Centering Prayer

Gathering in the quiet church
amidst the hardwood pews
and long beams of dying sunlight
we meet,
sit, find a position
for staying twenty minutes in silence.

Seven of us together
bound by slanted beams of dying light
yet separated in silence
each of us alone in this space and time
with God.

The verses are spoken
the chime rings
eyes close
and the prayer begins.

For a moment
we hang suspended
between the ringing chime
and the roaring silence
in a space of not-quite-noisy
and a time of not-yet-quiet
minds chasing the chime
until the sound disappears
into birds and squirrels
into ambulances at the hospital
into cars on the boulevard.

And in this silence, a word —
Listen
the word calls me to the center
calls me away from myself
calls me toward the Holy One.

Listen to those silly birds!
I wonder what they’re up to
chattering and arguing —
Listen.

I really should cook that chicken in the fridge
wonder what the kids would like from it
or if it’s even any good —
Listen.

Listen.

Listen.

Finally,
the silence of the church fills me
I find the no-way
the no-place, the no-time
where the Holy One lives
and there, I come to rest.

Listen.

Somehow we seven
sitting together and alone
in this thin, quiet place
manage to discover that space
between the ringing of the chime
and the roaring of the silence.

Listen.

A pew creaks.
Someone has moved.
My legs are getting tired
so I stretch them out,
remembering how they ached last night
when I was trying to sleep
and —
Listen.

The cycle begins again
from thought to no-thought
from path to no-path
from time to no-time.
I may not find the no-way
back to God tonight
but that doesn’t matter.
Someone here will.

Listen.

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