Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 17, 2005
Centring prayer allows God's loving embrace
Silent surrender opens the door to the Lord
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Unlike consciously thanking God for some sort of blessing or asking for forgiveness, centring prayer is a practice to bring him closer while resting absolutely still.
The Providence Renewal Centre is offering a seven-session course on the practice of centring prayer that Benedictine Sister Mary Coswin says is an opportunity to address grief or resentments.
"Centring prayer is a contemplative, simple prayer of the heart in which a person is resting in God's embrace," Coswin said.
"It is not a mental activity like meditation. It's a state of being at rest in God's presence."
Not a technique
Centring prayer is not a technique.
But it is a way of cultivating a relationship with God.
It is not a relaxation exercise.
But it may be refreshing.
It is not a form of self-hypnosis.
But it may be a way to quiet the mind while maintaining its alertness.
"We consent to being open to God's action in our lives," Coswin said.
"Surrender is a big word. We don't use a mantra, but rather a sacred word that brings us back if we have wandered.
"Because of our nature, we have brain activity. But we try to let go of any thoughts."
In centring prayer, a thought means any sensation - a memory of an earlier encounter, or perhaps an itchy nose. Each person chooses a sacred word as a symbol of his intention to consent to God's presence.
The key is that the word does not trigger emotions. It could be "Jesus," "Peace" or "Love."
Return to the word
Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently and introduce the sacred word. If a particular thought or emotion emerges, return gently to the sacred word.
At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes. A prayer period lasts between 20 to 30 minutes and is practised twice a day.
Most people report that their mind was busier than they ever imagined. A person practising centring prayer may not identify any benefits, but others around him may find him calmer and kinder. A person might appear more centred and peaceful.
"We will know by the fruits," Coswin said. "A lot of healing of very deep-seeded issues, such as grief and resentments, can take place: God is the divine therapist.
"When we have all of these feelings and then we consent to God's presence, that is part of the healing process."
Coswin said she has prayed in an airplane and in church.
"We don't reject thoughts. We gently let them go," she said.
"It is silence, solitude and stillness."
The Providence Renewal Centre was recently named the locus for Centring Prayer in Contemplative Outreach's Prairie region. Father Raymond Sevigny, pastor of St. Thomas d'Aquin Parish, is the trained and commissioned centring prayer facilitator.
"I was introduced to the prayer 10 years ago that corresponded with something deep within myself which I had been looking for for some time," said Sevigny.
"Centring prayer takes the Christian contemplative heritage since the mothers and fathers of the desert, and brings it up into a method adapted to our time.
"It responds to a deep yearning for a lot of people."
Centring prayer has been modified into a simple prayer of consent, using the writings of Father Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk.
Keating helped to form Contemplative Outreach, a world-wide spiritual network of individuals and small communities who pray together, committed to living the contemplative dimension of the Gospel in everyday life through the practice of centring prayer.
Let God work
"It takes you beyond emotion. We let go and allow God to work," Sevigny said.
What a person gets out of centring prayer is the answer to the question, What kind of relationship do I want with God?'
"Do I simply want a superficial acquaintance or do I want an intimate relationship?" Sevigny said. "If I want to be intimate with him, this is a way."
Keating has written several books on the Christian contemplative background. Sevigny says each work offers something different.
"I have met Father Keating several times," Sevigny said. "He is an ordinary man - very open and approachable. Some of his writings are simply written, but as with all things that are authentically simple, there is extraordinary depth."
Providence Renewal Centre is offering an introductory workshop and follow-up sessions beginning Oct. 22. Anyone interested in more information can call the centre at 430-9491.