, not quiet. The silence is in the intentionality to consent and let all the inner noises come and go. That is the quiet place of your inner room.
I know a person who has worked out an agreement with their parent. She tells her mom that she is going to her room to pray. She leaves a little bell with her mom and tells her to ring the bell if there is an emergency, but if it can wait, she promises to be back in 30 minutes. It has worked for her, but of course, every situation is different.
When you are of service to others, no matter what their age, your prayer practice and discipline will turn what seems to be a job into a service. You are able to love them where they are at. My mother used to say to me, ‚ÄòI am doing the best I can under the circumstance, in spite of you!‚Äô I can live with that, especially when I also realize that ‘I am doing the best I can under the circumstances, in spite of her.’ This playful exchange became a standing joke. This was the making of our Divine Comedy ‚Ä¶ our Divine Dance.