Over the years I have practiced many different types of meditations. However, in the last year or so my meditation time has become erratic, as a result so has my well-being. So I recently began to meditate again, and being the crazy person I am, I volunteered to lead a six-week Centering Prayer session at my church, Queen Anne Christian Church. Which has me working really hard to re‑integrate prayer into my daily schedule. You would think that wouldn’t be hard for me as I am retired and haven’t many obligations outside my home. I should have plenty of time right. But never underestimate the power of procrastination or the ability of a retired person to fill up their days. Besides, I’ve done this before, this should be easy, right, NOT.
The process of Centering Prayer isn’t difficult, but it is hard, and I know that’s a contradiction. I have learned it is harder to give up control and enter into a meaningful and restful prayer time than it is to read about it. There is a reason such prayers are called “practice” because that is what you have to do. Our post‑modern minds resist the act of sitting in silence and letting go of daily matters, it wants to control our time, and it will fight back when we do practice a meditative prayer. A minds rebellion takes the form of “monkey mind” or having the inner voice inside of our head keep up a running chatter and we can’t get quiet in order in meditator. This is where that annoying word “practice” comes in.
Practice is the only way shut down the chatter, when you finally succeed then you will experience the quiet that allows you to ‘hear’, feel the presence of God? One thing I do when I am starting, or restarting, a new meditation practice is to limit the length of time I meditate. Currently I am only meditating for 20 minutes at a time. Any longer and I can’t keep day to day, mundane things from intruding. In centering prayer, you select a word or short phrase, repeating it softly to help focus the prayer and settle the mind. I admit to making good use of my centering word in fact, when I first restarted my centering prayer, I think I spent the whole 20 minutes saying it and still the day’s trivia called to me.
One addition to my prayer time is helping me along. I am holding my Chihuahua’s as I meditate. Their soft breathing /snores, and warm, soft bodies provides an extra barrier to daily interruptions. I know many can’t hold a pet, but, if you have a pet you can hold or have sit near you, they are a comfort.
If you live with someone they can, and often do, become an obstacle to meditative prayer. You need to spend in prayer should be a quiet time, with no distractions. However, when there is someone else you need, or wants, will intrude on your quiet time, especially when you have children. Husbands, wives, and children often don’t understand why you want to sit in silence and have time alone for 20 or so minutes. It is not just yourself who must work to enter into a rhythm of daily prayer, your family also has to know about, understand and accept that for 20 or 30 minutes a day you are unavailable. That is, unless someone breaks a bone or is bleeding, I end my meditation for those. We all have those events we cannot nor should ignore and that is perfectly OK. After all prayer time isn’t something we have to do, it something we want to do and enjoy while we do it. I have found that setting up a space designated for my prayer/meditation time. I have a table, candles, a chair with a soft blanket and a dog bed for my meditation partners. It’s one of my favorite places.
Those are my struggles with centering prayer. I’m sure others will experience different issues. I know many who struggle with “monkey mind,” and I have troubles with monkey mind as well. Over time, with practice, I have been able to somewhat quiet the babble in my head. It will happen for you as well, just don’t dwell on it and realize that it is a normal response when starting meditation.
If any of you practice a contemplative spiritual practice or are starting one, I send you my prayers for peace, silence, joy, and rest. May you find your moment with the Holy Spirit.
Ruth Jewell, ©June 3, 2019