A priest and performer considers religion, the arts, and the often thin space between sacred and secular, church and culture, pulpit and pew.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Centering Prayer at the Monastery

The leader reads a scripture passage. The bell rings. Silence begins.

As usual I am distracted; my mind is busy. Then I recall a simple prayer I learned as a child from my father: "Thou, God, seest me." It becomes my mantra for this morning, even as other thoughts intrude.

I am chilly in my short-sleeved shirt. I dare not risk the noise of fishing my jacket out of my bag, so I concentrate on what it feels like for my arms to be just a little bit too cold. "Thou, God, seest me."

My cheek itches, but I won't lift my hand to scratch it. Instead, I think about how the itch feels. It disappears.  "Thou, God, seest me."

There is a slight change to the ambient noise; did others hear it, too? Are others even listening? I want to clear my throat, or cough, but decide not to make any sound and endure the hoarseness. "Thou, God, seest me."

Thoughts of work intrude. "Thou, God, seest me." Is my breathing as loud to others as it sounds to me? I fight the urge to yawn.

I concentrate on the muscles I used in the morning's pseudo-yoga exercises, and those in my legs that I am more aware of because of the slightly hilly inclines I walk on the monastery grounds. Will they cramp up later? "Thou, God, seest me."

The bell rings again. We open our eyes. When did the person directly across from me enter the room? She wasn't there when we began, yet I didn't hear her come in. Her head is nodding over; is she asleep? I was not aware than one of the sisters had left her chair to sit on the floor. Another has crossed her legs on the chair; I heard no movement. We begin to stir, get up, and move away to begin the day's activities.

"Thou, God, seest me."

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