Lahaina group practices interior stillness
BY CINDY SCHUMACHER
LAHAINA – Maui has always been known for the many different spiritual traditions and practices represented here. Eastern spirituality, with its emphasis on meditation, is an already well-established vehicle for answers to a meaning for life.
However, less well-known is Christianity’s ancient practice of contemplation and prayer, also placing a strong emphasis on interior silence. Centering Prayer, a form of prayer long forgotten in much of the west, was rediscovered and brought into modern practice by Father Thomas Keating, a Cistercian monk.
Father Keating, an abbot all through the 1960s and ’70s in Massachusetts, found that many people who had turned to Eastern practices for contemplative work had no knowledge of the contemplative traditions within Christianity. He then set out to present those practices in a more accessible way.
Lahaina resident Julie Baker is the facilitator of a Centering Prayer group meeting on Thursdays at 4 p.m. in the Holy Innocents Episcopal Church office on Front Street.
“We began meeting weekly, for an hour, when I noticed how much interest there is in Centering Prayer,” Baker said.
“This is an inclusive meeting that welcomes all community members, visitors and locals alike. We want anyone and everyone to come!”
“Centering Prayer is for all people, no matter what religion or non-religion,” she added. “We are all capable of having enriched spiritual lives. The idea is for people to come, start or renew their journey on a spiritual path of any sort. Praying is a compelling way of entering a deep quest to the voyage within.”
Centering Prayer places strong emphasis on interior silence. The aim is fulfillment of a kind you cannot buy online or in any store. You must strive inwardly for it.
“This method of silent prayer prepares one to receive the gift of contemplative prayer in which the experience of a higher presence within is closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself,” said Baker.
Centering Prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer. Rather, it adds depth of meaning to all prayer and facilitates movement into a place of resting in the divine. In addition, this form of prayer tends to build communities of faith while bonding participants together in mutual friendship and love.
“The meeting begins with a 15-minute DVD about Centering Prayer, the why and the how, followed by a short discussion and then a shared thought of the day,” Baker explained. “The rest of the hour is spent in practicing the contemplation.”
An enthusiastic practitioner and licensed facilitator, Paula Baldwin gives this example to explain Centering Prayer: “It feels like a time when you and a friend have been so comfortable together, no words were spoken, but you both knew you were very present to each other. For me, Centering Prayer is like time spent sitting with my dear friend, not talking, not doing; just being.”
“I have witnessed unbelievable transformation in the lives of numerous people as a result of this practice,” said Baldwin.
“Centering Prayer deepens our relationship to a higher power, by whatever name you choose to call it. There is an opportunity to invite the indwelling presence into everything we do. It gives us the eyes to see and the ears to hear the call to the banquet of peace.”
Baldwin added, “Centering Prayer helps me find my center and a way to meet the day. I have a better chance of approaching the day’s unexpected noise without being thrown off balance.”
There are some guidelines that can help you practice Centering Prayer wherever you may be. First, sit comfortably with your eyes closed, relax and quiet yourself. Second, choose a sacred word or phrase that best supports your sincere intention to be in the higher presence and open to this divine action within you. Next, let that word be greatly present as your symbol within you when you pray. Then, whenever you become aware of any thoughts, feelings or perceptions, simply return to your sacred word, your anchor. Ideally, the prayer will reach the point where you’re not engaged in your thoughts but in that place to which you aspire; without outside or inside noise.
Father Keating said, “Centering Prayer is the opening of the mind and heart, our whole being, to the ultimate mystery, beyond thoughts, words and emotions. It takes you into the quiet depths where there is only a simple, peaceful flow from our source into the ocean of infinite love.”
“It is a wonderful journey, known to reduce stress, and we invite the community to try it,” said Baker.
For more information, call Baker at (405) 834-8741 or e-mail JNYEB@AOL.COM.