This little article details the practice of “Centering Prayer” with the mantra “Jesus.” Whilst simple, it is also extraordinarily effective in quieting the mind. It can be done (almost) anywhere at any time.
Christian contemplative techniques were developed by the Desert Fathers, a group of ascetics that lived in what is now the Nitrian desert, beginning around 300AD. “Centering Prayer,” though popularised mainly by modern Trappist monks like Thomas Merton and Thomas Keating, is also seen as deriving from these ancient practices.
- The method of centering prayer strongly resembles the practice outlined by Herbert Benson, one of the earliest scientifically-trained advocates of meditation, in his book The Relaxation Response. Consequently, it leads to a host of healing physiological responses.
- The use of a mantra curtails the incessant activity of the thinking mind. By stepping out of discursive thought, you’ll more easily lend yourself to the transformative power of silence.
- It’s an utterly simple practice that can be done anywhere.
Jesus Meditation: Technique
- Seat yourself comfortably with your eyes closed.
- Choose a sacred, two-syllable word. In this case, “Jesus.” (Although any will work fine.)
- As you breath in say the first syllable of the word to yourself.
- Breathing out say the second syllable.
- It can be said silently to yourself, whispered on the breath or even out loud.
- If you find yourself caught up in thoughts, return your attention to the utterance of the syllable on your breath.
- The theological and psychological basis of “Centering Prayer” is developed at length by many Christian contemplatives in their books, CDs and seminars. If you wish to integrate this practice more deeply into your spiritual path, then there are a great many resources to help you do so.
- If you prefer another mantra, use it. There are no strict rules guiding which “sacred” word should be used. The point is to pick one that symbolises your intent to surrender, to relax, to open yourself to the work of the Divine.
- You can use this meditation when you need to relax. Not only is the meditative method a well-proven path to calm but the use of the mantra “Jesus” can also instil positive emotions.
Guidance from Contemplative Outreach, an organization with the mission of spreading the message of Centering Prayer.
Image credit: A Row of Tea Candles by Markus Grossalber