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A Prayerful Rhythm of Life
A Prayerful Rhythm of Life

A Prayerful Exchange 

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Mystic and theologian Howard Thurman (1899–1981) writes of the contemplative practice of making time to “center down”:  

How good it is to center down!  
To sit quietly and see one’s self pass by! 
The streets of our minds seethe with endless traffic; 
Our spirits resound with clashings, with noisy silences,  
While something deep within hungers and thirsts for the still  
   moment and the resting lull.… 
The questions persist: what are we doing with our lives?— 
   what are the motives that order our days?  
What is the end of our doings? Where are we trying to go?… 
Over and over the questions beat in upon the waiting moment.  
As we listen, floating up through all the jangling echoes  
   of our turbulence, there is a sound of another kind— 
A deeper note which only the stillness of the heart  
   makes clear.  
It moves directly to the core of our being. Our questions are  
Our spirits refreshed, and we move back into the traffic of  
   our daily round 
With the peace of the Eternal in our step.  
How good it is to center down! [1] 

Spiritual director Caroline Oakes writes of the impact of a faithful practice of “centering-in”: 

The reason the gospel writers made a point to include their many accounts of Jesus returning to the presence of God was not so that those hearing their message could marvel at how centered in God Jesus was. The gospel writers were offering those who would hear their message, then and now, an invitation to experience that power ourselves in ways that are real and relevant to our day-to-day lives and relationships.  

Active, engaged, world-changing contemplatives since the desert mothers and fathers of the third century have realized how life-transforming, even world-transforming, that gospel invitation is.  

And we can too….  

The spiritual journey begins with a pause, a centering-in-God pause, and over time becomes a constant and ceaseless prayer, an honoring of and a connection with the Divine in you that awakens your essential self…. 

This returning to our center again and again is a kind of in-and-out, in-and-out movement, like breathing: breathing in, we gather strength and calm, maybe an insight, maybe a sense of an injustice needing to be righted, and then breathing out, we go back out in to the world to live into what we’ve been given and what we’ve received…. 

When you engage in any one of several centering practices that are available to us today, practices in which you can just be, alone, in quiet, in awareness of your innermost self with God, then over time, something holy and extraordinary happens in ways that … we can’t imagine or foresee. The closeness of your inner, relational life will be changed, to yourself, to others, to God, and to the world around you. Your relationship to your own life will shift subtly but profoundly. [2] 

[1] Howard Thurman, “How Good to Center Down!,” in Meditations of the Heart (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1953, 1981, 2022), 12–13. 

[2] Caroline Oakes, Practice the Pause: Jesus’ Contemplative Practice, New Brain Science, and What It Means to Be Fully Human (Minneapolis, MN: Broadleaf Books, 2023), 190, 191, 193. 

Image credit and inspiration: Jenna Keiper, windows + sky fire (detail), 2020, photo, Albuquerque. Click here to enlarge image. Like these everyday windows at sunset, it’s possible to create conditions that reflect the beauty of Spirit in our very normal, everyday lives. 

Story from Our Community:  

At 65 years young I am seeing life differently—and I’m seeing God differently. I know God can’t love me any more than God does right now. I haven’t earned it, it’s God’s grace. Now I am coming to understand it’s not about doing enough, being enough, giving enough. Experiencing love each day is the unforced rhythm of God’s grace. The relief is indescribable. 
—Anne-Marie D. 

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