Contributed by board member, The Rev. Dr. Richard Bardusch
I have been struggling with how it is that prayer changes who we are. I have found that Centering Prayer makes me not only calmer, but more contented as well. But why is this so? Why does simply sitting and listening to God bread down my walls and make me more compassionate? I am not sure I am going to be able to offer an explanation—I will leave that to those more knowledgeable than I about these things—but I will offer a testimony.
Unlike the type of prayer where we tell God things he already knows, or ask for things we want, simply sitting and listening has a cumulative, long term effect that is decidedly virtuous. By virtuous I mean it doesn’t just make me a higher functioning person, but rather it leads me to actual Christian goals like compassion, patience, and kindness.
Interestingly, I have also discovered that Centering Prayer reveals truth in a manner that is unique to itself. It provides its own revelation. When I read Scripture I find the practice of Centering Prayer has put me in a place of greater openness and a greater expansiveness to possibility and reality. When I read Scripture new meanings are there that I have not seen in the past without this practice of prayer.
Because Centering Prayer strengthens my relationship to Jesus, I find Jesus literally enlightening my relationship to reality. It is as though by connecting to the divine in prayer, the divine reveals more fully my connection to everything else. I guess that makes sense as everything is created by the divine, and the divine undergirds the existence of everything. It kind of blows my mind sometimes.
I encourage you to stop and listen. It is a very simple practice that enables us to see and hear.
Contributed by board member, The Rev. Philip Hardwick
Every breath is a resurrection.
—Gregory Orr (excerpt from poem “Concerning the Book that is the Body of the Beloved”)
In the Benedictine tradition there is a monastic practice called statio, which is the practice of stopping one thing before beginning another. Imagine, instead of rushing from one appointment to the next, that between each one you pause, you breathe just five long slow breaths. Imagine how this might transform your movement from one activity to another. Or even if you move from one room to another, to allow a brief pause on the threshold between spaces. God lives inside our breath and so every breath can become a resurrection.
For the Celtic monks, thresholds were sacred places. The space or the moment between – whether physical places or experiences – is a place of possibility. Rather than waiting being a nuisance, or a sense that you are wasting time, it is an invitation to breathe into the now and receive its gifts.
Each moment of the breath is a threshold – the movement from inhale to fullness to exhale to emptiness. The breath can help us stay present to all of the moments of transition in our lives, when we feel tempted to rush breathlessly to the next thing. Instead, what happens in our bodies and hearts when we intentionally pause? When we honor this threshold as sacred? When we breathe deeply and slowly for even a single minute?
Statio calls us to a sense of reverence for slowness and mindfulness. We can open up a space within for God to work. We can become fully conscious of what we are about to do rather than mindlessly starting and completing another task. We call upon the breath as an ancient soul friend to help us to witness our lives unfolding, rather than being carried along until we aren’t sure where our lives are going. We can return again and again to our bodies and their endless wisdom and listen at every threshold.
We often think of these in between times as wasted moments and inconveniences, rather than opportunities to return again and again to the expansiveness of the present moment and the body’s opening to us right now, to awaken to the gifts right here, not the ones we imagine waiting for us beyond the next door.