Sunday Lifestyle

My centering prayer experience

LOVE LUCY - The Philippine Star

As a child, I already knew how to pray, how to read the Bible, say my novenas. I grew up in a home where prayer was a constant. Even on summer vacations away from home, in Lola Carmen’s house in Cebu, we could play under the sun all day, but come evening, before going to bed, we had to pray. Lola Carmen would teach us songs that we would sing during the Masses held in her home. We met many priests in her home, a lot of whom became very close family friends. 

I once read that growth is part of the spiritual contract we make with our soul. I remember that in November 2004, I found myself saying yes to an “Introduction to Centering Prayer” seminar. I had heard about it often from my Tita Inday, she who never seemed frazzled, she who always knew the right thing to say at the right time, she who was always calm even if things around her were not. She always had a nugget of wisdom to share, one that was rooted in spirituality. She would give me handmade bookmarks that had all these beautiful quotes from names like Henri Nouwen and Fr. Thomas Keating, among others. Such simple beautiful truths, the kind that made me pause and ponder: That’s so beautiful. How’d they even know that? I found out soon enough that contemplative prayer was very much a part of their lives. At that time, all was okay in my life, and even if I had no issues I had to work through, I was very drawn to the idea of centering prayer. I wanted to go beyond the kind of prayer I was used to — one where I did most of the talking, little listening. In hindsight, maybe I just wanted a chance to grow deeper in my faith.

The first two things that struck me as the seminar began was 1) God’s favorite and first language is silence, and 2) in centering prayer, God repairs our brokenness, that we may be whole in body, mind and spirit.

Centering prayer teaches you the beauty (and fruits) of silence, solitude, simplicity, discipline. Discipline because you carve out in your day two windows of time, 20 minutes each, to sit with God — in silence. With eyes closed, you hold on to nothing, think of nothing, just resting in the healing presence of God. Isn’t that so beautiful?

What happens after, you may wonder.

Let me be honest with you. There is no mind-blowing experience here.  And no, I do not hear angels sing as I go through my day (I wish!). Nor do I feel like I am sitting on some cloud, totally beyond any feelings or emotions that are not peaceful and happy. My days do not magically become worry- or stress-free. 

The fruits of this prayer are subtle, but deep and constant. The more you meet God in that space, twice a day, the deeper your relationship with Him becomes. Suddenly, you realize that prayer does not have to be an activity; prayer is a relationship — reciprocal and dynamic, nurtured as it is worked on. I like to think of it as being embraced by God, twice a day, every day. No words said, no thoughts entertained. Besides, what can I say that He already does not know? What can I think in my mind that He cannot read?

So I go, I show up, believing that God meets me there and as I surrender all of me, so does He also fix all that is broken within me.  He can work on me better because I am struggling less. (Ask any doctor if it easy to sew up the gaping wounds of someone not under sedation!) I walk away from every experience believing in my heart that somewhere, somehow, something inside me has been fixed yet again. He does not love me more than He does the next person, but maybe He is able to work on me because I have met Him halfway, beginning with saying yes and consenting to His actions. He will do the same with and for anyone who seeks Him.

Centering prayer has taught me to recite what once was a very difficult prayer for me to utter: “Your will be done.” It was not always easy to pray this way. I continue to work at it. It’s up to you, Lord. I only want what You want. Align my heart to Yours. Let me not aspire for anything that is not in Your plan for me — whether it is something as superficial as a want or something I can only recognize in the here and now as a deep and real need. Let me sort through the debris; give me clarity. Let me see Your hand in every circumstance.

There are no rules. There is no need to be perfect. Just a yes to let Him in, beginning with that space carved out within the day. It is a relationship nurtured by constancy, so subtle in its growth and maturity that when I dare to take stock of what little of it I know for sure (as I am no expert), it brings tears to my eyes, makes my heart swell.

It can be overwhelming. There are such beautiful treasures to be had in words like “detachment,” “faith,” “letting go” and “letting God.” After centering prayer, these words and phrases take on a whole new meaning.  It is so nice to be able to depend on someone, and in this case, what a Someone! I love telling Him, “Okay I hand this all to You; it’s not my problem anymore. Do with it as you please.”

The fruits of this prayer will be shown to you in glimpses during the day; often in the mundane, as you live your life daily, it will find you. It has taught me that praying is a relationship with He who loves me to pieces, wretched and flawed as I can be, one who is strengthened not by things I must do to earn more His kind of love but more as a matter of faith, trust, surrender.

Centering prayer has made me accept that yes, I will always have fears. But it has taught me that whatever those may be, I can work through them, rise above them. Not magically. Not instantly. But through a constant remembering that I am God’s beloved, as you are, and that not for even one nanosecond are we ever alone. He sits beside us, holding our hand, sad when we are sad, happy when we are happy. May we never forget that, nor take it for granted.

When I was learning how to swim I was all tense. Each time the water even touched the insides of my ears, even if it was ever so gently, I flapped my arms and kicked; I was afraid of drowning. The coach said I must be in a completely relaxed state. It took a few more tries but I closed my eyes, and I surrendered. I did not give myself the latitude to overanalyze, I did not move too much. I threw my head back and I lifted my chin up to the sunlight. And I found myself floating. Easily. Lightly.  Finally, I was able to float. All because I stopped struggling. All because I quieted my mind, and became still. Centering prayer is something like that. It has helped keep me afloat in this journey called life.

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There will be a Centering Prayer Introductory Retreat on Aug. 14-16, at Carmelite Missionaries Center of Spirituality, Tagaytay. For inquiries, please call 501-5231 or email [email protected].















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