Q: What is effect of having a book discussion immediately after a Centering Prayer session with a group? I thought you shouldn’t engage in intellectual discussions. Are there guidelines about conversations or dialogue after group Centering Prayer?
A: Thank you for your question about reading and discussing a section of a book together in a Centering Prayer Group.
Originally a Centering Prayer Group was called a Centering Prayer Support Group. When a group of pray-ers get together to pray they are supporting each other in their spiritual journeys. This is a beautiful attitude for a group to have.
All groups will have a time of Centering Prayer, but the rest of the meeting may vary. Some finish after Centering Prayer while others include reading and responding to a section from a spiritual book, or a video teaching. Others include a time of praying Holy Scripture using the Lectio Divina method. Whichever your group is incorporating, this goes to supporting and growing in relationship to God, our community, and our self. A contemplative stance is needed to listen and respond with an open mind and open heart. Some refer to this as “listening with the ear of their heart.”
Fr. Thomas Keating recommended praying Centering Prayer before Lectio Divina because the time in prayer helps soften us to really listen to what God wants us to hear about our journey at this moment in time. In this same way, you are utilizing the Lectio Divina method as your group reads and discusses a book or watches a teaching video. In Lectio Dvina, the first three moments of the prayer are reading, reflecting, and responding. These can all be incorporated into the group’s reading, reflecting, and responding to the book passage or video teaching. In a monastery, many monks and sisters will use this method both praying with scripture and with spiritual readings.
The Lectio Divina method doesn’t include intellectual discussions, and neither should the group sharing. In essence, asking each of you to share from what touches you and informs your journey at this time can help keep the group from getting into discussions rather than sharing. Remembering Fr. Thomas taught us that Jesus is the teacher. Listening with the ear of our heart will help us from teaching instead of sharing. Sometimes, feeling like we have to teach keeps us from really sharing what is happening within ourselves. Sharing is intimate and creates a bond and uplifts the group. So, we are invited to be open to listen and really hear what everyone has to share because every sharing is also meant to help us grow in our journey to Love.
If your group meets in person, I suggest when someone is sharing to turn your heart space and full attention to that person. This contemplative and loving stance helps us really pay attention rather than trying to figure out what we are going to say next. Incorporate times of silence between sharings to help keep an open and accepting environment. This silence is similar to the fourth moment of Lectio Divina: rest.
Please bring these suggestions to your group and let me know how they encourage a contemplative stance to your meeting time.
Peace and love,