We sat in a circle in the chapel. The topic for the evening was centering prayer. I spoke for a little while about what it is and how it is done. How it resembles meditation techniques from many cultures in many parts of the world; God is one, I say, and human beings more alike than we are different from one another. It makes sense that we, from place to place and age to age, would all have come up with a version of relating to the same thing that looks pretty much alike.
We closed our eyes. Down under the chatter of experience and its images we went, marking the graceful intake and exhalation of breath, feeling the life it gives us. Trusting it. We used the word I use as a way of helping us turn gently away form the distractions that tugged at our sleeves, all the unmet obligations and bright ideas that crowded our minds, begging an audience. Another time. It's okay, I'll take care of you later. Holy God, holy and mighty, holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us. Holy God, holy and mighty, holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us.
Time, in that place that is not a place, stood still. Everything on earth was still in place, the world was still turning, but we were underneath it all. Just sitting. For a time -- How long? Five minutes? Five hours? -- we sat in the inexpressible presence of God.
I fell asleep, said one member, when we talked about the experience afterward. I'm so embarrassed. But what's wrong with that? She was tired. God sent her sleep. Must have been what she needed.
I was a little nervous, one of the members of the group said. I was afraid I couldn't come back. But you always come back. We don't stay in that state forever. We can't. Humankind cannot bear very much reality, T.S. Eliot said, and he was right. We always come back.
But we can always return. When words fail us, we can remember that we really need no words.
This still, silent prayer is a way for us to approach God. Other prayer is more akin to the world of work in which we live every day: intercessory prayer, confession, even prayer of thanksgiving -- all these relate to the world God has made and into which God has placed us. We pray, in these other kinds of prayer, for other people and for ourselves, in all our joys and sorrows, worries and fears. These things are the work of prayer.
And centering prayer is the prayer of the presence of God.
For those other kinds of prayers, the pleas and the thank-yous, the Geranium Farm is pleased to announce -- finally -- that "Vigils" has arrived. Go to the website www.geraniumfarm.org at any hour of the day or night and light a virtual candle for your prayer or thanksgiving.
A message board for sharing prayers and intentions among Geranium Farmers in the wee hours -- or any time -- will be added shortly.