Centering Prayer, Distractions and Discouragement


Q: I’ve been practising Centering Prayer for many years now and I still get very distracted and my mind is very busy and I rarely feel rested at the end. I realise that feeling peaceful is not the ultimate goal but I’m wondering if others feel the same way. I feel discouraged at times to continue and I don’t always keep to the same mantra. Can you offer any thoughts to encourage me to continue?

A: I was asked to answer your questions about your Centering Prayer experiences. First, thank you for being faithful to the relationship even with a lack of consolations during the prayer time. Please know that your experience is widespread in the community. If you have time, please go to the following link which was an answer to someone who had almost the same question:

In the meantime, below I hope you will find encouragement to keep up your prayer relationship. It’s a shorter summery of the article mentioned above.

Most of us get distracted with thoughts during the prayer time–Thomas Keating tells us that as humans we are going to have thoughts during the prayer time. What matters is do we engage those thought or are we able to let them go and return ourselves to the prayer. This letting go during the prayer time is a change in disposition of saying yes to God’s presence and action within. It also helps us to let go of unnecessary thoughts during everyday life.

Many of us choose to change our sacred word. Thomas suggests that we don’t change during the same prayer period and that we don’t keep choosing a word as a way of telling God what we need for that time period. This is a form of humility of allowing ourselves to let God heal us and form us rather than us forming and healing ourselves.  For instance, today I find myself needing peace, so I go into the prayer using “peace” as my sacred word. In Centering Prayer, we depend on God to lead the prayer. Before the prayer begins or after the prayer is over, we can of course, ask God for the peace.

People find it very helpful to have what Thomas called a vestibule prayer to prepare for your meditation time. If you are an active person, you may choose to take a walk or stretch before sitting down to pray. If you have an active family life, you may choose to go into your prayer room and take some time for watching your breath. If you write, you may choose to journal before prayer. If you love music, you may choose to listen to a soft song that inspires you. In other words, find what works for you to shake off your ordinary experience before your prayer time.

The fruits of Centering Prayer appear mostly in your everyday life. Look for the gifts in your life. Perhaps you are having less thoughts while walking about. Or you may have noticed you are more patient, loving and accepting with those around you. God gives us what we need to celebrate our life in God.

Thank you again for reaching out to us. Please let me know if you this was helpful to your journey.

Peace and Easter Joy,

Leslee Terpay

And the response from the questioner: Dear Leslee: Thanks so much for your response. It it most timely. I very much appreciate what you’ve said and the encouragement I receive from others in a similar state. I don’t have anyone in my life with whom I can share my Centering Prayer experiences and thus it can be easy at times to give up. But I persevere and mostly I can see the fruits. I’m so grateful for your community and Thomas is my greatest mentor in the contemplative life which I find can be a lonely journey. Thanks again.