by Mindy Durias
Our world is moving forward at an unprecedented pace. The ability to be so easily connected to one another has made this planet very small indeed. Endless information and people around the world are literally a touch away. Yet, it is quite possible that we have never been more disconnected from our true selves and to God. The moments of our lives are filled with the buzz of technological noise that never sleeps.
As a mother of five children, in this age of concrete technological advances and scientific breakthroughs, I wrestle with how to communicate the abstract, mysterious, and intangible relationship we are created to share with the Divine.
In the past three years, I have been practicing contemplative prayer as a way to connect more intimately with God. This has included introducing my children to Lectio Divina as a way to listen to the Spirit of God speaking uniquely to their individual hearts. They have been very open and receptive to this practice, and consequently have grown in their day-to-day awareness of God speaking into the moments of their lives.
Lectio Divina is a very accessible contemplative prayer practice. Especially in the sense that it allows for verbal response. This makes it one of the easier practices to introduce to anyone unfamiliar with contemplative prayer, and to children in particular.
But what of the apophatic (non-verbal) prayer practice Centering Prayer? This prayer has been transformative in my life. I’ve found abundant grace in the silence, stillness and solitude of this practice. It has helped me to disconnect from the noise and activity of life and find myself in God’s embrace. And more profoundly, Centering Prayer has created a deeper awareness of who I truly am in God. In the practice, I’ve come home to myself and God.
In the fall of 2014, I decided to experiment with my children and see if they would have a similarly positive experience with Centering Prayer. At first, the struggle was to find language to communicate the practice to children ranging in ages from five to sixteen. It became clear right away, that while she could understand what Centering Prayer was, my five year old was not ready to sit in silence, stillness and solitude for any amount of time!
My other four children ages nine, twelve, thirteen and sixteen also quickly grasped the concept of the practice, so we began trying it out. We started with three minute sits. Gradually, we lengthened the time to five minutes, then eight, ten and so on-until we reached the twenty minute mark. That is where we are now. Our intent is to practice everyday after breakfast and before we begin the rest of the day.
It has not been perfect. In fact, some days it feels like a complete waste of time. Wiggling limbs, wrestling in chairs, bodily noises, rough starts to the day, the irritation of relational conflict, you name it. We have experienced it.
Yet, I keep reminding myself, that this is a practice. A perfect experience should never be the goal. For no such experience truly exists. The fruit of the practice itself, is seen in the rest of life. My hope is that we are becoming more aware of God in everything.
So, we continue to practice. To open our hearts together to the presence and action of God within us. We enter with the invitation of Psalm 46:10 which says, “Be still, and know that I am God”.
Little changes have been made along the way to accommodate the needs and development of each child. Currently, most days my husband, sixteen and thirteen year old and I sit for twenty minutes together. Then, my twelve and nine year old and I sit for ten minutes together. Our five year old talks about joining us when she is bigger. For now, she is learning Breath Prayer and the beauty of God being as near to her as every breath she breathes. It is perfect for where she is at right now.
In Centering Prayer we are all learning to come just as we are, and to find our true home in God who continues to affirm that we all belong.
In this place of belonging, it is my hope that each of us will choose to embrace one another in love and help bring healing to this world in search for peace with God and humankind.
Mindy Durias lives in Portland, Oregon. She’s been happily married for 16 years and is the mother of 5 lovely children. Her passions are teaching her children, running outdoors, and advocating for children living in poverty around the world.