The Path of Centering Prayer and Welcoming Prayer


Q: I have been in recovery for 19 years from 35 long painful years of addictions and have meditated for as long. I have followed nondual teaching of resting in being. I have always been anxious and had a sense of unease deep inside; it has lessened over the years but always under the surface something i cannot resolve.

I am so grateful to have found Centering Prayer and love Thomas Keating’s truth of Divine Therapy and believe that it is working within me, but since having to choose a sacred word the tension and pain has become more acute and I prefer to rest in the breath. I can see from this experience that my views of life are very narrow (a result of having to control most things in my life for fear of going back into despair). I so want and need to let go of control. I love the Welcoming Prayer and ask for relief from my desire for control, affection, security and to change situations. I don’t even know what my question is but maybe you can offer some insight: I never had any schooling in the love of God, only what I have sought out on Youtube and books, and the fact I am free of addictions, only God could have done that. I believe in God’s presence but I can’t feel God’s love.  I have turned away from religion and it’s talk of evil and punishment.

A: Thank you for reaching out. You articulate the truth of your journey with such honesty and integrity. And you are courageous to call out the underlying tension in the depths. I’m glad you found the breath with Centering Prayer if the word wasn’t helpful. David Frenette writes beautifully about this in his book, The Path of Centering Prayer.

And the Welcoming Prayer practice helps when we really feel the dismantling taking aim at our emotional programs for happiness. You mention control as a pivotal one for you. Please know you are not alone! But as you so clearly stated, these practices are merely at the service of allowing ourselves to be loved into life. If we keep showing up (as you have done for 19+years) we begin to trust what feels often anything but trustable. Radical, invincible trust emerges slowly, but surely. Breath by breath, sit by sit, we show up.

The Twelve Steps state, “practice makes progress,” so I can let go of any idea I may have of perfection. The power really lies in our heart’s deep intention to say YES to this LOVE/life. And we can consent to this intention by faithfully showing up in the chair twice a day and practicing Welcoming as the emotional debris of a lifetime is gradually removed.

Well, I hope I spoke to your question. Please feel free to correct/connect if I totally missed the mark.

Mary Dwyer
Contemplative Outreach volunteer