I would like to share with you a guest post from my friend Richard Lewis. Rich is a teacher of centering prayer and a spiritual director. We have written on each other’s websites quite often. Check out one of his posts on the nature of silence, Silence is Not Empty: It is Filled With God. This guest post is an excerpt from his newly released book, Sitting with God: A Journey to Your True Self Through Centering Prayer. I hope you enjoy this sneak peak into his new book!
Centering prayer is a personal and unique journey. We each start where we are and enter the Mystery. When we center, we let go of all preconceived notions. We let God be God. We cannot define God; when we try to do so, we end up with something dead and unhealthy, an idol (Exodus 20:4)! We can only open to God.
We best understand God when we try not to understand God. This goes back to having a beginner’s mind. We maintain a posture of openness. We let go and admit that we don’t know. We simply trust. We leave our “small mind” and enter the “larger mind.” We die to our self. Cynthia Bourgeault wrote, “Dying to self means being willing to let go of what I want (or think I want) in order to create space for God to direct, lead, and guide me into a truer way of being.” We die to what the world tells us we need. When I practice centering prayer I move from “let go” to “let be.” I let myself “be” with God.
Love is a word that is tossed around a lot in our society. Mystics of old, like Maximos the Confessor, saw the Love experienced in prayer as the highest Love—as a holy state of the soul, which values knowledge of God above all created things. We can’t remain in this Love as long as we are attached to anything worldly. I must let go if I want to behold this Love. I let go of all things that engage my senses: sights, sounds, smells, tastes, in order to open myself to God who is ultimately beyond the senses.
The hope of contemplatives, often realized in the lives of saints both ancient and post-modern, is that just as meditation has transformed us, it will transform our society. This is why we show up every day. Centering prayer is the foundation, the context, for everything we do. Centering prayer is powerful. It changes us. The change in us gives birth to change in the world. We could not keep the revitalization of our souls to ourselves if we wanted to. We have to do something with the new found vigor. In God’s time, what has transformed us cannot help but transform our relationships.
Centering prayer is powerful, but it is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. If we are faithful to our practice, our practice will be faithful to us. Our work is to show up each day—to show up two to three times per day, in fact—and sit with 40 Sitting with God the Mystery we call God. Our job is to sit with God and let God work in us. Each time we sit is another opportunity for God in Christ to take action within us. God will loosen our minds and keep the doors of our minds open.
When people try centering prayer for the first time, I encourage them to simply pray daily as long as they can for thirty consecutive days, and mark it on the calendar. Sits will be five minutes some days and others ten. The point is to simply begin where you are and do as much as you can. Silence is hard to get used to. Give yourself time.
As our bodies need rest, our minds need solitude and stillness. Our minds need to relax, to drop into our hearts and rest with God who is within. It is a pilgrimage from our mind to heart.
“This work offers a friendly and accessible approach to centering prayer that will be of great benefit to those new to the practice. Rich has a lovely way of inviting the reader in through honest reflections on his own experience, both struggles and graces. These stories offer comfort and gentle encouragement on the way.”