Two Exercises to Help you Center Down

“There is a progression in the spiritual life. It is not wise to tackle the Mt. Everest of the soul before having had some experience with lesser peaks. So I would recommend beginning with a daily period of from five to ten minutes. This time is for learning to ‘center down,’ or what the contemplatives of the Middle Ages called ‘re-collection.’ It is a time to become still, to enter into the recreating silence, to allow the fragmentation of our minds to become centered.

The following are two brief exercises that will aid you in ‘centering down.’ The first one is simply called ‘palms down, palms up.’ Begin by playing your palms down as a symbolic indication of your desire to turn over any concerns you may have to God. Inwardly you may pray ‘Lord, I give to You my anger toward John. I release my fear of my dentist appointment this morning. I surrender my anxiety over not having enough money to pay the bills this month. I release my frustration over trying to find a baby-sitter for tonight.’ Whatever it is that weighs on your mind or is a concern to you, just say, ‘palms down.’ Release it. You may even feel a certain sense of release in your hands. After several moments of surrender, turn your palms up as a symbol of your desire to receive from the Lord. Perhaps you will pray silently: ‘Lord, I would like to receive Your divine Love for John, your peace about the dentist appointment, Your patience, Your joy.’ Whatever you need, you say, “palms up.” Having centered down, spend the remaining moments in complete silence. Do not ask for anything. Allow the Lord to commune with your spirit, to love you. If impressions or directions come, fine. If not, fine.

Another meditation aimed at centering oneself begins by concentrating on breathing. Having seated yourself comfortably, slowly become conscious of your breathing. This well help you to get in touch with your body and indicate to you the level of tension within. Inhale deeply, slowly tilting your head back as far as it will go. Then exhale, allowing your head slowly to come forward until your chin nearly rests on your chest. Do this for several moments, praying inwardly something like this: ‘Lord, I exhale my fear over my geometry exam, I inhale Your peace. I exhale my spiritual apathy, I inhale Your light and life.’ Then, as before, become silent outwardly and inwardly. Be attentive to the inward living Christ. If your attention wanders to the letter that must be dictated, or the windows that need to be cleaned, ‘exhale’ the matter into the arms of the Master and draw in His divine breath of peace. Then listen once again.

At the end of each meditation, close with a genuine expression of thanksgiving.”

— Richard J. Foster, 1978
Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

What is your relationship with silence and stillness?

I start out by inwardly repeating the phrase "Thine, not mine." If my mind starts to wander, I return to that prayer for God's Will to take precedence over my own, to get away from my own ego running the ship. Then it's just a question of, for me, asking. Not asking a question, just asking. Asking for the Will of God. It takes courage to stand still in the searchlight of the Lord, submit to what it shows me, hearken to the advice that comes and trust that advice, but it is always worthwhile. Most often, a heard-feeling, a felt-voice quietly arises. 

When I am able to be sufficiently present throughout the day, then I focus on these verses: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23). If I can focus my day on these things as a ceaseless prayer, as a way of being and acting, it's always a wonderful day!

Mark D., Lechlade, Gloucestershire, UK
Where is that settled faith that God is always with us, holding us in the palm of their hand? that each new event is an adventure, an opportunity to let our lives speak? I know it is there, on some deep level, but cannot seem to get there. So I sit still in silence and am consumed by thoughts and apprehensions. Only the fleeting moment with the heron, the rabbit, or the overwhelming beauty of a work of art or landscape provides a moment of escape into joy and life.

Joe S., Portland, OR, USA
I remember the presence of the Great Knower of my experience, my Being, the silent "I am."

David D., Honolulu, HI, USA

How do you hear the still, small voice?

One Must First Become Small

One Must First Become Small

The phoebe sits on her nest Hour after hour, Day after day, Waiting for life to burst out From under …
The Silence of All Flesh

The Silence of All Flesh

The silence we value is not the mere outward silence of the lips. It is a deep quietness of heart …
Bring Back Your Heart Patiently

Bring Back Your Heart Patiently

When your heart is wandering and distracted, bring it back quickly to its point, restore it tenderly to its Master’s …
That Which is Holy and Living

That Which is Holy and Living

Oh, that ye might inwardly know these things! Turn in, turn in. Mind what stirs in your hearts; what moves …
Do Not Protect Yourself From Silence

Do Not Protect Yourself From Silence

In contrast to traditional ways of living, modernity relies on what we can consciously think about and talk about, what …
Car Maintenance in Communion with Christ

Car Maintenance in Communion with Christ

As we learn the way of holy silence — a silence that expects to encounter and hear God — we …