September 29 – October 2, 2011
San Francisco, California
By Diane Boruff
I awaken, reawaken, and reawaken to the contemplative dimensions of life. As Father Thomas Keating mentioned via video in the opening of the conference, we are all born into contemplation. We are called to and yearn for the presence of God in our lives. I am filled with gratitude for the presence of all at the conference. As we sat in silence, we joined in silent communion. With the work of the Holy Spirit, our silent community was reawakened, encouraged and strengthened in our practice of centering prayer. There are not adequate words to describe the magnitude, sacredness, and profundity of the conference. In the paragraph below I have tried to express some of the spirit.
After 4 days of prayer and learning, I was and continue to be overwhelmed with awe and gratitude for the presenters who have followed their passion and gifts so that we may also learn and grow. Saturday focused on recent brain research on the effects of contemplation. Sitting in silent prayer changes our brains and with centering prayer the brain activity is connected to the relational part of our brain. Yes, this is a prayer to deepen our relationship with God.
In the afternoon we heard from people who had implemented the research. One parish studied the health effects of a centering prayer practice and found that it led to positive coping with life stresses. A university religion professor spoke about introducing the next generation to centering prayer and contemplation. Perhaps because I am an educator this topic deeply resonated within me. With great enthusiasm and passion he explained the strategies that he implements to engage not only the mind but also the heart and body of his students. He likened the academic studying of the Bible to taking a compass apart. When it is working, the compass points to true north (Jesus). In order to understand how the compass works, we take it apart. When all the pieces are lying on the table, it no longer points north. He feels that often that is how we leave university students (and most of us). It is important to study the Bible; in order to reassemble it so that it works in our lives, however, we need to read it contemplatively with our hearts. He integrates centering prayer into his religion classes. He stressed that all of us are called to follow Christ – not to mimic Christ. He teaches that following Christ is using your gifts and passions fully just as Christ did. With centering prayer, he helps students unplug, connect to their passions, and serve the world. Renewed and re-energized, I question how do I follow Christ in me. The Holy Spirit awakens and reawakens my soul. And now I ponder, how am I called to serve? How do I reflect the message of God’s love to those I meet?
Diane Boruff, a co-coordinator of the Metro Minnesota Contemplative Outreach, is a practitioner of Centering Prayer and a commissioned presenter.