The discipline of daily Centering Prayer (CP) is important to me. It is too easy to let the practice go for a day ... a week. To help me with this, I try to find ways to take "traditional CP" and introduce it to my day to day activities. For me, it helps to reinforce my practice and reminds me of my commitment.
One activity that I have brought CP to is rush hour traffic. I am referring to those times when at best the car gets up to 5 MPH. The time when you, and everyone around you is stuck
Now I will admit my first reaction to this event is far from enlightened. At times I will even use words of frustration that I used during my short tenure as an iron worker.
But then I stop. Literally! It is then I notice a long slow exhale.
"Oh," I think. "I am breathing."
I smile, turn off the radio, and focus on my breath. My meditation has taught me well of this focus. The breath goes from "scattered" to rhythmic. I can feel my shoulders relax. My hands loosen their death grip on the steering wheel. Again, I smile.
I notice traffic is starting to move. Peacefully, I start mindful acceleration and braking practice. I do not lose focus on my breath.
Don’t worry; I am still very aware of the other vehicles. As a matter of fact, I don’t see vehicles at all. I see drivers, and passengers. I notice they are like me: Stuck in traffic. Some are on the phone, others singing, cursing, tapping on the steering wheel. I see them as we slowly move along. I continue my focus on my breath. As I breath, I feel a connection of us all being here. I return to my breath.
Time passes and I drive in my mindful creeping mode: Quietly breathing, and letting thoughts go. And as we all inch along the interstate, locked as a swarm of metal, I sense a stillness. My Sacred word comes up and I return to my breath. I have let go of all thoughts of being anyplace except here. My breath reminds me that I am "right here." My Sacred Word coaches me to be present. Years of driving keeps me safe as I crawl along. My storylines are gone and I know that I am surrounded by a Gentle Love’s potential. 5, 10, 15 minutes pass, and then I transition. I go from "mindful driving" to "commuting." Stillness is a bit noisier as we rush to "normal" speeds. My awareness shifts to driving in rush hour. A few minutes pass and my Sacred Word bubbles up. I smile and am thankful that I had this time... Well, mostly thankful.
Doing exercises like this helps me incorporate CP into my life. IT also helps me be more VIGILANT to keeping the commitment of daily practice. Bringing CP to activities during the day, and then daily practice reminds me of a quote of St. Anthony: "The prayer of the monk is not perfect until he no longer recognizes himself or the fact that he is praying."