Here’s a spiritual practice I commend. It’s very indebted to a popular practice known as centering prayer. But I find the word “centering” somewhat misleading. It seems to me that my Christian faith teaches that to center on God, or on Jesus, is to center on one who centers on all of us. How decentering! And as a process theist I tend to think of God less as a still point of tranquility than as an impassioned summoner to reconciliation. Nevertheless, with a few caveats, I have found the practice of centering prayer to be enlivening. Here’s how to do it:
1. Choose a symbol for what moves you most deeply: it can be a short word, an image or an experience like breathing.
You may want to start with a traditional symbol that seems familiar to you (“God” or “Jesus” or “Spirit” or “Love”).
But don’t be afraid to explore what can happen if you start with other symbols that occur to you.
For example, try “Opening” (that’s one way to translate the Buddhist term Sunyata). Think of times when you found yourself opening to an overflow of meaning at the very heart of your life—more meaning than you had thought possible; maybe something from that time will become your chosen symbol.
2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently hold the symbol in awareness for about 10-20 minutes.
Stay with the same symbol for at least one sitting.
If you doze off, don’t fret.
Just resume when you awaken.
3. When engaged with your thoughts or other distractions, return ever so gently to the chosen symbol.
Distractions are normal.
Don’t waste energy or attention trying to prevent them.
Instead consider them opportunities to restart afresh.
Let them arrive and let them go.
4. At the end of the period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.
If you came to this time with concerns about yourself or others, this can be a good time to revisit them and offer them to God.