Most faiths utilize physical tools to enhance their contemplative prayer practice. The following are examples of how this can be accomplished in the context of Centering Prayer’s methodology.
Unlike a maze, which is designed to get one lost, a labyrinth has a clear path to its center and return. While walking the labyrinth, one is physically exhibiting the practice of Centering Prayer. The focus becomes the image of the labyrinth and its center rather than a sacred word. The movement represents movement to the God dwelling at our center. It is a Christian technique started in the Middle Ages for those who couldn’t take pilgrimages, with the most prominent remaining labyrinth in the back of Chartres Cathedral in France. The following is only one of many now in existence worldwide.
Prayer beads are used by many faiths to encourage repetitive prayer. It is the physical reminder of repeating our sacred word. For Christians, particularly Catholics, it is called the rosary. Many who pray the rosary try to focus on every word and/or so-called mysteries that are associated with every decade of beads. When praying the rosary contemplatively, the flow of many words becomes our sacred word, allowing us to let go of our thoughts and return to God, the heart of Centering Prayer. The following is an example of such beads, the rosary.
When practicing Centering Prayer, we focus on a sacred word or image as a symbol of our desire to be with God. Though the image may be in our mind, it also can be an externally visible image. Many faiths use a sacred image, picture or statue, instead of a word, when practicing contemplative prayer. This is not worship of the image, but utilization of it to open ourselves to the gift of contemplative prayer. The ancient Christian tradition used icons. As we focus on the image while gently letting go of our thoughts, we eventually close our eyes as the image enters our mind. For more information on use of icons click here. The following is an example of an icon of the Trinity.
For a discussion of Icons, click here.
Additional resources for the Welcoming Prayer are available on the Contemplative Outreach national site. You may also consult the book Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, by Cynthia Bourgeault – Chapter 13. It can be purchased from the Contemplative Outreach bookstore or from Amazon. A spiritual director at the Emmaus Spirituality Center is also available to teach the Welcoming Prayer to individuals. For more information, please contact Carole Pentony at firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-729-6019.