This term we are looking to deepen our understanding and practice of some of the primary types of contemplative exercises. As we do so, we looking for the ancient roots to these rhythms and some of the contemporary improvisations that help them to be more accessible and relevant.
In the first weeks, we have been looking further into “Welcoming Prayer.” This is practice that was developed by Mary Mrozowski and others at Contemplative Outreach. You can look more into its history and purpose here.
One of the reasons for this prayer is to help people to re-connect with the kind of “consent to loving presence” that is a part of Centering Prayer. But we don’t always have the time and the focus to engage with the silence of Centering Prayer. Sometimes we are carrying stress or emotional reactions to a diversity of experiences that make stillness very challenging. Welcoming Prayer is a way use our emotional upset and accompanying bodily sensations as an opportunity to practice softening and accepting. It has much in common with a variety of mindfulness techniques.
One of Mary Mrozowski’s inspirations for the practice came from the eighteenth century classic, Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade. This contemplative invitation to surrender (think, “Not my will but yours be done”) challenges the reader to be active in the circumstances of their life, but to relax into the part that is simply up to God.
In recent years, Cynthia Bourgeault has written profoundly on the effectiveness of this practice being heightened if we remember to focus on “sensation” and not on “attitude.” The work is done in the body and not in the intellect. Focusing on and accepting the bodily sensations that accompany our emotional state, we stop “bracing and resisting”; instead, we allow our body to sink into the sensations and to yield. As we soften, we allow more space for our true heart’s response, a creative response with integrity, to eventually replace the reactivity and the ego-defending stories that we tell ourselves.
You can see practical details on welcoming prayer if you scroll down through the posts. And here is the chapter by Bourgeault that explains the focus on sensation: