Post by Trish Stefanik
Who knows then
what might rise
to the surface,
— right through
the muck —
to tenderly kiss
your face and
This past fall I was immersed in two months of study and practice in Centering Prayer, an invitation to sacred surrender and holy receptivity to God’s Presence through regular, intentional periods of silence, in solitude and in community.
The ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC, of which I am a part, had invited Fr. Carl Arico of Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. to take us through a time of renewal. He had introduced Centering Prayer to the community 25 years ago, and many attribute this experience to the church’s depth of commitment to the inward journey in relation to its outward journey of discipleship.
Our two months culminated with a silent retreat on the fruits of contemplative prayer. As we shared in our closing circle I was moved to tears. I had a visceral sense of profound healing and reconciled existence and being held – all of us – in Love so intimate yet beyond understanding.
The words of Thomas Keating, OCSO, a founder of the Centering Prayer movement, come to mind, “The chief thing that separates us from God is the thought that we are separated from God” (Open Mind, Open Heart).
So I cherish my quiet time, a daily unambiguous period of silence to let go to the Indwelling Spirit. I need a contemplative prayer practice as much as two people in love or a community committed to grow need time to simply rest in each other’s presence. Day after day, through the ordinariness of showing up true to one’s deepest longing and vulnerable and available to the other, trust is cultivated, self-awareness is sharpened, love deepens, possibility awakens. But it takes time and the willingness to be in this prayerful relationship.
I think many of you would say with me that any human relationship can be mystifying. And a relationship with God is all the more. Seeing myself still and silent with my eyes closed in a chair for 20 minutes can look a bit silly. So I wish you could have been with me during a workshop with Fr. Carl when during a question and answer session, a young woman new to Centering Prayer asked all of us present, quite earnestly, what contemplative prayer might have to do with “real” life. The response from practitioners gathered was nothing less than an enlivening, witnessing rush of the Spirit.
- I have a greater capacity for love and compassion and joy.
- It is such a relief that I don’t have to “get it right” – I only need to show up in faith.
- It’s about something more than me, but I am invited to be a part.
- What freedom to learn I am not in control – and don’t need to be!
- Things are clearer now.
- I find myself more creative.
- In time I have been softened.
- I have more courage to face the hard things about myself.
- I don’t just react to life, I respond.
- There is more depth to living and to my relationship with God and other people.
- This way of surrender helps me be more forgiving.
- I have come to see all of us as a community. We need each other for our own healing and wholeness.
- It helps me live in the present moment.
What a gift.
IN QUIET PRAYER
I am content to
deeply — you know —
from the heart.
Take the time
to be aware and
alive to what is.
Now. Yes, allow
the Spirit within
In the silence
— when I’m open
and honest —
I know God has
better for me
than I can ever
to lead me then,
to move, to act,
Trish Stefanik is a program administrator for Shalem and a contemplative retreat leader living in Washington, DC, after seven years with a study retreat community in a mountain wilderness environment and one year at an ecumenical Benedictine monastery. She is a graduate of Shalem’s Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats program.
On Thursday, March 10, Shalem will honor Father Thomas Keating with our Contemplative Voices Award. Please join us for this special fundraising event. Click for details.