We woke late. It was snowing outside. Because I am the mom that relies heavily on hand-me-downs to dress my child, I trusted that one of the three bags of winter clothes on my front porch would carry my kid through the cold weather season. On this particular Sunday, running late to church, I prayed that the suspender-snow-pants I eyed earlier in November (before it snowed) would be long enough to cover my two and a half year old’s ankles, making up for her short socks and lack of snow-boots.
Ack. They didn’t.
Pant legs riding up and tennis shoes sinking into the drift on our unshoveled walk - can you hear Marguerite’s yelps as the deep snow hit her exposed legs?
I still can. As I begin my Tuesday morning Centering Prayer routine, it is my daughter’s “help, mommy!” screams that are the sound track playing in my mind. It takes a lot for this background music to subside.
. . .
I’m not certain when exactly I discovered Centering Prayer. I was still single, to be sure. I think I’d left my first career in urban education and probably folded the non-profit I’d co-founded. There’s a period before marriage and motherhood, and after teaching high school English and spending time on the road with spoken word poets that gets a little fuzzy. But in that three-year window, I fall in love with meditation and all forms of getting still, small and listening to the Divine indwelling.
I remember listening to Fr. Richard Rohr and James Finley on CDs talking about Jesus and Buddha while cleaning my house. I read the Buddhist Pema Chodron and practiced tonglen. I learned about the art of maître, as the Tibetan Buddhist nun describes “seeing ourselves without judgment.” I combined all these new practices with what I gleaned from Fr. Thomas Keating on Centering Prayer. And I began a ritual traveling to north Minneapolis every Tuesday morning to join a group of motley-Christians at St. Jane House for twenty-minutes of quiet.
To this day, I carry this practice forward with me as a routine way of restoring and renewing my mothering spirit.
. . .
We begin our practice the same each week: the Director of the Urban Spirituality Center Brian Mogren rings the chiming bell three times and our circle of convened prayers gets quiet. Someone reads a psalm, and nine times out of ten these words are spoken:
Divine and Hidden Friend,
I often feel that I fail at prayer,
but I rejoice that your Spirit
prays ceaselessly in the cellar of my heart.
Grant me the grace to sit still,
that I may hear the Spirit’s silent song,
ever flowing like a river deep within,
singing my love for you.
Quiet my restless heart,
calm my roving, runaway mind,
as now, in communion with all the earth
and her many-colored children,
I enter into the song of love,
the prayer of stillness.
On this particular Tuesday, as my daughter’s song of need, want, and woe echoes through my body, I realize that her plea is my own. “Help, mommy!” vibrates within my heart; I recognize her desire as part of the ache and longing of my own limbs; her want of aid in traversing deep snow is not far from my want of aid in taking my next best earthly step. “Let it not be cold, Holy Mother. Shelter me, Oh God. Help me journey safely, loving Creator.”
The ceaseless longing and never-ending lists of my life play through my prayer, but I recognize them as that which unites me to not only my children, but all others. It is my centering prayer that unites me to you. I am grateful to not be alone.
. . .
Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde is a contemplative writer and teacher. She loves all things imaginative and playful. When she is not spending time squeezing lemons, digging in the garden, or molding play dough with her girls, she has the good fortune of mining her life for spiritual nuggets that get turned into blogs - that her bread-baking husband Francois likes to read. You’ll find her work at Visitation Monastery of North Minneapolis and at her own personal blog QueenMab Contemplates.