Two and a half years ago I attended my first Centering Prayer retreat at the St. Francis Renewal Center with a special group of all ages seeking God’s friendship in the stillness. I sat in one of the later sessions of the weekend and began pleading with God:
“I cannot do this on my own. I do not know enough to teach this meditation in the prisons as you’ve called me. Who am I to go forward in this way- I am a wife and mother and not an expert on this topic, by any means. I don’t know enough yet!!!”.
Through my shaking and tears, I began to feel God “breathing me”–
like nothing I had ever experienced
as my chest rose and fell–
as if by His spirit moving in me.
And then I very distinctly heard, “Go forward …you have MY LOVE. That is enough“.
I continued to practice almost every day and after a few set-backs and disappointments over the coming 6 months, I was invited to begin teaching a weekly class to the incarcerated men at the FCI. This was a moment of Divine intervention as I traveled by car to NYC with a prison warden I had never met and he agreed to let this inexperienced woman try her hand at teaching in his facility. After a few sessions volunteering with 12 men on average, a second class in the minimum security was added. I was blessed by the honesty and compassion of these men week after week for an entire year. I quickly realized that as I served, I was the one whose heart was expanding and was blessed abundantly.
The men often shared how the practice was effecting their relationships with their families. They felt less reactive, more open to believing change was possible and having a more positive outlook on utilizing their time away from their families as an opportunity for personal growth and knowing God in a deeper way.
They were able to connect to their “enough-ness” in a new and consistent way.
In October of 2013 the organization I volunteer with was offered an opportunity to teach the women at the Philadelphia FDC a combination of non-violent communication skills, yoga and meditation. I have been there almost weekly since and again am encouraged at the way that God has healed and opened hearts.
This practice has raised my awareness so that I am choosing which thoughts are helpful and which are hurtful. Because I am choosing to operate wholly much more often, I am choosing love (both for myself and others) and I have found that this has brought me to a new level of self- acceptance and compassion.
The inner journey is now being mirrored in the outer world as I continue to enjoy a strong sense of purpose and meaning, sharing these tools and my personal story. I continue to pray to be emptied for His use, a channel of His peace. I am in the midst of my 200-hour yoga teacher training and doors are being opened each week full of opportunities to share with new, hungry, hurting people.
I pray that I be used well to serve in a way that continues to draw and heal hearts back to Our Creator, where one-ness and PEACE abide.