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Posts Tagged ‘quiet’

I create these islands of silence in all kinds of places in my life. They are a respite. They are places where I can listen. They are havens where I can stop talking — to myself or others. They are places where I can see clearly, where I can feel safely.

I’ve done this all my life. I have been “Faithful to the Quiet, Finding the Silence that Soothes my Soul.”

One of these places is sitting quietly in Centering Prayer. I had the great blessing to be called to this contemplative “non-talking” practice of prayer. And greater yet, I had the honor of knowing and working with Father Basil Pennington OCSO who taught and wrote many volumes on Centering Prayer.

This is how you go about taking up this prayer and what it is, a simple, humble being to God.

“Silence is God’s first language. Everything else is poor translation.”
Thomas Keating

Silence may be God’s language but most of us have difficulty in fluently speaking silence. We live in a hyped-up, super fast and crazy noisy world and we tend to bounce around in the noise. Words often equal noise for us. Spoken words, silent words present as thoughts, and noises of the environment and living spaces in which we live all conspire to equate to noises that block the passageway of Spirit. Words more often block communication than facilitate it. Words get in the way of our ability to listen, when listening is what is truly called for.

There is a simple prayer. A prayer of only one word. A prayer which only uses that one word when other words and thoughts are trying to interfere with the prayer. This prayer is Centering Prayer, brought to Western Christianity from the ancient practices of the Fathers in the Desert contemplative practice. You may practice this prayer by yourself or you may find a group that meets in silent prayer time.

It is a simple prayer of attentive love, encouraged to be practiced twice a day for twenty minutes. It is a silent way of possessing inner peace so that we can bring it to others. It is a contemplative prayer of the heart – a prayer of “being to God.”

While this is a simple prayer, it is to many not an easy prayer practice to enter into. Sometimes first reactions are an extreme uneasiness to being quiet and doing nothing for twenty minutes, which seems like much more than that. Do not worry if your first attempts are much shorter than twenty minutes. Give over the amount of time you can do comfortably and return to it later. Your effort will add up. This is not really a technique to master, but a willingness to give yourself over and be in a mindful presence to the divine.

 

However, there are a few general guidelines to take into this practice, if you should decide to try this way of silent grace in your day.

1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s Presence and action within.

2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce your sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s Presence and action within you.

3. When you become aware of thoughts, return ever so gently to the sacred word.

4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

Very often in a group setting of Centering Prayer, a facilitator will end the session with the group saying the Our Father aloud softly and slowly together to bring you back and ground you to time and place in the real world.

You can do this in your private practice as well. The Spirit, as God’s Presence, is working within you during the time you give yourself over to Centering Prayer, and this gives your psyche time to readjust to the external senses and to enable you to bring the atmosphere of silence into your daily life.

Centering Prayer is a very powerful prayer when you choose to make it a practice. It is not just during the twenty minute period of time of silence that it works. The graces of Centering Prayer become evident to you in the rest of your life as well. Contemplative prayer is the opening of the mind and heart – your whole being to God, the ultimate Mystery. It is divine union.

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sue-beach-profile

It is not quiet enough in my life to hear the things I want to say. There is a level of quietness when words, thoughts and ideas rush in like unending ocean waves rolling onto the sandy beach.

Yet, before I can catch them in my pail or collect them like unique and individual sea shells left upon the sand, the tide of daytime with its noise, duties and distractions sends the messages swirling back out to sea.

And I get trapped in the undertow, fearing once more that what is mine to co-create is lost in the vast ocean with only a little hope that perhaps it may visit me again at another time, in another place, on some distant stretch of quiet seashore.

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