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Centering Prayer Intro Workshop

by on February 7, 2017

These are some notes from my participation in an introduction to centering prayer workshop in February 2017. While not a novice to the material, I found lots to think about on the presentations. Here’s some.

DISTRACTING THOUGHTS

  • are opportunities to relate, intend, surrender to God
  • attractions and aversions are stronger, and harder to let pass
  • evaluations and insights are also distracting thoughts as are
  • pleasant memories and pleasurable thoughts.
  • many of these are really our attempt to capture the experience–to attach to it but
  • the point is to surrender.
  • we were taught not to
  • Resist thoughts, or
  • Retain them, or
  • React to them, but to
  • Return to the sacred word, or I might add, to
  • Rest again in God
  • a helpful image of resting for me is a small animal held in the hands

MOTIVATION

  • the motivation to begin and continue/endure in the practice of centering prayer is the presence of God, which may be assumed
  • NOT the experience, which may not

PRACTICE, PERFORMANCE, PRESENCE, AND PERFECTION

  • centering prayer is a practice
  • as a child, practice was always secondary and in service to a performance (like on the piano)
  • one practiced so that the performance would be perfect
  • but in the practice of centering prayer (yoga instructors speak of one’s “practice” also)
  • there is no upcoming performance
  • there is no perfection
  • there is only presence, God’s ubiquitous presence and
  • our presence to God
  • as long as I still assume performance and perfection related to the practice of centering prayer, I will not experience God’s presence to the highest possible degree

HELPFUL PERSPECTIVES

  • WHITE NOISE is a symbol of what all other occasional noise actually is, and can actually  become
  • for example, the noise of continuous traffic is really no different than the noise of a single car passing through a previously silent time
  • I am to treat both as white noise–noise that I can either attend to or ignore
  • and this applies both to external, physical noise as well as internal, mental/emotional noise
  • the more I practice treating all noise this way, the better I will become
  • DEEP BREATHS at the beginning energize me and give me cleaner oxygen than my typical shallow breathing
  • this means I can re-energize and re-focus by taking a few deep breaths during the practice
  • MY TYPICAL SEQUENCE is to be distracted by some physical discomfort like a pressed joint or an itch
  • then I experience some performance anxiety
  • then I notice environmental distractions like noise
  • then I experience a creativity download–my mind finds all sorts of great things to think about
  • finally I rest
  • AT THE END, I typically have two responses
  • relief, or
  • disappointment
  • sometimes surprise

WHEN “ISSUES” SURFACE

  • I find it’s helpful to consider whether this is
  • a gift which can be used in service to others, or
  • a compulsion which needs to be healed

PRACTICING IN GROUPS

  • Have people silence their phones (not just vibrate) and watches
  • Good to outline the steps in detail so people know when it really begins
  • Use a short musical peace for the final “get set”
  • at this time, people can smooth out ripples in their shirt, clear their throats one last time, scratch that last itch, etc.
  • pre-end with a rain stick or bell, leaving another :30-:60 for exiting the practice
  • exit with a spoken prayer of thanksgiving

MISCELLANEOUS THINGS

  • Gregory the Great talked about contemplation being “knowledge impregnated with love”
  • Centering prayer leads us from conversation to communion (see Matthew 6:6 and John 14:20)
  • The word for prayer in Jesus’ Aramaic is something like “shayla” which apparently means to open oneself up
  • One participant said she hopes to better “live in the present instead of waiting for the perfect”
  • the distinction between helping others and serving them is that helping has an ego-element
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