I am drawn to silence and contemplative prayer as an intimate and deeply fulfilling relationship with Divine presence and mystery. I find peace more and more as I faithfully and freely offer myself to silence as ‘be-ing’ present with the ground of all being. This experience deepens and magnifies when I share in silence with others – vulnerability is shared when silence is shared. I invited others to form a contemplative practice circle with me in my area. The people who participate in the practice circle with me also seem to long for the gifts of silence, centering prayer and other silent prayer practices dedicated to the sacramental nature of being present to Divine mystery. Recently, I spoke to them about the practice to appreciate their reflections on silence and contemplation.
Some said that the appeal of the practice is the gift of sitting quietly within a group and creating inner space for the Divine. Others affirmed that and expanded on it by sharing that daily life felt steadier, more grounded when they sustained an inner intention to attend to relationship with presence. A relationship that feels more precious when shared with others in the gathering. Someone opined that the group silence punctuates and expands a strong feeling of our interconnectedness that has a healing quality to it. This really resonated for all of us as we acknowledge that this quiet centering time spent in contemplative prayer, alone or as a group, binds us all more strongly together into Divine presence.
Several people in the group have been devotees of Centering Prayer through the Father Keating method and shared the experience as the connecting point to a sense of an eternal inner Self where G*d dwells. Another shared the sense that the most powerful aspect of Centering Prayer is what Father Keating calls the central and vital piece – beginning prayer by offering one’s consent to be present and open to G*d in mind, heart and spirit, and to G*d’s presence and action within. It teaches us the language of G*d – silence. It is an exercise of faith, hope, and love.
We moved on to talk about our ups and downs in our contemplative sittings. We seemed to agree that it is good to habitually turn our wandering minds to the present moment. We also agreed that it is best not to expect contemplative prayer sessions to be perfect – the most important thing is showing up each day to be in the silence of G*d’s presence. One experienced and more mature contemplative in our group shared that she gradually sees areas where her heart can open more fully as she comes to know G*d as total, unconditional love and basks more and more in that love. As the years of centering prayer accumulate, she senses that her consciousness is being transformed.
Still other members of our group embrace a more Buddhist approach to silence through meditation and experience this practice as mindful presence – an awake, accepting, spacious awareness. Contemplation is to witness, observe the ‘contents of mind’ without getting caught up in them, feeding them, resisting or chasing them, or identifying with them. The myriad gifts of silence are the awakening to presence.
Interestingly, many observed the absence of silence in church worship, as they know it. Most wished to create more sacred space and time for the gifts of silence in church worship as an experience of G*d’s invitation to us. As we hold silence, we ultimately listen to G*d dwelling in holy presence and we practice holy listening – blessings that invite sacred listening and appreciation of sacred presence.
And so contemplation for us is a ministry and prayer practice of presence. A few members in the group really wanted to stress that for them, the contemplative appeal is a humble, monastic-like longing for a life of service, prayer and simplicity – utilizing and sharing one’s gifts, anonymously to co-create sacred community. We are blessed to be the recipients of the mystery and mercy of Love through with, and in us.