Last week I posted information on Centering Prayer. This week I would like to introduce a method that can be used in conjunction with centering prayer during those times when we are being overwhelmed by an emotion during our prayer and can’t get centered. ( this can also be used any time in our daily lives when we are troubled by our feelings)
At times we find that it is difficult to let go of an emotion or state of being. At these times we can practice The Welcoming Prayer which offers a structured way to embrace your emotions or state, in order to reach the place where you can release, or let go of, the emotion or state and move on.
There are three phases to the Welcoming Prayer. You might go directly from one to the next in a single, relatively formulaic prayer sequence – or you might find yourself staying in one phase as it does its interior work. The three parts are:
- Focus and sink in.
- Let go.
Focus and sink in. This is not about indulging bad feelings. It’s not about amplifying them or justifying them. But feel the feeling. Allow yourself to become immersed in it. Let it wash over you. Don’t run away from it or fight it. Just feel what it’s like to be experiencing it.
The word “feel” can mean either to have a physical experience of touching something, or to have a mental experience of encountering an emotion. Connect those two. Feel the feeling or emotion physically. Notice your body, how you are tense or anxious or hot or fidgety or lethargic. As with meditation, you are just observing the feeling, not trying to alter it.
Welcome. Welcome the feeling by giving it a name and saying for example, “Welcome anger,” “Welcome frustration,” “Welcome anxiety.” Accept that it is there and that you can just be the way you are without trying to change.
We’re talking about feelings and emotions, not problems and physical hardships. We are not welcoming illness or injustice. If you think you should be applying the Welcoming Prayer to a problem or illness, think again about what negative emotion or feeling is being kicked up. (You probably will be dealing with a variety of fear or anger.) There’s nothing passive about acceptance. Acceptance merely establishes you in reality, so that you can respond to a situation effectively. If you are terrified about a health issue, that fear may be immobilizing you; accepting and then releasing the fear may free you to be able to deal with the issue.
Let go. And then, after you have acknowledged it, befriended it, and watched its energy begin to ebb, you can say, “I let go of this anger (or fear, or pain, or whatever it is).” Or you can recite this litany, coined by Mary Mrozowski, the founder of the welcoming prayer:
I let go my desire for security and survival.
I let go my desire for esteem and affection.
I let go my desire for power and control.
I let go my desire to change the situation.
Welcoming Prayer is the practice that actively lets go of thoughts and feelings that support the false-self system. It embraces painful emotions experienced in the body rather than avoiding them or trying to suppress them. It does not embrace the suffering as such but the presence of the Holy Spirit in the particular pain, whether physical, emotional, or mental. Thus, it is the full acceptance of the content of the present moment. In giving the experience over to the Holy Spirit, the false-self system is gradually undermined and the true self liberated. — Thomas Keating