And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable,
and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.
Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
- Philippians 4: 8
At some point, most of us who commit to a Centering Prayer practice experience the painful realization that our thoughts, words and actions and the circumstances of our lives stand in stark contrast to our intention to live a God-centered life.
Perhaps we observe that fear or resentment rules our lives. Or perhaps our daily encounters, whether with loved ones or strangers, seem to bring up reactions that are far from the values of the Gospel. In exasperation, we may to cry out internally, as Fr. Thomas did in his early days at the monastery, "I was better before I came into this place! … Maybe [I] would be better in another place; why don’t [I] leave?"
As a method to begin to replace the "old tapes," the negative emotional commentaries that persistently ambush us, Fr. Thomas suggests the practice of an active prayer phrase as a way "to work the peace of the reservoir of silence [received from Centering Prayer] into daily life." An active prayer can be used when our minds are not otherwise occupied, such as while we are showering, doing the dishes, walking the dog or driving. We repeat an active prayer sentence over and over again until it is so internalized that it comes as automatically as our commentaries, even when we are experiencing afflictive emotions.
This practice is an example of what the Work calls Self-Remembering, the practice of using whatever means possible to remember the Source of our being, our identity in Christ. It is a recognition that, though we have a part to play — having a Wish for divine union, persistence in our prayer practice, Working with our sisters and brothers on the journey, not becoming discouraged — our primary vocation is to continually turn our attention to the One that is the source of all healing and transformation.
"[A]ll real Self-Remembering is simply forgetting yourself, your ordinary self, your ordinary negative 'I's, your ordinary forms of internal considering, and all the rest of it, and feeling certain that some further state of yourself exists above all this personal uproar that takes place all day long in each one of you, with which you keep on identifying, and when the Work says that we have Real 'I' above us you must understand that this act … is designed to make it possible for us to come in contact with the first traces of Real 'I' which is already there and which is our real goal."
- Commentaries, "Commentary on Self-Remembering," May 18, 1946, Vol. 3
Some other ways of practicing Self-Remembering are:
Self-Remembering is not meant to skip over the present moment or to push away or deny difficult situations, thoughts or emotions. Recognizing that everything is happening in the only way it can for our transformation, true Self-Remembering unconditionally accepts each emotion, reaction, uncomfortable sensation that is arising now, without believing the commentary, thoughts or justifications — knowing that God is with us right in the midst of it.
- Asking God for help.
- Repeating affirmations, such as, "I am Spirit, perfect, holy, harmonious. Nothing can make me sick or hurt or afraid, because Spirit is God and God cannot be sick or hurt or afraid. I manifest my real Self through this body now."
- Spending time in nature or looking up into the night sky.
- Pausing and consciously relaxing the body; taking a conscious breath.
- Calling to mind a Work idea, such as, "If I truly understood, I would not disagree."
"A much overlooked revelation of Christ is that [Christ’s] own journey was a revelation of our own … Thus how it went for Christ is how it goes for all … If we want to understand our own journey and what comes next, we need only to look to Christ … Thus like Christ and with Christ we too must die, and not just physically, but psychologically and ontologically. For some this may seem like a hard saying, yet as I know it, this revelation or truth IS the resurrection."
- Bernadette Roberts, The Experience of No-Self
Video Reflections: View the video excerpt "Self-Remembering Always and Everywhere." This excerpt is about 18 minutes in length. You will find it and the transcript here.
An Invitation: Choose an active prayer sentence for yourself and begin praying it. For example:
Or create an active prayer phrase of 8-12 syllables, perhaps from Scripture, and repeat it silently as much as you are able, allowing it to settle in your subconscious. This is Self-Remembering.
- O God, come to my assistance.
- O Lord, make haste to help me.
- The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?
- In your light, I see only light.
Resources for Further Study:
- You may wish to read more about Self-Remembering in the Commentaries, "Commentary on Self-Remembering," May 18, 1946, Vol. 3, p. 897.
- The program archive may be found here.