The books written by Fr. Thomas Keating on Centering Prayer don’t provide very specific guidance on exactly what to do during the prayer time other than to return to the sacred prayer word when your attention strays. This is probably because he didn’t want the prayer to become too much a “technique” and also didn’t want specific guidance to become a blockage once progress is made. Basically, he spares the “training wheels” so that they don’t become an impediment later on.
With that qualification made, I share a couple of practical pointers in this video that have been helpful to me as I’ve progressed in the practice. Treat these as “training wheels” and discard them when they’re no longer needed.
- Practicing your first session of the day before you get busy, and especially before you allow your smartphone to invade your mind!
- Read or watch something spiritual that stirs your heart and orients you towards God
- When distracted and needing to refresh your intention towards God, take time, be slow and deliberate and say your sacred word with intention
- Be gentle with yourself when you get distracted, and embrace the humbling realization that your distracted thoughts are linked to your broken human nature. This opens the way for greater acceptance of God’s grace and Christ’s kindness that is beaming at you
- Concentrate on being lovingly aware of God. Not of images, thoughts or even feeling of God, but on the stillness in which God dwells in your innermost being. You’re not aware of anything specific. Think of it as being aware that you’re aware. This requires alert concentration.
- If you’re struggling with an unusual amount of distraction and are unable to get into a stream of awareness longer than a few seconds, then use the counts of your breath to see how low you can stay aware before becoming distracted.
- Once you’ve stabilized a sense of awareness and feel that you’ve connected with God’s presence at a deeper level, then don’t be concerned about thoughts that arise. You don’t now need to return the sacred word. You can just observe these thoughts as they arise, intensify and decline. If you are aware of thoughts then you are at a higher level; you are “above” them. You are at the level of your spiritual nature, which is pure awareness, rather than locked into mental thought patterns at the lower level of the mind
- If you feel bored or itchy to do something different, remember that by resting in receptive stillness, you are simply being and that is precious and beautiful. In fact is should be the centre of all of your activity and doing. The gift of life that God gave you is simply to be, and to enjoy God’s presence in being. This prayer time is simply to “be still and know that I am God!” Learn to rest and be at peace in this quiet place with God
In this video I share my experience of this practical details that have been helpful to me. Several other videos on website cover the theological background and scriptural basis for centering prayer, so little of that is covered here.