In preparation for the "top-down" practice of Centering Prayer, we are encouraged to cultivate and integrate bottom up practices – movement, touch, breath, affirmation, sound. Trauma gets stuck in the body – “the issues are in our tissues” – so integrating bottom up with top down really helps us get "unstuck." In addition to Welcoming Prayer, we used the following two Vestibule Practices – Grounding in Gratitude and Grateful Heart - as introduced by Dr. Christine O'Brien at the 2019 annual conference of Contemplative Outreach International, which met in Denver in September.
by Diane Boruff
As Carol Quest and I step down as Co-Coordinators of MN Contemplative Outreach I am filled with an overflowing of gratitude, joy and humility. I wonder, "How did I ever come to be a co-coordinator?" There was no grand 20 year plan nor any goals set on my part which is the usual advice given to people. Little did I know the first time I learned of Centering Prayer that the prayer would become integral to my life and that the people I met would become united in my heart. As I began my centering prayer practice filled with struggles to be still I had no clue as to what could unfold as the Spirit worked in me. Along the way I met wonderful centering prayer practitioners who encouraged me and helped me stay faithful to the practice. Now it is overwhelming to be with all of you and see the first servant leaders, the current servant leaders, and the new leaders. What joy to witness the transition of leadership to two new wonderful co-coordinators and to think of those who worked before and those who will continue the work so that Centering Prayer may be available. Seeing the new leaders and the leadership team continue the work to implement the vision of transformation in Christ fills me with hope for all that is to come.
It is of course with greater clarity that I look at my journey past than to what lies ahead. As did those who preceded us, Carol and I endeavored to maintain and promote the teaching and practice of Centering Prayer. As we planned, we prayed to remain open to the work of the Spirit. When the guidelines for preparing presenters of centering prayer changed, we were able to adjust the use of grant funds and have more new presenters. Much more was accomplished than we had even imagined! So as we vision and plan for the future it is good to remember the Spirit is leading and doing the work in the hearts of all of us.
TODAY - being present to the NOW of Today - is one of the teachings that I apparently need to learn and relearn. For me becoming a servant leader was a step by step daily practice. The path unfolded led by the Spirit from practicing centering prayer, to presenting centering prayer, to working to implement enrichment days, retreats and leader training. My journey has been one of prayer, listening, being nudged and doing each day that which I could do to live my life rooted in God. My aim is to step into the world each day trusting in the boundless love of God and attempting to welcome all people with "utmost charity and love." Of course, this is easier said than done, so it is the returning each day to the practice of centering prayer — returning "ever so gently" — that helps me be open to the loving prompting of the Spirit. I am so thankful for all of you who by your prayer practice support not only me but all you meet.
By David Jorgenson
It seems to be a cliché to write about gratitude with Thanksgiving in November. However, this is what came to mind as I try to explain an attitude of gratitude in words.
There is a source of gratitude, there are obstacles to gratitude and there is a constant overflow of gratitude with numerous points between full and empty. Gratitude is a creation of the Trinity; the Heavenly Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Our Father created it; the Son gave us the greatest example of gratitude and the Holy Spirit who instills it in us. Without all three of these we miss part of the whole attitude of gratitude. There are obstacles to gratitude such as; a distant relationship with our source, self pity and being absorbed in a "me first" worldly perspective. Actually the last two could be sub-categories of the first.
One of my grateful moments came from a weekly TV show. It is prime time evening and the opening of Mash is starting. Tears fill eyes and my throat chokes up while the nurses are sprinting to the landing zone to unload the wounded. Memories from Hill 69 remind me of the flights of med evac choppers returning to the field hospital at Chu Lai, Vietnam. From the southern horizon to mid-way up the coast, there is a stream of Marine helicopters evacuating wounded from the battlefield in the south. The opening of M*A*S*H always reminds me of how grateful I should be to have left Vietnam without any physical injury. Many times I should have been carried out on med evac but our gracious God's love spared me from that.
