Words cannot describe how our eyes and hearts were opened in fresh ways to the breadth and depth of the gift of Centering Prayer. We, in Minnesota, were honored to spend a day opening this gift under the tutelage of Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault.
This well attended conference was held July 19, 2008 in Minneapolis, MN. The day began with Taize, Ubi Caritas, and Prayer from Ephesians 3:16-19. Rev. Bourgeault’s teaching expanded on the most important points of her book, which are summarized in the book’s Epilogue. Interspersed, between teachings, were two periods of Centering Prayer and Q&A.
The following are a few of the many points that were discussed as we follow the evolution of Centering Prayer:
The insights, of the first generation of Centering Prayer, are that the effects are both personal and divinely therapeutic. As the 2nd generation evolves, the effects will, in addition, be characterized as prophetic and global.
The theological basis of the prayer is self emptying on the model of Jesus life and practice. The continual practice of surrender through letting go of thoughts becomes physically embodied, with a release in the solar plexus. Over time, this release coalesces into a distinct "magnetic center". It is this magnetic center that is likened to a GPS, "God positioning system". Eventually, there is a tug toward this center that is felt in daily life. This reminder signals a deepening life of prayer that is flowing within, even when one is not at formal prayer. Another way to describe this center is to call it the "heart". Classically the "heart" was the organ of spiritual perception, not merely an organ of affect. It lies at the intersection of the "cosmic mind" or God, and the human individual. The "heart" has the capacity to create alignment with and connection to Cosmic Consciousness. The 'heart' is the ombudsman of divine dialog between the universal life force and our particularity. In this way a voice inside is created that hears the music of God, which is our life lived as the true self. Absurdity is the result of tuning out this music. Each person is "Logos", Word of God, and the 'heart' is the tool for staying on course.
The Welcoming Prayer was briefly discussed as a powerful tool for daily living that can aid the growth toward “unitive” consciousness. Of interest, is that by immediately reacting negatively, the reptilian neural pathways of the brain are activated with limited primitive possible responses. Openness activates the pre-frontal cortex, with option for a wiser response.
In all, much was covered that will continue to be pondered by the many seekers present at this amazing conference. Rev. Bourgeault was a delight to work with. She was able to take people where they were at, with joy, humor and great insight. It is obvious that she practices what she preaches. As a gift of gratitude Sr. Joan Tuberty presented her with a Gethsemane Icon she had painted. It represents the surrender of Jesus that all are called to, which is the basis of Centering Prayer.