Listen: Prepare for Centering Prayer
January 16, 2017It has been said that prayer is talking to God, while meditation is listening for God. In faith-based yoga we practice listening to our bodies, as a first step towards sacred listening. Supine poses are wonderful positions from which to listen. In our book's practice of Listening to our Internal Teacher, the Soul we show the practice embodied in Legs Up the Wall pose. Supine pigeon (sometimes called Figure 4) is another lovely pose to considering adding to this practice, as it helps prepare the body for seated meditation.
Pose Focus: Supine Pigeon
Begin on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Bending one knee, bring your ankle to rest on the opposite thigh, with the foot flexed to align your knee. Modify the pose as you need to for safety and comfort. If it feels good on your body, deepen the pose by lifting the anchoring foot, off of the mat. Hold the pose for at least 5 full, slow breaths. Return to the starting position with knees bent, both feet on the mat, and compare the amount of space that you now feel in each hip. Repeat the pose on the opposite side and when you finish, return again to the starting position and pause. Compare the sensations on both sides of your pelvis. Listen to what your body tells you.
At the end of your physical (asana) practice, after you have listened to your body and it is ready to be still, deepen your practice further by concluding with 10-30 minutes of meditation. Centering Prayer is one path to meditation, the contemplative art of listening for the voice of God. Sit in a comfortable upright position. Set a timer. Repeat your own sacred word (mantra), a breath prayer, or the ancient Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” Match the prayer repetitions to your slow, easy breath. When your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the practice by resuming your Centering Prayer. In time, the words may fall away. Listen.
For more information on Centering Prayer here are two online resources that we highly recommend from Fr. Thomas Keating and Fr. Thomas Ryan, respectively, and a book by Cynthia Bourgeault.
Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening by Cynthia Bourgeault