How Centering Prayer Has Impacted The Lives
of Some Prisoners
In answering this, first I have to give a brief peek as to who I am and what life has been for me. The question appears “simple,” but after life has been buried deep in conflict, “simple” becomes difficult. I suspect for many men like myself, “struggles” lay quietly in their dark existence. At least for me this is true.
It wasn’t until I became a regular participant in the circle that I began to understand a “relationship with God.” Fear, shame, torment blocked all sense of understanding. Why now stir this bitter brew? Surely demons of the past will arise, emerging cloaked and caped in drug addiction, crime, violence, prison gangs, isolation, solitary — where “ordinary” doesn’t exist, only non-ordinary.
Values are worthless, egoisms, bravado, pride — become the powerful. I sank to depths, fathoms below my character. I didn’t see beyond the hate, violence, murder, death — it all seemed so mundane. Now 62 years of age, I need a friendship, a community, a fellowship for healing and reconciliation. This is Prison Contemplative Fellowship for me.
For me it’s about finding the truth, stripping away the layers of pain, shame and false identities. It’s about digging beneath the exterior, opening wounds, tearing off the mask, confronting my inner-most ambiguities.
Centering Prayer allows the “possible” to slowly manifest, while creating new thoughts, deeper understanding, feelings of hope, ambition, confidence. During my meditations I sometimes see myself as this “tiny orb” flashing through the heavens, cycling beyond our universal galaxies, in the attempt to become a better man.
I feel like the practice of Centering Prayer has been a journey of rediscovery. It’s like having a closet full of things that at the time I thought I had no use for, but was unable to get rid of. So I stored them away and forgot about them. With time the closet was filled to overflowing and attempts to cram more stuff inside of it only results in much more stuff falling out. The pain from these things falling out and hitting me in the head forces me to reevaluate my method. Centering Prayer helps me dig though, sort out and properly deal with all the stuff in the closet. It also gives me the spark of memory that somewhere buried deep underneath that pile of stuff is a priceless treasure, stowed away decades ago.
It’s hard to explain how Centering Prayer has impacted my life to someone who doesn’t practice it. A person doesn’t see the change in himself at first, but others do. In your everyday life you start to do things that are kind and helping. Centering Prayer teaches how to love yourself from the inside. We come to know God inside of us, and recognize that we don’t have to try to please him, but just to except and love him as he loves us. Centering Prayer opens your eyes and hearts to experience life without so much hurt and shame from your past.
Centering Prayer helps me form a conscious intention to spend time with God just sitting, watching and waiting. As my ego attempts to interfere with anything that challenges its control, by means of thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, a “space” is created inside me. This space is somewhere in eternity where everything is fine.
Then somehow the underlying fineness or OKness becomes the operating base out of which you live your life. There is a peace in the Silence where you are OK even when you are not OK. Always knowing that you’re OK gives you a greater responsibility to your self as to how you conduct yourself.
You can still hurt and be hurt, but you have a choice about what you do with the hurt you experience and with the desire to inflict hurt on someone.
The time you spend with the intent to spend time somehow becomes time spent with God, only it’s on God’s terms that are out of your control. It is something like walking through the jungle to a clearing, or climbing the mountain to a greater view, or going through the fire to refinement. You wonder how you made it, or if you haven’t made it yet, you wonder how you are making it.
Your final answer will be God and that is the never-ending wonder.
Through my practice, for the first time in my life, I have come to know God on a very intimate level. I’ve been a believing Christian for many years, but the relationship between my Father in Heaven and myself has never reached this point. Centering Prayer has introduced me to the Silence. I have found the strength in Silence that I have searched for my whole life. Less is truly more, much more.
I find that only God in that time of silence will allow me to understand any of the issues from my past and present. Having failed in every other way to accept God’s will for my life, I believe Centering Prayer has opened the door for me to find and embrace God’s will.