One Saturday the centering prayer group that meets at St. Olaf Catholic Church discussed a short section from The Path of Centering Prayer by David Frenette. The section we discussed is entitled "Grounding Centering Prayer Practice by Letting Intention and Consent Flow into Your Life," pages 17-22.
This section discusses Centering Prayer's Fourth Guideline: At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes. Frenette explains that pausing at the end of centering prayer helps us connect our centering prayer practice to the rest of our life. He offers five suggestions for how to practice the fourth guideline, advising the practitioner to choose one to use at the end of a prayer period. Pausing in this way creates a bridge over which we carry the benefits of deep silence into the whole of life.
We discussed Frenette's five suggestions giving examples from our own practice. Here are some of the comments people offered.
The first suggestion is "spend a few moments just resting in God." One person commented that this time was a very sweet way to end centering prayer, relaxing, letting go of intention and simply resting in God's love -- something like floating in a calm lake on a summer day.
Frenette's second suggestion is to pause after a twenty minute practice for two minutes and simply observe or touch your head, hand, arm or leg. Someone connected this suggestion to wisdom from his grandmother. He said, "Years ago my grandma used to say, 'You are whole, you are missing nothing, you have hands, a head, and legs.' Her intention was to remind me to be grateful and optimistic. Her idea seems similar to what David Frenette suggests in his second bridge. We can connect with our bodies and be grateful for what God has given us."
Several people commented on the third suggestion to "offer your completed centering prayer period for someone in need." One person pointed out that this is a way of expressing our solidarity and sympathy with others. He went on to explain that this prayer can also be for a person we do not like. While we may have difficulty interacting with this person in normal circumstances, following centering prayer we can pause to look at this person with different light.
Another person agreed that the end of centering prayer is a good opportunity to hold the needs of friends and relatives who are in her heart. She commented that doing this seems to carry her into a few deep moments with the Compassionate Christ and strengthens her trust in his healing power.
Frenette's fourth suggestion is "after letting go of your sacred word, visualize a scene from your coming day. Use your sacred word to bless the day." One person commented that she likes to bridge into the coming day by seeing in her inner mind's eye some of the people and circumstances of the day and asking for the blessing of awareness of God's presence in the experience. She added that she is also aware of the Buddhist practice of touching her third eye while asking for her thoughts to be loving, and then placing her hands in front of her mouth, asking that her words be kind, and finally, holding her hands in front of her heart, asking that her intentions be peaceful. Another person shared that he asks to be aware of the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and finds that doing so has changed his whole life.
The final suggestion is "say or listen to the Lord's prayer to integrate silence and words." Many people commented on this suggestion, sharing the way they end centering prayer by praying with words. One person shared that after Centering Prayer, she often says the prayer of St. Francis: Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace. This prayer puts her back into the world and renews her desire to follow Jesus' teachings. It helps her keep on going with her commitments to reach out to others -- especially the needy -- and to use her civic voice to work for justice.
The week following this discussion, people shared how helpful it had been. One person thanked the group for all the insights that were shared. During the week she had begun to incorporate different suggestions and commented that she had found it deeply meaningful to sit after Centering -- knowing she was deeply loved by God, connecting to people in her life, and ending with the Serenity Prayer. She said that during last week's discussion "the Trinitarian living flame described by St. John of the Cross burst into the midst of our group."
The St. Olaf Catholic Church Centering Prayer Group meets in Minneapolis every Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m.