The Path – Going Deeper at The Well

Contemplative Prayer, The Contemplative Journey 1 Comment »

The contemplative journey involves silence, solitude and simplicity. Much of the path is traveled alone but attendance at a retreat with like minded people and an energizing retreat leader can help the spiritual seeker go deeper and consent to Divine Presence that is available 24/7. Recently I attended a weekend retreat entitled “Letting Go – Centering Prayer Retreat” led by Fr. Bill Sheehan, OMI. The retreat was held at The Well Retreat Center in southern Virginia and sponsored by Lynne Larson of Retreats. Her website is www.thejoyofdreaming.com.

Centering Prayer Retreat

Letting Go Retreat at The Well

Father Bill Sheehan, OMI, leads retreats nationally on various topics concerning the contemplative prayer movement. He has been deeply committed to Contemplative Outreach since it was founded in 1983. The “Letting Go” retreat focused on how centering prayer plays an important role in the contemplative journey to assist the seeker in consenting to God’s eternal invitation to love and be loved. Father Bill uses scripture, theology, human psychology and pertinent books to explore the power of letting go and living in the present moment. Two books that I found particularly interesting were Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird, O.S.A. and Wisdom Jesus by Cynthia Bourgeault.

My personal journey has included the practice of Centering Prayer and Christian Meditation for more than 10 years. These practices help the seeker to simply let go of all earthly distractions and consent the Presence of the Divine that dwells within. These are transformational meditations where the seeker yields totally to the will of God. The intention of the meditation makes them prayer.

Father Bill emphasized that Christ was a great wisdom teacher of his time and was on his own path of surrender. The mission of Jesus was all about self emptying (Kenosis) and surrendering to the will of the Father – from the boy Jesus temple experience to the final surrender on the cross. Father Bill emphasized that a prayer method like centering prayer is in sync with the prayer Christ used to be one with the Father. The prayer is a non-conceptual and apophatic form of prayer used to quieten the egoic mind so that the person praying can be totally receptive to the love of God.

Father Bill used Mathew 6:6, a wisdom saying that Jesus used on the Sermon on the Mount, to metaphorically describe what happens to our soul in the inner room that Jesus speaks about in this verse. As we enter the room and close the door (or enter our heart consciousness and use our prayer word to prevent distractions from entering), we are allowing God to do what God does – love unconditionally. Over time our capacity to trust God grows and the hardness of the false-self system (ego based mind) begins to soften up. We become aware of God’s alluring love and aware of our longing to be oned (as Julian of Norwich describes union with God) with the Divine with increasing magnitude. At some point in the process we become aware that our own divine potential is activated and we are children of God. We go deeper and deeper.

Centering prayer simply places us in a posture of receiving all the gifts that our loving Creator has in store for us. We surrender, let go and consent both in the inner room and in the present moment. Jesus continually showed us how to do this while he traveled on his own contemplative path. The retreat at The Well reminds us that contemplative prayer practices are available to keep us rooted in the present moment where we are fully alive and available to the Divine presence that loves us 24/7.

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