Confession time. Over Valentine’s Day, I didn’t go on a romantic date with my boyfriend, I went on a delicious date with… God.
Say what?! Yup. Ever since my silent retreat last month, I’ve been having a love affair with God. But what do I mean by God? I don’t consider God to be a big dogmatic man in the sky, I consider God to be an energy of Grace. A mysterious force that always has my back (and your back, too).
Before this silent retreat, I had a really hard time trusting God, especially sitting in silent meditation. Silence scared me. I was afraid of what I would find in my psyche without any distraction getting in the way. So I would sit for 5-11 minutes, and judge all of my meditations as bad. I could never get out of the “mud” of the obsessive thoughts and anxieties. Stillness was impossible.
It seemed as if my meditations only magnified my worries and insecurities.
This silent retreat couldn’t have come at a better time. For 8 days, I got to face those demons, and learn in my bones (without any eye contact or technology) how to sit in meditation without all the suffering! I want to share my learnings with you, so you too can go on some delicious dates with God.
This meditation practice is called Centering Prayer. This practice helps you discern thoughts and emotions as they arise before they reach the stage of attachment and compulsion (i.e. suffering).
For this practice, choose a sacred word that reminds you of the presence of God, Love, or Grace. A word that helps you trust the present moment and anything that shows up. You’ll use this word whenever you notice yourself engaging with a thought and going down its rabbit hole.
When you detach from the thoughts and emotions by returning to your sacred word, you strike at the root of your false system, your false self.
What’s the false self? An illusion, a load of habitual thinking and emotional patterns that are stored in the brain and nervous system like programs in a computer. They tend to reactivate every time a particular life circumstance pushes the appropriate button. The button might be feeling competitive or jealous. Or feeling controlling or insecure. It could be doubting yourself or doubting the world. It could be feelings of mistrust, overwhelm, anxiety… You get the picture. Any feeling or impulse that takes you out of presence.
Victim stuff, blame stuff, it’s all false! The truth of who you are is love and goodness. All else is false.
This Centering Prayer practice isn’t an elimination of thoughts, but a detachment from thoughts.
When I learned that distinction, I got so freed up. I was like, “Wait, my thoughts are okay? There’s nothing wrong with my thoughts?!” Right! Thoughts are an integral part of this meditation, you just notice them without attaching to them or reacting to them. When those difficult thoughts show up, that’s our subconscious coming up for purification and healing. These programs can’t transform and dismantle without our awareness of them. When they come to the light, that’s a good thing.
This practice is a discipline designed to reduce the obstacles to the full trust in God.Imagine that.
Here’s how it works:
Step one: Commit to sitting for 20 minutes and set your timer. Close your eyes and settle in for about 15 seconds, and then introduce your sacred word “ever so gently” into your mind. This word represents an internal movement of trust into God.
Step two: When you find yourself engaging in thoughts and going down the rabbit hole, return ever so gently to your sacred word.
You’ll eventually find yourself in moments of rest, and thoughts from the subconscious will come up. Every time these thoughts, attachments, or pain points show up, feel them, and let them go by returning to your sacred word with your whole being.
There’s no such thing as a good meditation or a bad meditation, you just allow, allow, allow.
When thoughts or feelings come up that you really don’t want to see, consider this a big hug from God inviting you to see your illusions so they can be transformed. This is a way of God bringing your shadows into the light so you they don’t have to own you anymore. You can give them up by returning to your sacred word.
My word, as you can probably guess, is Trust. When I suffer, it’s always because trust is missing. When I say the word, “trust” in my mind’s ear, that reminds my whole being to trust this moment, even the scary terrible feelings and demons that are showing up. I understand now that when those feelings and thoughts show up, it’s God chiseling at my false self, bringing these aspects of my psyche up into the light so I can let go, and transform. With this trust, I’m never alone.
Step 3: Keep going until your timer goes off. Then sit for about a minute, just resting in the space that you cultivated and gently open your eyes. Notice how the energy shifts.
20-30 minutes is essential for this. It takes about 11-15 minutes to get through the mud. I’ve discovered that meditating longer is actually easier than meditating for less time. There’s a shift that happens after getting through the superficial levels of meditation in minutes 1-11, and the thoughts begin to disappear. Then it’s just me, silence, and God. Not all the time of course, but with practice, this return to interior silence gets easier and easier.
Want to give this date with God a shot? Set your timer for 20 minutes, and just let go into this Divine Therapy. See what shows up, and just remember, there’s no such thing as a bad meditation. Just allow, and let this process take you deeper and deeper into your true self. Can’t wait to hear what opens up for you.