Centering Prayer and Unloading


Q: Can fears, anxiety etc. occur during sleep or just during the sit time? I have been practicing Centering Prayer about two years. I often wake in the middle of night with fear and anxiety and cannot think of a specific reason why. I try to relax and just let it pass. I also stopped drinking all alcohol about two years ago. I lived with an alcoholic father and feared his anger. Could this all be related?

A: Thanks for reaching out regarding the anxiety and fear during the night. Yes, I do believe it is all part of this healing journey Centering Prayer is in the service of. Fr. Thomas pointed out that for most folks, unloading of the unconscious is experienced outside the time of prayer—in the midst of the ordinary activities of daily life (of which sleep is one!). The body is the warehouse of the unconscious material and your connecting this with experiences from childhood may prove very fruitful. Your decision to stop alcohol use also prompts the invitation for the body to release any memories that no longer serve you.

The Welcoming Prayer is a wonderful practice for praying with night terrors. We (Contemplative Outreach) have lots of wonderful videos on the CO YouTube channel. I would particularly recommend Jim McElroy’s video entitled, “The Welcoming Prayer and 12-step recovery.”

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance to you. Blessings on your journey.

Mary Dwyer
Contemplative Outreach