Monday, June 11, 2012

May: Simplicity-> June: Centering Prayer

We started our May meeting with a reading from Joan Chittister's The Breath of the Soul: Reflections on Prayer, #34 on Simplicity. 
She starts with this quote by St. Francis de Sales:
If the heart wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently and replace it tenderly in its Master's presence. And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back and place it again in our Lord's presence, though it went away every time you brought it back, your hour will be very well employed.
 Then she says: "One of the most difficult dimensions of beginning to live a life of prayer [and I would add, any spiritual practice] is to begin it all. What can any of us do that will possibly bridge the gap in life between the self and God?" p.107

The question that the chapter on Nixing Shoppertainment prompted for us:
How does the stuff in your life get in the way of your relationship to God?
There is a void we're trying to fill. We were reminded of the song that started the sermon on January 29. (You can listen to the song in the audio: "There is a longing in our hearts, O God...")

After much discussion, we asked the question: "Who do you know who lives a simple life and what do they do?" The answer: "They do things for others.

Someone recalled a hymn from childhood, Others sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford. "Help me to live for others, that I may live like Thee." We discussed volunteering as a option to shopping and it for you?

Favorite lines from this chapter:
This austerity doesn’t resemble the joyfully simple life I am craving. It also doesn’t sound much like a life Jesus would prescribe; after all, the guy’s inaugural miracle occurred at a party where he turned water into wine. Jesus was hardly a killjoy.
Riess, Jana (2011-09-24). Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray and Still Loving My Neighbor (Kindle Locations 1036-1038). Paraclete Press. Kindle Edition.
When I ponder this, the point of this month’s practice hits me: it’s not just about curbing materialism, though that’s a good thing, or even about not coveting. It’s about taking some choices out of the mix, of letting God’s guidance dictate the basic contours of what I will and won’t do. I’m not just reducing physical clutter by not shopping; I need to reduce spiritual clutter by becoming the kind of Christian who does not covet. I’m going to get off the more, more, more treadmill and set spiritual limits in order to cultivate simplicity. Eureka!
Riess, Jana (2011-09-24). Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray and Still Loving My Neighbor (Kindle Locations 1139-1143). Paraclete Press. Kindle Edition.

Centering Prayer
In June, we're looking at Centering Prayer as a spiritual practice, based on the work of Thomas Keating. You can visit his website,

or watch a short video about the guidelines of centering prayer by Thomas Keating.

or see a longer video series featuring Cynthia Bourgeault: 

Part 1: Overview of the Foundations and Method of Centering Prayer
Part 2: Attention of the Heart
Part 3: Putting the Mind in the Heart

Her work is featured at this website.

The doodle to set the date for our June meeting is going out, and I look forward to how the Spirit will prompt us.

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