I have refined my contemplative prayer discipline over a number of years, and continue to do so. Like physical exercise, it’s good to have some variation but there is always a common goal. My simple goal is to come to a place of rest and surrender to the Silence for a period of 20+ minutes, twice a day.
I use a method that has gone under various names over the years, but which I am now happy to call Centering Prayer. It’s become a rich blend of various notable writers such as the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing (14th C), St John of the Cross (16th C), Madame Guyon (17th C), and more recently William Meninger and Thomas Keating, who each describe a simple approach to the prayer of silence. I find it gets to the point quickly and easily and provides a useful method for handling the thoughts that arise in this prayer of silence, whilst enabling the intimacy I desire with the One I love the most.
Sometimes I start by reading a passage of scripture, slowly and thoughtfully, allowing a word or phrase to come to the fore upon which I can meditate (some will recognise this as the beginning of lectio divina). At other times I start with praise, thanksgiving and supplication, i.e. verbal prayers (kataphatic). Sometimes I will just sit down in peacefulness and begin.
I become still and gradually let my attention slip away from my thoughts by using a chosen word. I simply notice the thoughts, and let them go in favour of resting into God, his love, his presence, the silence – for this is my desire and intention. It’s at this point that sometimes I sense an uproar of protest, distraction and other noise kicking off inside my head. It can feel like sitting on the sidelines at a cocktail party! And guess what, its easy to engage in conversation! However there is no need to wrestle with this or become annoyed. With each thought or wave of ‘stuff’, I acknowledge what is there, and just release it – returning to my chosen word, letting go, settling more and more into the Silence.
This chosen word has already been invested with my intention to yield to God’s presence. It sums up my desire to not resist the thoughts, to ‘let go’, to ‘surrender’ to the Holy Spirit, to ‘go with’ the Spirit deeply into a place beyond thoughts and feelings – this is the place of silence. I find to have a ‘word’ or symbol* which does all that is amazingly creative and simple. The ‘word’ is only spoken when thoughts distract, and I ‘let go’. Twenty minutes later I slowly come back to the room I am sitting in, and take the new clarity, or lightness into my day or evening.
If people are interested in this kind of method, do get in touch. It may be possible to put you in touch with others practising this prayer of consent, or we may be able to start something locally in Hampshire.
For resources and more immediate help check out the resources page.
[*NB as a symbol I sometimes imagine I am lying on my back staring into the blue sky. The clouds are the thoughts or feelings and I just let them pass in front of me, not paying any attention. I’m sure you understand]