Finding a Way to Live With Chronic Pain by “Returning to the Heart” ~ with Centering Prayer

When we live with pain, finding solace is beyond challenging at times. Although we have no quarter on the hardships and suffering that accompany chronic illness, pain is an awfully big gorilla to be stuck in the ring with, especially when there’s no bell going to ring, ending the round.

So we learn to find ways…ways to tame it, if only for a time, as every moment we can get is to be treasured. As good moments are for us all, after all.

Centering Prayer, a form of meditation, has shown to be a way to quiet, not only that gorilla, but our hearts and minds…

so troubled and burdened at times.

Centering Prayer ~ The How To’s

Meditation has been shown to be a viable form of alternative pain management. Centering Prayer, a form of meditation, is considered an ancient form of contemplative prayer, and was made popular beginning in the 1970’s by three Trappist Priests: Father William Meninger and Father Pennington along with Abbot Thomas Keating.

To practice Centering Prayer Father Pennington suggests the following steps:

  1. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed, relax, and quiet yourself. Center yourself with a loving, generous and receptive spirit.
  2. Choose a sacred word (such as Love or Faith but truly whatever feels right to you) that best supports your sincere intention to be open to God’s divine action within you.
  3. Let that word be gently present as the symbol of your sincere intention to be in the Lord’s presence.
  4. Whenever you become aware of anything (thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, associations, etc.), simply return to your sacred word, your anchor.
  5. Ideally one should sit in prayer for 20 minutes a day in order to experience  the benefits of the practice as they take time and, like exercise or healthy eating, regular practice to be fully realized.
  6. Centering Prayer should not be seen as an exercise in concentrating or too, the use of a sacred word as a similar practice to utilizing a mantra, rather, it is concerned with intention and the quiet, gentle invitation of God’s love and presence into our lives, without striving or expectation.

A wonderful two-page synopsis of the practice, along with directions for Centering Prayer, written by Fr. Thomas Keating can be found here.


Background on Centering Prayer

In his book Contemplative Prayer, Thomas Merton writes ““Monastic prayer begins not so much with “considerations” as with a “return to the heart,” finding one’s deepest center, awakening the profound depths of our being”,  from which the name for Centering Prayer was founded.

Like other forms of meditation, Centering Prayer, considered a Christian form of the practice of meditation, encourages silence, specifically interior silence. It also invites the practitioner into a deeper connection with God. It’s roots are found in Christian monasticism and the writings and practices of Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross as well as the seminal, and anonymous, work, The Cloud of Unknowing, a guide for contemplative prayer during the Middle Ages.

Advocates of Centering Prayer say it does not replace other prayer but it has however run into some controversy with the Catholic Church. A very interesting NPR talk by Father Keating on the topic helps to put that controversy into some context.

Author: ChronicPainDailyReflections

I manage a web-site, Chronic Pain Daily, created for and in support of those living in chronic pain. The site helps with the day-to-day spiritual, mental, emotional and physical needs of those with constant pain, whatever its source.