Fr. Thomas has asked the Centering Prayer community to spend the next year going back to basics. For much of the past 12 years I have been revisiting Thomas’ teachings on Centering Prayer and the Christian spiritual journey by serving at least one long Centering Prayer intensive retreat a year in which I prepare by reading both Open Mind, Open Heart and Invitation to Love. This may seem a little over board in terms of preparation but I find each yearly reading brings me closer to absorbing the materials with my heart rather than my head.
Contemplative Outreach is preparing a new, yearlong online journey* into Thomas’ Spiritual Journey series. Some of you may think, "I’ve already seen those videos—they are so old!" Or, that you are evolved beyond the teachings. Maybe you think that you have mastered Centering Prayer. Or even that it’s all about the prayer—"I don’t need to look at my falsity as God has this covered." Thomas teaches that there is both the prayer—our consent to God’s presence and action within and remembering who we are in God -- which is balanced by our looking within at our unrecognized needs for security, power/control, affection/esteem and our unconscious identification and conforming to our group. Although he began these teachings decades ago, they are still timely and inform our journeys now. Please open your hearts and minds to discern if this is the time to explore Thomas’ teachings with new eyes, new ears and a new heart.*
I would like to share how Thomas’ teachings have informed and formed our Colorado Springs Centering Prayer community over the past six years. Our story may help in your discernment process.
Most Thursday mornings, I drive 55 miles south to a church that for the last five years has invited us to share Fr. Thomas’ teachings on Centering Prayer, other contemplative practices, and the Christian contemplative journey, especially the human condition.
Each January a new group gathers from Centering Prayer communities in Denver south to Pueblo – over 100 miles from north to south – to pray together, learn together, and grow together in an atmosphere of ecumenical dialogue. We are mainline Protestants, Catholics, Evangelicals, and interspiritual people who are drawn back to Christianity by this prayer.
Our sharing at first is measured, each open to hear each other, but trying to understand each other’s nuanced Christian language for the same experiences. It takes about six weeks for us to become a community bonded in God’s love and grace -- one where we are connected by our hearts, and where our membership is in the human family rather than our individual denominations.
Our reading and video viewing begins with Thomas’ teaching on Centering Prayer. We take the time to hear for the first, or the second, or third, or 20th time, the method of the prayer of consent. For those of us who do not have a practice, this beginning helps us to establish our prayer time. For those of us who do have a practice, it helps us recommit to our daily prayer time. We read and ponder how Thomas’ book Open Mind, Open Heart informs our lives at this point in our journeys. This commitment to our prayer time is sometimes referred to as our waking up – becoming more aware and remembering our relationship with God and our basic core of goodness. It reminds us of the greatest commandment to love God with all of ourselves and to love others and ourselves as well.
Next, we dive into Thomas’ teaching of Centering Prayer’s sister prayer: Lectio Divina. Many of the people in our community have studied or heard the Bible every day of their lives. Learning to pray the Scriptures is very powerful and leads to resting in God’s embrace in the word. Many are comforted by how Lectio Divina informs the Centering Prayer method.
Just before our summer break, we begin to explore Thomas’ teaching on the human condition. Here we learn about the energy centers. We grapple with our addictions -- small and large -- those hidden and those we are just a little aware of. This inward look or growing up is balanced by our renewed confidence in our relationship with God.
In the fall sessions, we explore our human condition, our false self, and try to remember our true self – who God sent us into the world to be. We ponder Thomas’ teaching on the beatitudes, the spiritual senses and the fruits and gifts of the Spirit. Again, the remembrance and celebration of who we are in God and how we interact with the people, the creatures and God’s creation around us. The Welcoming Prayer becomes a practice to consent to God in the active moments of our lives.
Our formation ends with a call to service. Our contemplation leads to action expressed in as many different ways as there are folks in the group. We celebrate and are sent off to join Centering Prayer groups in our area.
But something funny happens: a few of us return again the following year to revisit the same teachings. Contemplative learning is hearing or praying the same thing over and over but hearing and exploring it with our hearts and minds at the new place we are in the journey. Our books are highlighted in many different colors as the words touch us in different ways. Recently, I got to our session and told one of the other facilitators that the video of the day was my favorite video of the year. Yet at the end of the day, I shared that it felt like I had never seen this video before! I didn’t forget the teachings, but was ready to hear them in a new way, with new eyes and new ears and a new heart and even a new brain.
This invitation to travel together that Fr. Thomas and the Contemplative Outreach team is putting before us is a call back to basics, so we can wake up more, and grow up more, and remember more who we are in God, who we are as words of God sent into the world to serve, and who we are in relation to those around us and to the entire cosmos. Come and see*.
Lone Tree, Colorado
*For more infomation on the 2018 Spiritual Journey online program, please go here.
Leslee serves the South Colorado Centering Prayer network as Centering Prayer group facilitator, and a commissioned presenter for Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina. She also serves the larger Contemplative Outreach community as Lectio Divina Service Team Leader, a member of the Contemplative Outreach Retreats Service Team, as a Living Flame presenter, and as an intensive retreat leader.