In the practice of Mindful Christianity and centering prayer, we learn to meditate by sitting in a quiet position and attitude for twenty minutes. We prepare our hearts and minds intending to make ourselves available and open to focus upon the awareness of God’s presence. By using a sacred word as a focal point, we engage our mind to action by becoming increasingly aware of the many thoughts that occupy our minds and then start a process of letting go and releasing those thoughts. Letting go of your thoughts is at the heart of any good meditative practice.
It is in the letting go and turning loose of your thoughts that create a pathway of opportunity to center your whole being in the presence of God. Most of our thoughts float around aimlessly in our minds, and then out of nowhere, there will be a thought that gains and holds your attention. It can be a thought from the past that creates a feeling of disappointment or an idea about the future which disperses anxiety throughout your entire being. Whatever you may be thinking any thought can capture and hold you in its grasp for however long you let it.
These are the thoughts and feelings that disrupt our peace and the awareness of the presence of God. The sacred word continually calls our minds back into the reality of the present moment. At that moment we practice releasing the thought or thoughts that grab us and rob us of our sanity. It is releasing those thoughts’ which try to control us that does the spiritual work in our hearts and minds. The sad reality is it is nearly impossible to focus on God when we have a rapid-fire succession of ideas and thoughts filling our minds with unanswerable questions, turmoil, and anxiety.
Cynthia Bourgeault writes at the heart of centering prayer is the principle of kenosis, found in Philippians 2 where the apostle Paul writes,
In the practice of centering prayer, there is the knowledge every time you release a thought; you’re opening your mind again with a sacred word to return to experience the presence and love of God in your life. It is a process of emptying your mind of everything but God.
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.
Though his state was that of God,
yet he did not deem equality with God
something he should cling to.
Instead, he emptied himself,
and assuming the state of a slave,
he was born in human likeness.
Kenosis is the Greek word “Kenosein” which means to empty yourself of everything opposite of “to cling to.” Likewise, you and I can practice emptying ourselves of everything that is not of God in our lives like the example of Christ who did not deem equality with God something he should cling or hold onto in his life.
Her conclusion is by letting go and releasing our thoughts we are practicing centering prayer as kenosis in meditative form. Letting go of your thoughts is at the heart of any good meditative practice.
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