Last year a friend of mine, another spiritual director, and I began an online centering prayer group which meets each week. We create space in the midst of all the confusion and noise online where we can find some stillness.
Centering prayer is both a form of prayer and a way to practice becoming more open to the presence of the sacred. It is based in understanding God, the sacred, is always with us. When we seem to be far from God it is because we are distracting ourselves or getting in our own way. Centering prayer goes beyond the thoughts, words, or feelings which tend to draw our attention away. We pray as we give our silent consent to the presence and action of spiritual life in our lives.
One of the things I appreciate the most about centering prayer is there are no rules. The only way to make a mistake is not spending time doing it.
Centering prayer online is a way for us to leave behind the clutter of expectations and requirements which get in our way. We can let go of our, conscious and unconscious, assumptions about what God is like and what prayer should be. Breathing deeply, we release tensions which demand our attention, and let the stresses of the world go past. We are able to rest in the stillness and solitude, and stop getting in our own way.
It is a little ironic to talk about stillness.
Centering prayer helps me remember and practice what I believe to be true; remember and be who I am.
In some ways, it is like relating to another person. As we get to know each other more intimately, we do not need to speak. We become able to know each other beyond words.
Our practice is not particularly complicated. We gather on Zoom and begin with either a reading or a short piece of music. Those of us who come together practice centering prayer online for 20 minutes. As we end each week we share another short reading and then we go our individual ways.
We are not trying to force anyone into anything or convince anyone. We practice together, each experiencing the power of sacred stillness. Everyone is welcome to join us in opening ourselves to the sacred stillness around us and within us.
Our group is not a discussion or a seminar for us to talk about praying. We come together online, settle into the stillness, and spend some time together listening. It is a way for us to experience being together, even while we are online, and listen to sacred stillness.
There is power in the stillness within us and all around us, but we often get too distracted to pay attention. This is an opportunity for us to practice paying attention, listening to the stillness.
We are not taking to each other, and the shared stillness of our online community encourages us. We support each other and practice listening together.
Each of us sits still, closes our eyes, breathes deeply, and listens to sacred stillness. We practice listening to sacred stillness for ourselves, and we share the stillness we experience.
Opening ourselves to sacred stillness, the stillness we experience is unique for each us. We each practice being open to the sacred, and our experience is also shared.
There is significant truth and comfort in the stillness for each of us. Each week is its own, and our listening becomes deeper as we practice.
Challenges to Centering Prayer Online
I am trained and certified as a spiritual director and am a lay oblate at a Benedictine monastery, and have coordinated contemplative ministries at several churches.
Centering prayer has been a particularly helpful way for me to be introduced to contemplative spirituality.
Monastic life, prayer, and spiritual direction fit together for me, and I have been drawn into them. They are all based in the belief God is with us, here and now, everyday.
I want to learn how to be open to God’s presence; how to avoid the extraneous parts of life which distract me and keep me from participating in God’s unfolding world. The challenge for me is often to get out of my own way, and to listen.
For a lot of people, hearing about prayer can create separation and build walls between us. Some of us are intimidated or become anxious when we hear these things; others of us tend to think I might be a little wacky.
You might have questions or struggle with difficulties about centering prayer. Please let me know if you would like to talk about anything before you join us to practice praying together. I would be glad to give you an overview of the guidelines.
Centering Prayer Online Each Week
We practice centering prayer online each Wednesday at 8:30 AM Pacific time.
Our practice together is all about being open to what is already around all us and within us.
We do not need to analyze or prepare or work our way into stillness. All we do is sit still, breathe deeply, close our eyes, and practice being open to sacred stillness. We do not need to earn the presence of sacred stillness or attain a particular level of understanding.
Pausing to listen and pay attention, distractions fade away and we listen.
We are not required to achieve anything or become anyone else. Stillness is all around us and within us, and is already sacred.
Taking time to listen together, we discover we are already listening to the stillness within us. The stillness all around us is the same stillness as it is within us.
Please plan to join us as we listen to sacred stillness online together each Wednesday. You might want more stillness in your life as we approach autumn and winter, or as a way to begin something new.
We explore the joys, and challenges, of listening together each week.
When would you like to begin practicing centering prayer online? Maybe next Wednesday?
What questions do you have about practicing centering prayer online each week?
[Image by Grey World]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is http://StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.