by Mary Lapham
The only "work" we do in Centering Prayer is consent.
I’ve attended so many 12 step meetings where people say they feel bad about how they are "working," or not working, the steps.
This orientation seems to trigger ego (false self), performance, and shame.
There are even people unwilling to sponsor others, because they feel they haven’t done their own program perfectly, or enough, or "right."
I hear a lot of focus on our own "effort" in meetings.
It is my experience, both in recovery and Centering Prayer, that God does all the heavy lifting. God does all the work, and that’s a good thing!
All I CAN do is be humble, open, and willing to consent to God’s Presence and Action within me.
Father Thomas Keating, in his book The Better Part, says:
The heart of prayer is to recognize the presence and action of God and to consent to it. We
do not have to go anywhere; God is already with us. Effort refers to the future and to what we
do not yet have. Consent refers to the present moment and its content. Faith tells us we
already have God - the divine indwelling.
It was this emphasis and thinking that motivated me to write a version of the 12 Steps from a contemplative perspective.
I have been in recovery 30 years, and practicing Centering Prayer for almost 20. At this point in my journey, I am coming to see how beautifully they work together, and how they might bring about a new level of transformation. As I see it, "restored to sanity" has come to mean freedom (from my false self), clarity, and emotional sobriety. This parallels the transformation into the mind of Christ that Keating describes as the goal of Centering Prayer. We are able to "Act - Not React" - no longer triggered by frustration of our old, familiar programs for happiness: the desires for security/safety, approval/affirmation, and power/control. Both motivation and intention have changed: I no longer have to go through life unconsciously trying to satisfy and pacify my wounded inner child. Instead, knowing I am unconditionally loved, and in constant relationship to the God within, I am free to fulfill the practical responsibilities of everyday life with gladness, and to serve others with love.
As you will see, I am still in process. For some of the steps, I have written several options. I am eager to receive feedback: I would love to know how this strikes you, and what, if anything, fits for you:
1. Admitted (accepted) we were operating out of old, learned programs for happiness, that will never satisfy spiritual hunger.
1. Admitted our programs for happiness don’t work, and that living out of our false self makes life unmanageable, and makes us self-absorbed and useless to God.
1. Admitted we were looking outside ourselves for happiness, abandoning our True Self, and so, God.
2. Came to believe in our inherent Goodness, and the Divine Indwelling.
2. Came to accept God’s infinite love, by expanding our capacity to receive Him in Centering Prayer.
3. Made the intention to consent to God’s presence and action in every moment, beginning with our regular centering prayer practice every day.
3. Became willing to consent to God’s presence and action by practicing Centering Prayer everyday.
4. Allowed God to take our inventory, and accepted it.
4. Began to see how our old emotional triggers and patterns from childhood block God’s love, and hurt God, self, and others.
5. Came out of isolation to tell our stories: admitted our addictions, denials, defenses and pain to each other. Began to hear new ways to live.
6. Became honest and vulnerable. Expressed our truth, and allowed for emotional unloading.
7. Humbly consented to transformation in Divine time, without comparison or need for rational understanding.
8. Gradually practiced new ways to live God’s love: with compassion and forgiveness for self and others, especially when we fall down and miss the mark.
9. Went back to humbly repair the damage cause by the consequences of living out of our False Self. Accepted (consented) to God’s comfort and guidance.
10. Used the Welcoming Prayer and active prayer sentences to continue to grow in God’s love and acceptance of our own life and humanity, and letting go of the desire to change our thoughts, feelings, situations, others and ourselves.
11. Sought through Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina to expand our capacity to receive God’s love, by consent.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening, we live our lives out of the transformative presence of God’s love, and sharing it with every person we meet.
12. Allowed God to live our lives, to live through us.
12. Continued to take action in our lives, and to share the fruits of the spirit in service to others.
Thanks for reading this. Let me know what you think. It came to me on retreat, and the only thing I know to do is share it.
Mary Lapham volunteers on the board of the Minnesota Chapter of Contemplative Outreach and is in formation to become a Certified Presenter of Centering Prayer. To contact her by email, click here.