Monday, September 26, 2011

Just showing up ... to pray

Listen to this post:

Thankfully, I experienced deep, rich worship yesterday. The kind that often arrives after more than an hour in silence. I am transported no place and yet every place. I am vaguely aware of my physical surroundings, but I burrow inside. The stray cough, pen dropping or pew creaking are now my friendly reminders that I am in worship, not merely distractions. That wasn't always the case.

That space is so wonderful, words can not do it justice. I really think I need to paint this space. What I can say is that is healing to the core, as if I have collapsed on God's or Jesus' lap. I don't need to do, say or be anything. I just need to be and that, my friend, feels so freeing and radical from the material world.

I am certain my journey this day was facilitated by our minister's message on prayer. She spoke of the time, ritual, presence and gift of viewing God view you. I have referred to it as experiencing God's pure gaze of love. Everything else melts.

About seven years ago, when I was introduced to Centering Prayer, I was given a rather precious gift and, fortunately, I think I understood that at the time. A wonderful Quaker teacher, Chris Ravndal, offered a session on "No-Strings-Attached prayer," just show up, he said. He walked us through the simple and profound steps to this method and, for the first time, I found myself on God's lap: limp, wounded and so grateful to be there – much like Jesus on Mary in Michelangelo's Pieta´. It was as if a portal opened. I found the aperture to my heart shifted ... as if I even sensed it had one since, I am pretty certain, it closed up tight after childhood. Following that experience, though the hole has undulated at varying widths, it is permanently opened and I almost always feel that Divine connection. That doesn't mean I am especially enlightened, free from worry, fear or always act from my highest self. I still stumble and bumble, emotions clouding the door, but I do so knowing that I am never alone. That I am part of God and She, part of me ... always. Of course, my awareness fades or my mind and feelings take over, but the passage remains clear, linking myself to the Divine.

My next piece of work is recalibrating my sense of where God is when I pray. My brain wants to place her outside, but my heart knows She also resides within.

• How have I experienced deep worship or prayer?
• What facilitates that?
• How do I clear the time and space for that connection?
• How does the experience transform me?
• What is the current state of my heart's aperture?

This piece comes from my in-process book: Turtlebox Stories: Nurturing the Divine within

Centering Prayer
There are specific instructions for centering prayer, a resting in God, defined by Thomas Keating, you may wish to use. I was lured to the practice by an experienced Quaker teacher, Chris Ravndal, who asked merely that we “show up – no strings attached.” He, too, had his own technique, which I have simplified. Choose a quiet place, work out your willies with some stretches, then sit in a straight chair, feet planted, knees apart, arms resting on them palms down, eyes closed. If you feel the need (and I often do) chose a simple word or your breath on which to focus. Often, the word is my intention, such as enter, open or heal. In emptying thoughts, gently return to the word, not punishing yourself for the natural transgression. Wait, breathing and focusing. I give myself at least 15 minutes as it takes me awhile to settle. In the waiting the transformation happens. You find yourself opening in unexpected ways to unanticipated places. I am told it is most beneficial when practiced daily. It always helps me even when used sporadically.
[Centering Prayer in Daily Life and Ministry by Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington, 1998/2006 The Continuum Publishing Company, New York]

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