6: Centering Prayer and Thoughts, Guideline #3, Pt. 2

Tano, charcoal on paper

No sooner has a man turned towards God in love
when through human frailty he finds himself distracted
by the remembrance of some created thing or daily care.
But no matter.
No harm done.
For such a person quickly returns
to deep recollection.
– The Cloud of Unknowing, edited by William Johnston

We may think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words. But, as we’ve discussed, this is only one expression. Deep prayer is the opening of mind and heart, body and feelings – our whole being – to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond words, thought, and emotions. We do not resist them or suppress them. We accept them as they are and go beyond them, not by undue effort, but by letting them all go by.

“Once you grasp the fact that thoughts are not only inevitable, but an integral part of the process of healing and growth initiated by God, you are able to take a positive view of … thought. Instead of looking upon them as painful distractions, you see them in a broader perspective of divine healing that includes both interior silence and thoughts – thoughts that you do not want, but which are just as valuable for the purpose of purification as moments of profound tranquility.”

– Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart

“Returning ever-so-gently” to the sacred word (or glance, or breath) is our immediate response to God … Yes, Lord, I am here.

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“Take everything that happens during the periods of Centering Prayer peacefully and gratefully, without putting a judgment on anything. Even if you should have an overwhelming experience of God, this is not the time to think about it. Let the various kinds of thoughts come and go. The basic principle for handling them in this prayer is this:

  • Resist no thought
  • Retain no thought
  • React emotionally to no thought …

“To know God in this way is to perceive a new dimension to all reality.”

– Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart

To Practice
  • View the video excerpt “Centering Prayer” which comes from the video series Invitation from God. It is about seven minutes in length. In the video segment, Fr. Thomas stresses:
  • The ever-so-gentle nature of our efforts
  • Intention to consent as the heart and soul of this prayer
  • The fourth dimension of life
  • In gratitude, resist the urge to judge periods of Centering Prayer after the prayer periods. Practice the “silence of self.” What do you experience?
Resources for Further Study:

You may wish to read Chapter 9 in Open Mind, Open Heart (20th Anniversary Edition); Chapter 10 in older editions.

Video

“Centering Prayer” excerpted from Invitation from God, 7 mins.


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