For the last month Prayer 101 has been meeting and we have been focusing solely on the form of contemplative prayer called Centering Prayer. Each week we sit quietly for fifteen minutes. When our minds get busy - which they inevitably do - we are encouraged to come back to God by saying a sacred word or phrase to ourselves. That’s it. That’s all Centering Prayer is. I have learned that I make it so much harder for myself than it needs to be. It is a gentle and simple practice where over and over we choose to bring our awareness back to the presence of God that is always already there. We choose to give our assent to God’s work in our lives. I am also practicing this kind of prayer every morning on my own.  Each week it gets easier and easier.

After we sit in silence, we read slowly from a wonderful book called Centering Prayer, Inner Awakening by Cynthia Bourgeault. It is one of the best books I have ever read on Centering Prayer. She makes it all seem so doable. The last paragraph of the introduction to her book says this:

What goes on in the silent depths during the time of Centering Prayer is no one’s business, not even your own; it is between your innermost being and God; that place where as St. Augustine once said, “God is closer to your soul than you are yourself.” Your own subjective experience of the prayer – except for the more-or-less continuous motion of letting go of thoughts. But in the depths of your being, in fact, plenty has been going on, and things are being rearranged. That interior rearrangement – or to give its rightful name, that interior awakening – is the real business of Centering Prayer, and of this book (6).

I love the idea that it doesn’t really matter what my experience of Centering Prayer is like. I could have a million thoughts in fifteen minutes. No matter.  God is at work inside of me, in spite of whatever is going on or not going on in my monkey mind.  It’s so reassuring.

All of us struggle with just how simple and gentle this is, therefore it’s easier to practice this kind of prayer in a group. But ultimately it can be done at home alone and doing it every day is what builds the infrastructure for the inner awakening. At the beginning of class, we often answer a question to check in. Last week the question was, “What is saving your life right now?” I have to say Centering Prayer is saving my life right now.

What is saving yours?