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Centering Prayer and Physical Symptoms
Q: I have been doing Centering Prayer for about 20 years. Some years ago, during my meditation practice, my head started shaking and jerking from side to side. As a psychologist who has studied neurobiology, I wondered if my experience might be trauma that is releasing from my body. At times, the movements are uncomfortable and a little distracting. Has anyone else had this experience?
A: There are two essential teachings that apply here.
"When you become engaged with thoughts (our umbrella term for everything that manifests during the prayer, e.g. thoughts and in this case, jerking) ever so gently return to you sacred symbol." Let them come and let them go. The 4R's also apply - resist no thoughts, retain no thoughts, react emotionally to no thoughts, return ever so gently to your symbol.
The second wisdom is to expect "possible physical symptoms during the prayer. We may notice slight pains, itching or twitches in various parts of the body or a generalized sense of restlessness. These are usually due to the untying of emotional knots in the body. We may also notice heaviness or lightness in our extremities. This is usually due to a deep level of spiritual attentiveness." So physical symptoms are common. Just gently return to your sacred symbol.
Something is being let go in your being and something is being reborn. As Scripture indicates, you are becoming a new creation.
- Fr. Carl.