Q: I’ve been meditating for about 10 years every day three or four times for about 30 minutes each. I’ve practiced mantra and just sitting or Shikantaza, Later on I’ve been doing Centering Prayer twice a day and Christian meditation per John Main. Can I practice both or should choose one? I really love the silence and resting in the presence of God.
A: Thank you for your question and for your faithful and committed practice.
Many meditation practitioners begin by exploring a wide range of practices and there is much to be learned by doing so. Most people finally settle on a single primary practice so they can go more deeply and simplify their practice. It can be distracting and disorienting to have more than one practice because it may require us to keep track of what we are practicing rather than entering into the trust and effortlessness that a single practice allows. it also can be a bit confusing and result in a mixture of two practices that is unclear.
During my own years of exploration, I practiced a kind of hybrid of Centering Prayer and Zen meditation until I realized I was not clear about what I was doing during my practice. Ultimately I chose to enter more deeply into the silence, simplicity and rest of Centering Prayer, supplemented only by practices that are quite notably different, such as the Welcoming Prayer and the Forgiveness Prayer. Whatever practice you choose, it doesn’t have to be the perfect practice. Trust in God will draw you ever deeper into whatever practice you choose.
You mention that you love silence and resting in the presence of God and you seem to be attracted to practices of radical non-doing and letting go. You might find a single practice meets these needs. However, that being said, let the Holy Spirit and your own deep intuition be your guides.
Here are a few questions to help with your discernment process:
- What is gained by having more than one practice?
- What would be lost by letting go of most of them?
- Which practice is your heart most longing for?
- Which practice is bearing the most fruit?
- Which practice helps you to enter most deeply into spiritual community?