Saturday, October 17, 2020

Guest post: Rich Lewis

I'm honored to share a guest post from Rich Lewis, from the blog Silence Teaches Us Who We Are.  Rich is the author of Sitting with God: A Journey to Your True Self through Centering Prayer published by Anamchara.  This post contains excerpts from Rich's book:

Quaker Silence 

In March of 2014, I experienced a Quaker silent service. The church I attended traced its roots to 1699, though the meeting house where I sat in was built in 1823. The service had no minister. I sat in silence for an hour with one hundred others in a simple room with only benches, windows, and wood floors. 

On three occasions, individuals shared a thought. Then back to silence. I heard the rain gently pummel the windows. I heard human sounds: coughing, sniffing, breathing. I heard the wind blow and wood floors creak. I heard my thoughts. Sometimes I had no thoughts, just the spaces between thoughts. The room became a container filled with peace, love, community. 

When we are silent we are naked before God. We empty our mind of its thoughts and emotions. We let God’s gaze shine directly on us. I do this as part of my daily centering prayer practice but had never done it with a group this large. 

At the end of the service, we prayed for each other. We greeted each other and passed the peace. We are meant to experience silence in community with our God. George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, often exclaimed that the most powerful kind of worship is silent worship or what Quakers sometimes call “waiting worship.” 

Because we live and move and have our being in God, whether we realize it or not, we constantly pray (Acts 17:28). I had heard that life is a prayer, but I did not understand how this could be true. Now I understand that I live in God. I am always connected to God. I cannot disconnect, even if I try. God’s presence always remains. Only my own awareness of God’s presence comes and goes, depending on the quality of my contemplation.

Be Open to New Experiences of the Divine 

Richard Rohr wrote that, “Prayer is not about changing God, but being willing to let God change us.” God is not a genie that grants wishes. I need to rethink how I approach God. I need to let go of my desires, dreams, and wishes—and instead, be open to the desires, dreams, and wishes that God has for me. 

In May of 2015, I visited the Won Buddhism Center of Philadelphia. Before I entered the temple area, we removed our shoes. I liked this idea. The first thing I do when I enter my home is take off my shoes. It makes me feel comfortable, relaxes me. Doing this at the Buddhist center, I felt at home. 

We began the service with a five-minute chant. I had never chanted for five minutes straight. It seemed like it would be an eternity. Yet before I knew it, we were done. 

From the chant, we moved to a twenty-five-minute silent meditation. I knew that this would not be difficult. When I practice centering prayer, I do so with my eyes closed. The silent practice that I was asked to participate in was with my eyes open, looking down the bridge of my nose. Similar to centering prayer, we were told to let go of all thoughts. We were told to ignore any itches. Let them pass. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was easily able to meditate with eyes open. The time passed quickly. 

We moved from silent meditation to walking meditation, something I had never done. Fifteen of us formed a circle fifteen feet in diameter. We walked slowly in a circle, our pace extremely slow. I estimate the movement from when I placed my left heel down and rolled it until my toes finally touched the ground was three to five seconds before I performed the same action with my right foot. It took some time to adjust to this snail’s pace. I needed to focus to maintain balance. Within a few minutes, however, I felt comfortable with the pace and began to enjoy it. Like the sacred word in centering prayer, each step I took during walking meditation was an opening to God. We walked one full circle. I do not know how long it took. It was a wonderful experience. I lost track of time and was at peace. I entered the spaces between my thoughts. I was in the Presence. 

The Buddhist temple experience taught me that contemplative prayer, the pure presence of God, can be found in chanting, silent meditation, and walking. God is everywhere. God waits for us to meet Him in the practice that best suits us. I am certain there are many other forms of contemplative prayer that I can practice, where I will also meet the pure Presence of God.

Rich Lewis

Silence Teaches

Silence teaches us who we are. 

When you subscribe to my web site you will receive my Free Centering Prayer ebook. 

 Sitting with God: A Journey to Your True Self through Centering Prayer published by Anamchara Books is now available!


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