Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Returning to God

I can’t tell you how many times, over the past 10 years I have started and stopped the practice of Centering Prayer.  It just never felt fulfilling.  All I did was sit there and try not to think about all the things I was thinking about.  And in the end, there were no revelations, no solutions, no sense of accomplishment.  So why bother?  Right?  And yet, for some reason, I am constantly being called back to this prayer practice. 
So, once again, as I considered committing to ONE spiritual practice (my spiritual practice routine seems to be as eclectic as my taste in music and my hereditary background!) I found myself drawn to Centering Prayer. So,  I vowed to try it again for a full two weeks… and here I am five weeks later and it has become my regular (almost daily) practice.  And despite the fact that there are still no revelations, solutions or sense of accomplishment (at least in the societal definition of the term), it has worked for me this time. 

So what’s the difference, you ask?  Well, it was an awareness, actually three awarenesses, that came to me in my first sit (this time around).  Firstly I recalled a statement by Mother Theresa. 
When asked by a reporter what she says when she prays, Mother Theresa responded “I don’t say anything.  I just listen.”  

“Well then,” asked the reporter “what does God say?” 

“God doesn’t say anything.” Responded Mother Theresa, “God just listens … and if you don’t understand this, I can’t explain it.”

And I realized that listening to God listening to me is a very peaceful, spiritually fulfilling practice. And no revelations or solutions are necessary.

My second awareness was another quote from somewhere in my past that went something like this:

At the end of a Centering Prayer sit a student went to her teacher and with frustration in her voice said “This is a waste of time!  My mind was constantly wandering to all kinds of things.” 
To which the teacher responded “Aren’t you blessed, to have so many opportunities to turn back to God!”

And my frustrations were turned to blessings! I no longer had to beat myself up over a chattering mind.  I simply let go of the noise and turned my focus back to listening to God, listening to me.

Finally, into my consciousness came the quote used by Peter Short at our last Conference gathering:

“Gone to the fields to be lovely.  Back when I’m finished blooming.”

And I knew that, for me, Centering Prayer was the “field” where I could go and “be lovely”, because in the eyes of God, I am (lovely, that is).  And I no longer have to set a timer of any sort to end my sessions and I don’t have to worry about whether the session is 30 minutes or 10 minutes, because I know that whenever I return, it is because I am “finished blooming” … at least for now.  God has done God’s work in me for this time.  And it is good.

So perhaps, in the end, there was, in the mind-chatter, a revelation of sorts, a solution to my challenge with the practice which has led to a sense of accomplishment in that I feel grounded, at peace, and generally content.  And so I bother.  I set aside the time most days (nobody’s perfect) and I feel blessed to be able to return to God and to the acknowledgment of God’s constant presence, again and again and again. And I am fulfilled by it.

Ivy Thomas
Conference Minister
Kamloops-Okanagan Presbytery

"We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are." - Max DePree

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Ivy. I have had a similar experience with this challenge over the last months. Most of what has changed in my spirit is inexplicable but I know I've been changed.