When I first began to practice centering prayer, I utilized a sacred word when I found myself wander. One day while I read a Richard Rohr daily meditation, I saw a Jesus icon on the page. I liked this icon. I had heard that an internal image can also be used in lieu of a sacred word. I began mentally to picture this icon as part of my centering prayer practice. I continue to use this icon as my prompt to be open to God when I find my mind plan the remainder of the day or daydream during centering prayer.
There is no right or wrong method to use to re center yourself when you find your mind wander. A word may be used. An internal image can be utilized. Your breath may refocus you. For those that center with their eyes open, you might glance at a spot three to five feet on the floor ahead of you. My 15 year old daughter will center with me in the evening. She utilizes the glance. It is called the sacred glance. She does this because she believes if she closes her eyes, she will fall asleep. I center with my eyes closed and utilize the internal sacred image that I mentioned. You might change how you choose to re center yourself over time. It is just best not to change it during the sit itself.
Let me remind you of the centering prayer steps as taught by Fr. Thomas Keating and Contemplative Outreach. Centering Prayer has four simple guidelines:
1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within;
2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within;
3. When engaged with your thoughts (including body sensations, feelings, images and reflections), return ever-so-gently to the sacred word;
4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.
In step 1 above this sacred word is mentioned. As I discussed, you might use a glance, an icon, or your breath in lieu of the sacred word. Over time you may also discover that your mind wanders less and less and this sacred prompt is not needed as often.
This concludes my series on centering prayer. I will discuss centering prayer in future meditations. Centering prayer is not a race. It is a marathon. Centering prayer practiced on a daily basis will transform you. If you are faithful to your practice, your practice will be faithful to you.
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