Q: I’ve been practicing mindfulness for many years. A carryover from this practice is the tendency for a beautiful pulsating image to manifest in the area between my eyebrows a few minutes after I start Centering Prayer and become quiet. I understand that this would be a ‘thought’ in Centering Prayer. However, since I’ve been accustomed to maintaining concentrating on this state for many years, its difficult to ‘dispel the thought’ by simply saying my sacred word. I will usually have to open my eyes for the colours to dissipate. Oftentimes when I shut my eyes to begin again, the image will come back. Is there an issue with simply allowing this image to persist (not maintaining concentration and without clinging) and then resting in the feelings of ease and space? I’m finding it terribly disruptive to keep opening my eyes and ‘shooing the image away’.
A: Thank you for your question. It sounds as if perhaps your long-time mindfulness practice has enabled you to see a vision of an aspect of your own spiritual or energetic anatomy that stays with you as you practice, just as any other body part stays with you. As you say, the beautiful pulsating image is a thought, but that doesn’t need to be a problem unless you become engaged with and distracted by the thought. If you focused on the image it would be engaging in a thought, but you don’t need to dispel the thought or dissipate the image as long as you remain disengaged from it. It can continue to be there like any other body sensation. You describe the process very well, that you can “simply allow this image to persist (not maintaining concentration and without clinging) and then rest in the feelings of ease and space.” When you find yourself becoming distracted by the image, you can briefly open your eyes, as you describe, to become a little bit more separate and disengaged from it, or you can silently sound your sacred word.
It sounds like you have a good understanding of how to transition to your new practice of Centering Prayer, and an appreciation that it is necessary to keep the two practices separate. Sometimes when people come to Centering Prayer from another meditation practice, they have a tendency to create a kind of a hybrid of the two practices, which can be confusing and unfruitful. Mindfulness meditation is a wonderful practice, but it’s most helpful to choose one practice and stick with it with clarity and commitment, as it sounds like you are doing.
Blessings on your continued practice!