Q: Zoom has surely opened up new possible ways to practice together in these rather isolating times; for this I am grateful! At the same time, I must admit the transition hasn’t been easy. Learning to work with the technical challenges and the hum of a computer in my sacred space has been another arena in which to employ my contemplative practices. As I pray my way through resistance to this new reality, there is one thing that keeps tripping me up; I hope you can help… I’m troubled by the practice in some virtual Centering Prayer groups of people turning off their cameras during the sit. I’ve heard it explained and even encouraged thus: some people feel more comfortable with the camera off, due to the intimate nature of the prayer; stopping the video may allay a sense of discomfort that some people experience from the fear of being watched during prayer. It’s not my intention to judge others’ needs or experiences, but this line of thinking concerns me. Am I alone in this?
Mary: Thank you for your email. Many folks can relate to your sharing. Yet what kept coming to me as I read your words was Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray, go to your inner room, shut the door, and pray to your Father in secret.”(NAB).
It is an individual discernment what “shutting the door” looks like. For some it is just closing their eyes. For others it maybe eyes semi-open. For some a quick glance around the prayer circle, for others solitary space as indicated by turning their camera off. What is important for me to remember is that this is about my relationship with the Divine Indwelling. As Matthew goes on to say, “And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” It is much like sitting next to someone who is snoring or restless in prayer. I can either focus on them and be annoyed, or I can ‘return ever so gently’ to my sacred symbol.
The true beauty of any gathering (zoom or in person) is the lived experience of, “whenever two or three are gathered in my name I am there”(Matthew 18:20). That is what I am experiencing in this extraordinary time of Zoom/Covid 19.