What are we Welcoming?

 

Q: Our Centering Prayer group in Ireland has been using the Welcoming prayer practice for a number of weeks after our period of Centering Prayer. There seems to be some confusion about the second movement: “Welcome”.  What are we welcoming?  I know we are welcoming God’s presence but are we also welcoming the feeling? Maybe the Welcome is inherent in the first step as I allow the feeling/sensation to be there and don’t repress or resist it.  In the Contemplative Life Program 40-day Welcoming Prayer booklet, it says, “Welcome” what you are experiencing this moment in your body as an opportunity to consent to the Divine Indwelling.” So, for example, if I am feeling anxiety in my body am I welcoming it or is the only emphasis on consenting to the Divine Indwelling?  The booklet says “What I ‘welcome’ in the Welcoming practice is not the feeling, emotion, thought or body sensation, but God’s activity in them.”  I am a bit confused about the seemingly discrepancy between those two quotes. Ultimately, my question is, “Is welcoming the feeling included in the Welcoming Prayer?”

A: Thanks for reaching out and so delighted to learn of your group’s interest in and practice of the Welcoming Prayer. The Welcoming Team is actually in the process of looking at some of the discrepancies you so astutely pointed out in your email.

So, what are we Welcoming? To my understanding, we are welcoming what is. So if what is is that my body is tight with anxiety — that is what I am consenting to, based on the foundational belief that I can never have an experience apart from the Divine Indwelling. This is Fr. Thomas Keating’s “grease spot theology.” If the Divine energy wasn’t animating us at a cellular level every moment, we would be a grease spot. So if I look down and my feet are still there, so is God. In this understanding there is no dichotomy or dualism between sensation and belief or the psychological content of the moment. It simply is and we are fully embracing what is happening in this moment in our bodies as another opportunity to consent to being loved into life at ever deeper levels. Obviously this requires radical, invincible trust in God (whatever our conception of the Divine may be).

I hope I haven’t been too wordy or confusing. Please feel free to let me know if more questions arise.

Blessings,

Mary Dwyer
Welcoming Prayer team member