Q: I did Centering Prayer for some years but with family (care-giving) responsibilities, I stopped because my head was always spinning and I couldn't get centered. So, I will soon go on a Centering Prayer retreat to get going again, but would you consider other generic types of meditation as having the same effect/value as Centering Prayer (even non-religious meditation, i.e., just focusing on breath)?
A: Thank you for your interesting question.
There is so much good happening because of a greater interest in meditation and contemplative prayer practices, disciplines so needed in the world today.
I have attended Mindfulness workshops and found them very helpful and similar to Centering Prayer presentations. The big difference was the intention and source of the practice. The intention in Centering Prayer is to consent to God’s presence and action within, and to deepen that relationship on God’s terms.
Since the intention is different the effects and value differ as well. Some of the effects of the practices seem very similar, like a greater sense of peace, a better sense of one’s connection to the world at large, but ultimately, what makes Centering Prayer different from a generic meditation practice is that Another is involved, the point of reference being God and not oneself. Centering Prayer is relational as we acknowledge that our lives are being sustained by God, and our prayer practice is dedicated to deepenimg that relationship.
The source of Centering Prayer can be found in our contemplative Christian tradition and the working of the Holy Spirit. And every time we consent and return to our sacred word, we are affirming thy will be done.
Going on a Centering Prayer retreat in order to renew your commitment to the prayer will give you an opportunity to review the guidelines and the heart of the practice. It is a chance to look once again at the recipe and make sure all the ingredients are there.
As we sit in prayer, the song we are singing could be “All of me, why not take all of me , can’t you see I’m no good without you ...”
In my prayers, Fr Carl
And a response from a reader:
"This is in response to Fr. Carl's remarks to a believer who asked about using other 'generic' forms of meditation. Not that Fr. Carl needs any affirmation in his spot on response, I just thought he would be interested to hear of my experience with the same dilemma.
"The year was 1989. I was attending my first ever Centering Prayer retreat at Benet Pines Benedictine Monastery in Colorado. I had the awesome pleasure to literally sit at Fr. Keating's feet and be taught the method directly from him with 25 other attendees. Little did I realize the rare gift I had been given that weekend.
"On the last day we were afforded the opportunity to ask Fr. Keating any question about the practice that was still puzzling us. My question that I shared with this dear Saint was one more of clarification than anything else.
"I simply wanted to know the difference between CP and the much publicized TM. He applauded my question and gave me the analogy of a prom dance. Fr. Carl's response was such a mirror image that it took my breath away, because Fr. Keating very lovingly said to think of the dance. He very firmly stated, 'You might be listening to the same music, but with TM you are dancing with a different partner!'
"In all of these 30 years now, I have NEVER forgotten that one brief encounter with Fr. Keating! And I have never forgotten his response either! So today when I read Fr. Carl response I was breathless! It was like hearing Fr. Keating's response all over again! Every time I "center" I recall that one moment in time! ..."
Van v Gig