Centering Prayer

by Ella Rozett

Ideally you meditate daily, once for maintenance and twice for healing and growth. But any time spent with your inner self and your higher power is a wonderful seed planted.
Each step can be done separately or they can all be done in one sitting. Use whatever steps work for you on any given day, in any order, for any length
of time.

Step 1: Notice your breath in your body… Without judgment, notice whether it’s deep and relaxed, shallow or tight… Accept it just the way it is, which includes allowing it to change if and when it wants to.

Step 2: Accept yourself just the way you are, which includes allowing yourself to change if and when you want to.

Step 3: If you notice tension or discomfort in your body or in your being, let your breath touch the place where it is the most intense. Just be with that place, not trying to change or analyze it, nor engaging its story. (The sooner you allow the experience of it, the sooner it’ll change.) If it’s too scary to go into that place alone, ask your higher power to come with you.

Step 4: Imagine you are like a great mountain. Thoughts, feelings, sensations, sense perceptions, and events drift by like clouds. The mountain does not hang on to them or try to shoo them away; it simply notices them coming out of space, sticking around for some time, and then disappearing into space. Even if storm clouds envelop the mountain for a few days, it doesn’t worry, because the mountain knows that it is not the clouds and that they will pass without it having to do anything.

Step 5: Every time you loose all awareness of your breath (which will be countless times) ever so gently and patiently remember it. It may help to count your breath for a while. Count 10 breaths over and over.

Step 6: When you get bored, rejoice: you’re almost there! Notice boredom (and whatever else arises) without judging it as, good or bad, without needing to do anything about it. Then it will change into deep peace.

Step 7: If it’s meaningful to you, remember that the Bible says, God created us by breathing his own breath into us, so that our breath may also be God’s breath. Notice how you feel about God possibly being as close as your breath… Notice how much room you’re willing to give God inside of you… Tell God…

Step 8: Listen with an empty, open mind to see if God has a response.

Step 9: If there is a curiosity about God or a willingness to consent to God’s presence within you, ask your heart if there is a word that would summarize and symbolize those feelings. Listen with an empty, open mind until a word comes up.

Step 10: Let the word echo in your being and repeat it over and over, until God draws you into a silence that is deeper than even one word. At that point follow God into silence, letting go of your word.

Step 11: When you notice that you got distracted, ever so gently remember your “sacred word”. (From then on, use the same word during every meditation.)

Step 12: When you feel done, end with a prayer from the heart.

 

Technically, only steps 9-11 are "Centering Prayer" as taught by the Trappist abbot Thomas Keating. For a full explanation of this technique and its background read his "Open Mind, Open Heart" or "Invitation to Love"