Q: I have been centering for about seven years. Lately, when I try, I feel like I'm having a panic attack. Can you give me some insight?
A: Our faithful practice of Centering Prayer goes through seasons, just like Mother Nature.
For 30 years I have been going to Dr. Tom and what I like most about him is that he always answers my questions by beginning with the simplest answer. He does not jump to major conclusions or procedures unless they are evidently called for.
Panic attacks can come from many different levels. Let us start at the simplest. If you have been faithfully practicing Centering Prayer and consenting to God presence (which is affirming your basic goodness) and action (which inspires purification) you may at times experience something that feels like a panic attack. You are invited not to over conceptualize it (wondering why it is happening) but to let go of wanting to change what you are experiencing. Let it come, let it go. It may be the releasing of some energy. We call that unloading.
At the same time it is always a good idea to review the Centering Prayer pamphlet to refresh your understanding of the process. You may also need to shorten your Centering Prayer sessions and focus more on the practice of Lectio Divina with Scripture, especially the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. Please experiment with what is supportive to your process and your deepening trust in God’s work within you. You may also need to assistance of a mental health professional and/or spiritual director to walk with you during this phase of your journey.
Perhaps what you are experiencing is a sign to take a deep breath, pause, review and begin again as the Holy Spirit moves you.