The Spiritual Swiffer: Centering Prayer


Since mid-December, I feel as if this life of mine has not stopped running. Trust me, I am not asking for it to stop, completely! But from the perspective of balance, it feels like it’s 9 parts action and 1 part contemplation.

The fact that I am noticing this at all is a major change. That I want balance between these poles is a great step forward. It also may mean that I’m just tuckered out, as my Mom would say.

In some respects, it makes sense. I spent the last two weeks of December prepping for a move, and then moving. Then, most of January unpacking, arranging, accommodating myself to a new space, a new ‘hood, a new commute.

Then, friends and family had major events befall them. And, the new iPhone was not delivering all it promised. And, the bank screwed up my new account. And, and, and.

And, these are luxury problems.

And, what if they never stop? Because life always throws stuff at us, doesn’t it? All of these events, big, small and in between have made me wonder all the more about how I engage with my own life. If the pace won’t change, then how might I? If the nature of life IS change, then how am I to respond?

Surrender control. Address what I can and then surrender control.

Do what is put before me. If others things cannot be done because of what’s in front of me, then perhaps that’s just fine. Can someone else do it? Can I do it later?

When I feel overwhelmed, as I have lately, I can remember to just do the next right thing.  Not the next 200 things. Just the next thing. When I am consumed about the next 200 things, I do not handle the next 1 thing well at all.

I can remember that planning and worrying are different. It is sensible to think through how I might tackle a project. And, having done that, I can choose to surrender the worry.

As in Matthew: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

For me, Centering Prayer has become a letting-go practice. As Cynthia Bourgeault explains it, the “action” of this prayer is release. In the course of 20 minutes, I become willing, again and again, to release whatever thoughts come into my head. I am not always successful. I am often attracted by my thoughts, especially the ones that involve worry and planning. No surprise.

But, I have a sneaking suspicion that this practice is leaching into my consciousness in a very wonderful way. My awareness of my mental “busy-ness” has increased, beyond the 20-minute prayer period. I now find myself catching myself worrying. And, I find myself more willing to put that energy elsewhere instead.

I find myself with a better understanding of what NOT being in the moment looks like for me. And, how often it happens.

And, now it’s interesting to me, as I write this, that I find myself repeating the phrase “I find myself”.

That intrigues me, no end.

Finding oneself. Being centered. Being at home, within.

I agree with Cynthia Bourgeault, Jim Marion, and others, that Jesus really meant it when he said that the Kingdom of God is within you. Not the place we go when we die, if we’re good. Bah. If we are, as humans, each a specific and unique intersection of the temporal and the Divine, then how do we get in touch with the Divine that dwells within? (And this is not to say that the Divine is ONLY within.) If, as many have said, that the work of this life, and the mark of true spirituality, is inner transformation – putting on the mind of Christ and not mindless conformity to correct behavior – then how do we transform?

For me, it starts with clearing out the cobwebs. Centering Prayer may be doing it for me.

About Soul Intention

"Spirituality is, ultimately, about what we do with...desire. What we do with our longings, both in terms of handling the pain and the hope they bring us, that is our spirituality." from The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser. Paraphrasing what Gerald May has said, in his book Will and Spirit, spirituality is our experience and interpretation of our relationship with the Sacred. The intent of this blog is to explore for myself, and to invite others to explore with me, just what is it we do with our desire? What is our spirituality? Mine has been shaped by many my formative years, by the Roman Catholic church. In the last decade, by the 12 steps. Most recently, by the Episcopal Church. And, always, always, by the sense that Nature helped to reveal the Great Mystery, of which we are all a part. So, my spirituality includes concrete practices, like the Steps, as well as probing more philosophical matters. I was certified, in January 2011, as a Spiritual Director by the Haden Institute. During those 21 months of study, which included a broad range of topics from Celtic Spirituality, to the Christian Mystics, to Jungian Depth psychology, I was given the space and time to ponder my own spiritual journey, hear about others' paths, and benefit from participation in an intentional community. My hope is that this blog can engender a similar conversation. Peace, Paul
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