One of the blessings that’s come out of the pandemic is that I have more leisurely phone conversations with family and friends. I refer to them as ‘phone visits’ because they’re more than brief calls with the assumption you’ll talk later in person; you share that space like you’re sitting down to a delicious meal.
Yesterday I had one of those phone visits. I talked with a friend who told me that lately she’d felt ‘out of sorts’ and wasn’t sure where all of that was coming from. She recognized that the atmosphere of the pandemic, political tension, and racial unrest of the past months were partly to blame. But beyond that, she just wasn’t her best self.
“Things feel out of balance in my body,” she said.
A counselor had recommended a type of meditation where she would focus on specific parts of her body and the energy flow of that area. I’d read in my Life Coaching textbook about using energy approaches for helping clients to figure out what’s going on when they’re stuck.
“Besides the fact that our bodies are made of energy, it’s been demonstrated that our energy flows in defined patterns or meridians,” Linda Bark explains in The Wisdom of the Whole: Coaching for Joy, Health, and Success (p. 231). Eastern medicine has focused on these for healing and uses practices of acupuncture and acupressure that change the energy flow of the energy pathways. There are seven large energy centers or chakras that are present in a central column that runs from the top of our head to the base of our spines.
My friend had some knowledge of these chakras and for a week she’d made a twice-daily practice of sitting quietly for twenty minutes and focusing on these areas. She was surprised that even after a week, she felt better.
I considered my own restlessness, feeling out of sorts over the past months– for the same general reasons as my friend– and then my personal situation of going through divorce. I remembered feeling a similar way back in 2006 when I spent a week at the retreat center, Sea of Peace on Edisto Island, South Carolina. Through the retreat leader and being part of that community, I learned contemplative spiritual practices that included centering prayer.
I’d never heard of centering prayer just as I’d never heard of chakras before my coaching class.
Sharon, the leader at the retreat center, played videos by Father Thomas Keating that explained the practice. Unlike the talking prayers I was used to, centering prayer was more about silence and being present. Father Keating says, “During the time of prayer we consent to God’s presence and action within.” To aide in that, a word may be chosen to help our inward focus. Father Keating calls this a sacred word and gives examples like Lord, Father, Mother, Abba and others like Love, Peace, Trust etc.
That week at Edisto, we had centering prayer every morning. In the article I read before writing this post, Father Keating recommended doing this for a minimum of twenty minutes a session and twice a day– first thing in the morning and another in the afternoon or early evening.
I remember that like all the other practices that week– especially walking the labyrinth, I started as a skeptic and ended the week realizing the benefits.
This morning, after waking too early and not being able to go back to sleep, I got up and returned to the practice of centering prayer. Like my first try at Edisto, it took a while to settle myself and prepare my head and my heart to be present. Eventually, sitting with my back supported by my couch and my bare feet planted on the cool living room floor, my sacred word floated to the surface.
The point was not to think about the word but just to let the word be there– Heal.
After the twenty minutes, I went about my morning routine and thought about all that needs to be healed within me. I felt the sensation of pounds that I’d lost that were now back on, ‘stress pounds’ as some people call them. My therapy sessions and meetings with my DivorceCare group have reminded me of all the healing that’s needed when you go through a major loss. Seeing people in the news who are recovering from COVID-19, reminds me that our bodies are always in a state of repair at a cellular level. Now is the time to do everything we can to heal so our immune systems are as fit as possible.
Many of us may be feeling out of sorts.
But it’s my hope and prayer that each of us will find a way to bring balance and healing into our lives. Whether it’s shifting our energy flow, or finding a quiet space within for God to be present, or some other practice that readjusts our well-being– may we each find our path.
Blessings to you all.
Article “The Method of Centering Prayer” by Thomas Keating (found through internet search) Thomas Keating: Contemplative Outreach, Ltd.; 9 William St.: P.O. Box 737; Butler, NJ 07405