The other day I stopped by a centering prayer group for the first time in a very long while. I wasn’t sure how I would find it, but I knew that centering is something I long for in the midst of life’s many distractions and my ingenious capacity to respond to them.
I had wandered in a bit late despite my best efforts to be there on time. (Atlanta traffic is always unpredictable.) When I did arrive, I found myself in a non-descript office park, then ascending some stairs to a suite which was just as I had imagined it: plush, eclectic, New Agey furnishings, a wall of brochures about various spirituality offerings, and finally, a door with the words, “In Session,” which I timidly opened.
There were only two other people there this day, apparently an atypically sparse attendance. The two elderly men greeted me, asked me what my name was and how I was feeling, and then we returned to a short reading from a book titled Lumen Christi, before descending into a full twenty minutes of silent meditation. The idea? Pick a word or image to center one’s mind on, then gently bring your mind back to the word or image when you wander away.
One of the men said he had been trained as an actor and had come, presumably through this practice of centering prayer, to see how all the traumatic news headlines and tragedies in our world signified what in acting jargon is known as ”melodrama.” “But underneath that melodrama, there is this current of hope in Jesus Christ that runs deep,” he said.
I just love that. To live with an appreciation for how even the deepest losses in life are but the stuff of “melodrama,” when the real “drama” is what is happening underneath the surface of these things, in the real plot of a God who is making all things new- that is how I want to live.
We sat in silent centering for twenty minutes that at the start seemed like an eternity but once underway passed quickly. My word was “Jesus,” and I imagined myself surrounded in the light of Christ shining down, bathing me and my world in its bright rays of warmth.
It quickly became evident, however, that my mind had other agendas, like curiosity about these other two people in the room. Or, the fact that I needed to add one more thing to my to-do list. Or, that I felt really tired, beginning to nod off just a bit.
And then the bell sounded and we were through.
I think I’ll go back again.