Feature Article from The Cyrenian parish newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 1
Give Us Today Our Daily Bread
By The Reverend Paul Feuerstein
Staying focused on the moment is one of the most difficult things that we do. It is so easy to focus on Tomorrow with its plans and its concerns. The past is just as easy to focus on as well. There are a few places in our liturgy where we are called to a moment of silence. If it lasts for more than a few moments, I see people begin to shift in their seats uncomfortably. An occasional cough can be heard. More than likely the worship leader will worry about those nervous messages and cut it short. We don’t know what to do with those moments when we are asked to focus on the here and now. The internal chatter begins pretty quickly. Where do I need to go after Church? What do I need to pick up at the store? Perhaps a review of a conversation that happened on the way into the building.
Jesus, in the prayer he has taught us, calls for a focus on Today. The prayer is not “fill up my shopping cart for the week.” Jesus teaches us not to be anxious about the future. “Consider the lilies…consider the birds of the air.” Are we not worth so much more to God than them?
How can we better be present to God in our lives? How much of our prayer lives is made up of to-do lists for the Almighty. How often do we stop and listen?
Part of my spiritual path is taking a half hour every morning to meditate. I use the tools of centering prayer. I close my eyes and stop the chatter of my mind for a minute to await my word. It could be any word that is meaningful to you: “Grace,” “Hope,” “Jesus.” Pick a word that gives you comfort and allow it to become your internal conversation, repeated over and over again. Along the way, thoughts will come up, often times about things that are sources of concern. That is a natural part of the process. When you are aware of that happening, allow your mind to go back to your centering word. Thomas Keating, one of the proponents of Centering Prayer states that “the participant's sole occupation is to establish and maintain the will (intention) to "consent to God's presence and action during the time of prayer."
As you do this, you may find that it puts your body into a state of deep rest. Your respiration will slow and you will find yourself feeling more centered and refreshed as you finish. Take a few minutes at the end of the centering prayer to stop repeating your word and begin to come back to your regular state of consciousness.
It takes practice to remain in the present. It will not come naturally at first. I find that when I am invited into silence that it is easy for me to clear my mind and go into a state of deep rest. It wasn’t that way at first.
There is much written about Centering Prayer. If you have a computer, you can do a search and find much more about it.