How to practice centering prayer

How to practice centering prayer

Centering prayer, a form of meditation, can be a powerful practice for people of all spiritual orientations, says Dennis Buttimer, M.Ed, CEAP, RYT, CHC, a life and wellness coach at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont.

What is centering prayer?

“Centering prayer is a bit of a misnomer because you’re not actually saying a prayer,” says Buttimer. “Instead, you sit quietly and listen for spiritual messages that may come to you. It’s an opportunity to practice letting go like you do in traditional mindfulness meditation.”

As with other forms of meditation, he says centering prayer is an opportunity to disconnect from mental chatter, letting your thoughts pass without judgment. Centering prayer involves listening with your heart and being open and receptive to guidance from a higher power of your own understanding.

While the practice has Christian roots, people of all spiritual backgrounds can participate in centering prayer.

“Whatever your concerns are, God/Spirit/the Universe/the Source of Energy is aware of them,” says Buttimer.

Instead of approaching centering prayer with a request to your higher power, you’ll focus on getting into a state of deep relaxation. You’ll use a mantra or word, such as “peace.” Silently repeat the word or phrase as you meditate. As you do, you may suddenly have clarity about how to handle a problem in your life.

“When you do this, you’ll give your mind something to focus on,” says Buttimer. “Over time, you may start to discern messages that have spiritual relevance for you. For example, you may notice that you have a more peaceful response to situations that used to upset you.”

Centering prayer is typically practiced for 20 minutes twice a day.

“That’s a lot of time for the average person,” says Buttimer. “But the more you practice, the more you’ll realize the benefits.”

The benefits of centering prayer

“Typically, the benefits of centering prayer are the same as regular meditation,” he says. “These can include fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, a boosted immune system, improved sleep and greater overall health.”

Centering prayer tips for beginners

“There’s no right or wrong way to do this,” says Buttimer. “It’s a safe haven. You’re letting go instead of trying to make things happen.”

If you’re new to centering prayer, he recommends the following:

  • Set an intention that you want to explore the practice. Come to it with an open mind and a receptive attitude.

  • Choose a spiritual or sacred word or phrase to focus on during the practice.

  • As you breathe, repeat the word or mantra in your mind. If your mind drifts, gently return to your word or phrase.

  • Repeat for 20 minutes.

  • When you finish the meditation, give yourself a few minutes to discern what you might have heard or experienced.

“Some people don’t walk away with insight immediately, but have a greater sense of relaxation,” says Buttimer. “If you seek spiritual wisdom and want to have a deeper relationship with a higher power, this can be a good pursuit. You get the benefits of regular meditation and perhaps walk away with spiritual wisdom.”

Learn more ways to reduce stress and improve your well-being.


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