The Four Basic Guidelines of Centering Prayer
1. Choose a sacred word or a sacred breath as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
3. When engaged with your thoughts, return ever-so- gently to the sacred word. Thoughts include body sensations, feelings, images, and reflections.
4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.
These are the four basic guidelines of Contemplative Outreach.
Download a brochure on centering prayer and explore other information about centering prayer on the Contemplative Outreach website.
Basic Centering Prayer Instructions
Here are some slightly more detailed instructions:
• Sit with your back straight. You can sit on a cushion or on a chair. Set a timer, if you have one. Two sessions of 20 minutes each day are recommended, but if that feels like too much at first, begin with five or ten minutes. Allow your body to relax. Begin to notice your breath flowing in and out at its natural speed.
• Choose a sacred word of one or two syllables as the symbol of your intention to be open to God’s presence. Choose any short word with which you are comfortable to remind you to be present to God. Examples of a sacred word: Yes, Silence, Stillness, Faith, Trust, Holy, Glory, God, Jesus, Abba, Father, Mother, Mary, Amen, Love, Listen, Peace, Mercy, Let Go. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, silently begin to repeat the sacred word, which points you gently towards God’s presence. When you are ready, you can let go of the sacred word and simply rest in God.
It is also possible to practice centering prayer with a sacred breath as the sacred symbol instead of a sacred word. When using the sacred breath, you do not hold your attention on the breath continuously but simply notice it, touching it gently with your attention, whenever you realize you’ve been engaged with thoughts.
• When you notice that you have become engaged with your thoughts, gently disengage yourself and turn towards God’s presence, returning to the sacred symbol if necessary.
• At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes. This is an important transition for bringing the prayer into daily life. If you would like, you can dedicate the period of prayer to a person or concern.