Divine Therapy

“Time does slow down as we stop trying to push the river.” 

Cynthia Bourgeault

The past few weeks have felt very full.  Parties, college orientation, gatherings with family and friends, travel, illnesses, schedules, plans, volunteering, etc.  I have noticed my short responses and small jabs at people I love, sure signs my brain, my heart and my body are in need of care.  Being self-aware and slowing down to notice helps me identify when I reach my limit, however sometimes I fail to take action.  It happens subtly, the crowding out of my need and before I know it time rolls forward like a river and I’ve lost myself by neglecting to prioritize time for me.  My relationships with God, others and myself suffer.  Choices of self-care offer time and space for my heart to settle with grace.

I was in need of grace.

I flipped on the white ceiling fan and took a seat in the white wicker rocker on my front porch.  The warmth of the moving air from the fan spun a cocoon around my chair that felt comforting.  Deer were grazing quietly as their tiny babies ran in circles around the expanse of our neighbor’s yard.  I noticed the sound of a cardinal chirping, though I could not see him.  My seat was a haven, our front yard a peaceful space of rest.

I sat quietly to relax and rest in centering prayer.

I’ve been practicing centering prayer as a way to care for myself and my relationships with others.

When I first began, I wondered if my thoughts would settle enough to allow me to enjoy the “Divine Therapy” contemporary spiritual teachers such as Thomas Keating claim centering prayer to be.  It seemed that each time I sat in the quiet, to do lists, plans, writing subjects, kids, friends, schedules and a plethora of other thoughts crowded the space of my brain and my being.

What I have learned as I have practiced centering prayer is that my many thoughts are not so much intruders to my peace but rather opportunities to embrace them and then gently release them to God.  In her book, The Heart of Centering Prayer, Cynthia Bourgeault tells a story that brought gentleness and kindness to bear in my desire for rest:

When a nun attending a centering prayer workshop led by Keating lamented, “Oh Father Thomas, I’m such a failure at this prayer.  In twenty minutes I’ve had ten thousand thoughts!”  “How lovely,” responded Keating, without missing a beat.  “Ten thousand opportunities to return to God.”

His response washes over my heart with the kindness of God.

Rest comes as I remember God is always waiting and ready to receive me, time and time again with all of my thoughts, burdens and cares regardless of what they are.

And, when I push the river, he is faithfully waiting for my return.

May your summer be filled with moments of self-care that allow you to rest and replenish with grace.

photo-4Ellen Oelsen lives in the Texas Hill Country with her husband of 26 years. She is a mother of 4 children and loves their 2 dogs and 1 cat. Her hobbies include cooking, nature, reading, plays, and two stepping. She delights in offering hospitality of the heart and creating spaces of care, rest, play and reflection to inspire hope. She is beginning to expose the writer within her.