Centering Prayer and Mental Health Challenges


Q: A very seminal moment/question for me.  I have been in contemplative prayer practice daily for almost 10 years.  I understand the “falling away” of the false self with devotion to this practice. I suffer from several types of mental health disorders: ADHD, ASD and a mild form of bipolar disorder. Are these conditions part of my false self or true self?

They are genetic, part of my original DNA. I would assume they are my “true” self.  They are becoming more pronounced as I move forward through my practice.  UGHHHH. Contemplative prayer practice is very challenging BECAUSE of their hold on me. Not enough is written regarding this.  I am truly grateful for any guidance you may have on this subject.

A: Your eloquent email was forwarded to me for response. Contemplative practice is hard and your tenacity is awesome! My favorite distinction between true self and false self is: the false self’s center of gravity is self, while the true self’s center of gravity is God.

That being said it doesn’t really matter where my genetic and mental health pieces reside. The deeper movement is being grounded in Love. From that perspective, all is well, regardless of how it appears on the surface.

You’ve got a lot on your plate, so easy does it. It seems to me that it is our quirks that make us so loveable to God.

Our part (which I hear you are already doing) is to show up as best we can. Our wholehearted desire to say YES to being loved into life is what really matters.

I hope I’ve touched on your question , if not please feel free to reach out to me.

Blessings to you,

Mary Dwyer
Contemplative Outreach

And the response from the questioner: Thank you, dear Mary, for your loving answer.   I think I get it — and I’m led to believe that I was brought to contemplative prayer precisely because I would have trouble with it.  Prior to this practice, I was a “check off the box”, dutiful Catholic.  I did it WELL.  Ha, ha….!!   God had a different plan.  The practice of Centering Prayer is so difficult with my “monkey brain”.  So, as Richard Rohr and so many others say, “Doing it wrong is somehow how we get it RIGHT.”

So, I will continue to sit.  As Fr. Keating said — no matter…”stay on the cushion”.  I am also comforted by Psalm 139: “for I am fearfully and wonderfully made”.  Emphasis on fearfully….!!  God knows what God created in me….I have to believe God will continue God’s faithfulness through this journey.