With my wife and daughter traveling for the month of August, I headed off for a week of family camp with my son, who was mostly intent on doing his own thing with his group of friends. Every day I took time to sit for Centering Prayer, usually in the mornings, and several times outdoors, beside the lake shore.
Released from my usual everyday roles — husband, father, AA sponsor, worker, provider, voice of reason, director, choreographer — I settled down hoping that I might experience some profound peacefulness, freed as I was from my usual attachments. And indeed, instead of engaging with thoughts of to-do lists, and that thing that person said at the office, oh and don't forget to pick up the such-and-such at Target, I found opportunities to ever-so-gently apply my sacred word when I was distracted by the call of a loon, or the breeze on my face, or the dew on the bench. By any measure it was a magical setting for my 11th Step meditation.
So why was I so uncomfortable? Father Keating writes that if we are persistent in our centering prayer practice, eventually "the emotional junk in our unconscious emerges," and eventually "the obstacles to opening [ourselves] to God are revealed." I was experiencing the unloading of the unconscious, and unable to fall back on my familiar patterns, I felt hypersensitive and untethered. Awareness can be painful.
But it can also lead to healing. One promise of the 12 Steps is that we will gain awareness of the obstacles in our path that keep us feeling separate from our Higher Power, and thus from ourselves and one another. When we place ourselves in God's hands through Centering Prayer, Keating reminds us, we are consenting to have God remove these obstacles. Compelled by circumstances to take a break from my normal state of constant busy-ness and distraction, I caught a glimpse of what it might be like to draw near to God's love and more genuinely consent to divine healing.
More shall be revealed.