A few years ago, I walked into a church in Switzerland with a friend. I love to visit churches, especially old churches, and just sit for a while in a pew, breathing in the musty smells and feeling the generations who sat in these seats before me. In this particular church I stepped into that day, there were half sheets of paper scattered randomly on the pews. On this piece of paper I picked up was written a poem, in German, with the title ‘Just sit for a quarter of an hour.’ I was just learning about centering prayer, and so I smiled as I read it. I felt connected to this church, the generations of church goers before me, and now connected through this practice of silent prayer. I am often reminded that I am never alone.
When I take a few moments out of my day and focus on my breathing, I naturally slow down. My heart rate slows, my body relaxes, my thoughts slow down. I can come into the moment, leave the clamor of the outside world - for just a few minutes - and welcome in the breath of the Holy Spirit, to be reminded of the precious connection we have to God and to Creation… that we are created perfectly in the image of God, and we are gifted with friendships and relationships that reflect God’s love. Just for a few minutes, we can enter the inner sanctuary, and rest in this peace that passes all understanding. Kronos time (the ‘looking at my watch’ time) gives way to kairos time, sitting in a time that is the larger, cosmic time…. time beyond. Just breathing. Just being with God.
Just for a few minutes, we can sit and ‘center’ ourselves in this place, not speaking. Just being. Like a potter who leans over the wheel and places her hands on the clay, intentionally applying only the slightest pressure, allowing the clay to slowly give way to the bumps and rough spots, allowing the clay to slowly smooth out and center on the spinning wheel.
When we sit in silence, in the vast stillness, alone, we can paradoxically feel connected - connecting our true self to our Creator, and to creation.
Just sit for 15 minutes. Let your busy thoughts go, and when they return, gently let them go again, and again. With practice, this ‘letting go’ gets easier. By letting go of the fleeting thoughts and unsolvable problems, we are taking root in the infinite Being, the infinite Mystery of God’s Love for us and for the world.
Here’s the translated poem: Eine Viertelstunde
Keep a quarter of an hour
free from work and duty
and consider the quiet gift of life.
A quarter of an hour does not have to scatter, but rather collect;
to contemplate in stillness
what was, what is, and what will be.
For a quarter of an hour you don't have to rush around breathlessly;
rather you can breathe deeply
to expand your soul
and discover your true self - step by step.