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Using a Vision in Centering Prayer Instead of a Sacred Word
Q: In the last couple of weeks I find that a certain vision of a person with her/his back to me and arms stretched out toward a representation of me is an effective way to stay focused or to refocus [during Centering Prayer]. The images are doing nothing except being present. There is not expectation of anything happening except what God wants to happen. The sacred word was not doing what it was supposed to do. I remembered that I am a visual person who learns from experiences. So, I tried the vision I described and I found it helpful in my time of Centering Prayer. It gets overwhelmed at times just as the sacred word did. But less so. I wonder two things: what is your response to this and do you know of anyone else with the same experience?
A: Your experience is new to me - it seem as if you are watching yourself praying, like an internal gazing on an image of you praying. Even then you say you are overwhelmed at times. It just isn't working. Why? Focusing is not what we are about in Centering Prayer, so thoughts/emotions/perceptions are not a problem, but an invitation to consent to God’s presence and action within you. So I would suggest starting from scratch - no harm done. Return to a sacred word, breath or gaze as a symbol of your intention to consent to God's presence and action. Drop the need to focus or re-focus and move to consenting and re-consenting. The intention of the prayer is to consent, which is in service to our deepening relationship with God. With beginner’s mind, please review the Centering Prayer Brochure which you will find here. David Frenette also has a chapter in his book on “Deepening the Sacred Glance” that might be useful to you.
Get back to me and let me know your experience or if you have further questions. To be continued, Fr. Carl