Staying connected with the Trinity can be done by daily Centering Prayer, daily scripture reading and community worship. These are just three of numerous methods to stay in touch with our Creator, Redeemer and Comforter. If we are unplugged from our power source by staying away, rejecting or denying our God exists, we can’t see God. If we don’t see God then how can we see His blessing? Without the thought of being fortunate or blessed our gratitude is diminished. However, with God who "works all things for good", and is continually loving and forgiving, how can I not feel grateful? Not realizing God wants to bless us is part of the problem. "Seek first the kingdom and all things will be added." "Everything you do will prosper", "the desires of your heart", more than you can imagine, "abundant life." These, a few snippets of verses indicate God wants to bless us. These verses do not mean we all will be materially wealthy but point to spiritual wealth with the fruits and gifts of the spirit.
Another obstacle to gratitude is self pity, which puts me at the center of my world. I’m not at fault for all the wrong around me. Who is to blame? Who is causing my misery? When I am selfish even God is wrong, therefore he must have caused it. Eventually it leads to thinking that I have it worse than anyone else does. This attitude lacking gratitude becomes a spiral downward, wider and deeper, shutting out my vision of gratitude. Prolonged lack of gratitude no doubt affects my physical, mental and spiritual health.
Looking into the loaded refrigerator it seems I’m lost trying to find something. My first impulse is to grumble that I can’t find anything in such a full refrigerator. Fortunately, before I finish grumbling the Holy Spirit injects; "Why aren’t you more thankful for the full refrigerator?" Thank God it is full. A more mature Christian would thank God they can’t see the back wall because it is full. Again the Holy Spirit instills in me, "Could you be grateful if the refrigerator were empty?" I hope so but I don’t think I’m there yet with the amount of my grumbling about being plentiful. What does that say about me? Paul wrote, "Do all things without grumbling", "He will supply all your needs." I hope I can find a balance at least, but better yet, that I would reach St. Paul’s level, "Whatever state I’m in to be content."
Absorbed in a worldly negative attitude we may not even realize an ungrateful attitude because of the influence of friends, lifestyles or upbringing that dominate our present thinking. We come to faith carrying various issues that influence and blind our gratitude. Our Centering Prayer allows God’s action within to make a huge influence on revealing or correcting our obstacles. In Centering Prayer God decides to choose His action to modify within us. Our perspective blinds us or clears the way to see. Our attitude supports our gratitude but our perspective must be connected to our Heavenly Father’s viewpoint.
As I walk through the hospitals I feel the pain of the patients, families and staff. (Your words come to me and they comfort me.) The patient in 991 has been there for over 200 days. When I enter the patient’s room his spouse looks weary and tries to smile but her smile fades. My spirit picks up on the peoples pain more than what I see. All I can do is to do my job quickly and leave with the least amount of disturbance. If I can find some words to say, I speak them and leave praying as I move onto the next patient. Gratitude wells up in me as I thank God for my good health while still feeling the Patient’s emotional pain. Every ache of mine is so trivial compared to the patients I encounter.
Gratitude comes from our source, God and Creator, and instilled by the Holy Spirit. I pray that I can live grateful for every moment without the grumbling that is part of my life. I pray that Centering Prayer would bring God’s action to resolve this issue. God fills us with love, joy peace, kindness and faith to build our gratitude with the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit. With these blessings God gives us a perspective to see His blessings in our life from God’s viewpoint. We can understand now the range of His Blessings from the most significant to the tiniest of material blessing.
(Verses include: Matt. 6:33, Deut. 29:9, Ps. 34:4, Eph. 3:29, John 10:10, Phil. 2:14 & 4:19)
David Jorgenson is a trained presenter of Centering Prayer and a member of the Minnesota Contemplative Outreach Planning group.
Presence & Action Blog
MN Contemplative Outreach publishes articles written by, and for, practitioners. They are designed to deepen understanding of the Centering Prayer Practice and its power to change lives.