You cannot fail at this – except fail to show up. The idea is to allow yourself to be present with the Holy One, to let go of all that gets in the way of our openness to God’s presence within us. This is a kind of meditation or contemplative prayer.
The metaphor Thomas Keating uses to describe what we do is this: imagine you are a diver on the bottom of a river bed, watching boats go by over your head. The boats are your thoughts. Noticing them is not an issue. But when you find that you have swum up and climbed into a boat and are sailing down the river – when you find yourself planning your day or rehearsing a conversation from the day before – ever so gently say your sacred word and fall over the side of the boat and float back down to the bottom.
The method is this. Sit with an erect spine in a comfortable position, feet flat on the floor. The idea will be to not move for the twenty minutes of silence.
Choose a sacred word – God, Jesus, Spirit, Yes, Love – which will serve as a touchstone back to letting go of all that is not simple openness.
Most people close their eyes. When we do this prayer practice together, we use a cd with a couple of minutes of cello music before and after the silence. Take some deep breaths as the music begins, maybe say a prayer or get the kinks out of your neck and shoulders during this part. Settle your body.
When the silence begins, let go. Let go of any planning or figuring out or naming of things. Just be. When we are able to do this, it is immense spiritual rest, a surrendering into the arms of the Holy One. Sometimes the prayer time seems like nothing but thinking and saying your word, thinking and saying your word…. Then you have had an aerobic workout at surrendering yourself to the Living God. How bad is that? We are practicing kenosis, or “letting go.”
The recommended method is to do this practice for twenty minutes twice a day.
If you have any questions, read Thomas Keating’s Open Heart, Open Mind