I am a creature of habit. My current morning practices include journaling, writing a note to someone, recovery step work, meditation and composing a gratitude list. For the past three weeks and through the first of August, I am in rural Peru. Before leaving on the trip, I was certain to pack all of my necessary supplies, take into account the likely lack of internet service so that I could continue these practices. All has gone well and I foresee no problem in maintaining my routine.
A couple of other recent practices I knew I could not continue during my trip. Since moving to New Orleans last year, every Sunday morning I have come to enjoy walking to Rayne Memorial and participating in the service. Obviously that was not going to happen while in Peru.
Another practice I picked up over the past several months is my Wednesday 11:30 AM meeting with my fellow pilgrims in the School for Contemplative Living. At these gatherings we have a 20 minute centering prayer/meditation and discuss a spiritual text for an hour. I committed to my friends that at 11:30 am each Wednesday, I would join them in spirit in a 20-minute centering prayer practice from Peru. That has gone well.
I have come to understand that a good part of the experience of my Sunday and Wednesday morning practices has more to do with being in community and relationship with others than just the physical process of the practice. That has been a meaningful insight for me in the same ways that I was never able to get sober just by reading the literature or thinking about my addiction, but by being in community and relationship with others.
This past Wednesday I sat down for my centering prayer in the courtyard of the house where we are staying here in Casma. I had Russian Orthodox chant music playing in the back ground. I am a novice at this sort of thing and generally tend to just try to focus on my breathing. I often become rather restless about half-way through the 20-minute practice.
This past Wednesday, I quickly got into the rhythm of the breathing – the Spanish/Quechua voices from next door replacing the sounds of traffic at my regular practice space in the States. Trying to empty myself as best I could and focus solely on my breathing, I was filled with a sense of well-being. Knowing too that my fellow pilgrims in the US were practicing at exactly the same time came into my head and I emptied that as well. The chanting caught my attention like never before for the sheer beauty of words of which I knew not the literal meaning but spoke to me fully. A cool breeze flowed through the yard, as I continued to empty myself of all thought. My eyes felt wet and I could feel tears moving down my face. I entered a thin space. And then I was back again.
I liken these thin spaces to pink cloud or mountain top experiences in recovery. I have come not to expect them, but by putting one foot in front of the other, and following the next intuitive step on a path to true self, I can be ready to absorb the experience, the liminal space, when presented. In the same way that the mountain top experiences of recovery can never be taken away, so to these liminal or thin spaces remain as well. As certain as the “aha” moment when I realized that it was not that “I could not drink alcohol today” but that “I did not have to drink alcohol today” so too my Centering Prayer experience in the dusty courtyard in Casma, Peru, is now forever a part of me. I am grateful for this gift.