Recently I watched the six DVDs that are the follow-up to the Introduction to Centering Prayer. In one of the DVD’s, I understood Father Keating to refer to three steps in Centering Prayer: opening, waiting and transformation.
When we first come to centering prayer, we take the first step by opening ourselves to God’s presence within us. This can be an exciting and affirming step. The growing conviction that the living God dwells within us becomes a firm foundation for the rest of our journey.
The next step is waiting. I understand this step to be waiting in silence for whatever God has in mind. For me it often means the discipline of letting go of the thoughts that continuously come down the stream of consciousness. Faithfulness to this step seems a little like the comparison I once heard between centering prayer and commands given a dog--sit, drop, stay. In any case, waiting in silence eventually presents moments of comfort and contentment--by faith, resting in God’s presence.
In this resting in the silence the third step occurs--transformation. Sometimes we don’t even know when and how God’s grace was at work, but we experience the results in greater patience and compassion toward ourselves and others.
While thinking about these steps, I saw a connection between transformation and a statement by Richard Rohr in his book The Naked Now. Richard Rohr wrote, “...Christian revelation [is] precisely that [we] are already spiritual (‘in God’), and [our] difficult but necessary task is to learn how to become human.”* This statement stopped me short and made me think. If we have to learn to become human it must mean we are not fully human right now. How is that? Could it be a comment on the destructive reactions that result from our woundedness? Each of us can point to thoughts and actions that show how defensive and limited we are. As we faithfully practice centering prayer, however, little by little God transforms us into the divine image we were meant to be--fully human and fully alive. No longer will we excuse ourselves by saying, “I am only human.” Instead we look forward to manifesting the unique human expression of God’s glory that we were created to be from the beginning. As we sit in silence in centering prayer, God’s transforming grace fulfills Paul’s words in II Corinthians 3:18, and we, with our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image we reflect.
Those three steps--opening, waiting, and transformation--guide us along our journey. In the end, faithfulness to the journey will bring us into the fullness of our humanity.
*Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2009), 69.
Carol Quest is a presenter of Centering Prayer and a member of the Minnesota Contemplative Outreach Leadership Team.