A daily discipline: universal devotions that transcend belief (or unbelief)
(more about the Centerings)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How to Use Your Daily Centerings

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of the Centerings:

  • First, prepare a space (see more here).
  • Then, choose the opening Centering(s) you'll use.
  • Do one Reading, and take time to reflect on it.
  • Choose and read any useful Centerings for that time of day, as time permits. If you're busy, skip to the Closing.
  • Finally, choose a Closing.

Over time, you might commit one Opening and one Closing to memory; you can say these as you go about your business on those days when there's no time to sit quietly.

Read the other articles below for more on getting the most out of your Practice.


See also:

Preparing for Your Daily Centerings

A Word on Wording

A Word on Times

Practicing Your Daily Centerings with Others

The Purpose of Each Practice

Preparing for Your Daily Centerings

Basics

Everyone's different, but we all have a few things in common.

The basic requirements for practicing your Daily Centerings are time and space. How much time is enough and what kind of space is needed will vary from person to person.

We recommend a fairly quiet space. This should be possible for Morning and Night Centerings; it may be tougher at Midday and Evening, when you may still be outside of your home.

As for time, the key thing is not to be rushed. Shorten the Practice as necessary so that whatever you do can be done mindfully. Even if all you can say is one Opening, that is better than mumbling the entire Practice in a hurry.

Beyond the Basics

Ideally, you will be able to use some props. the more religiously-minded might even have an altar. But even the non-religious can benefit psychologically from the ideas below.

You can use any or all of these:

  • Incense
  • Candle
  • An image (statue, picture)
  • Bells or drum
  • Cushion or chair

One way to begin might be:

  • Light the incense
  • Light the candle
  • Sit quietly, focused on the image
  • Ring the bell or strike the drum three times, allowing silence to fall between each time
  • Begin

If you are religious, you may wish to invoke your deity before beginning.


See also:

How to Use Your Daily Centerings

A Word on Wording

A Word on Times

Practicing Your Daily Centerings with Others

The Purpose of Each Practice

A Word on Wording

There is no dogma in the Centerings. Practitioners are free to make any and all adjustments as they see fit. However, I want to suggest three considerations that might be of importance.

First, in order to make them useful to everybody, the Centerings have been written without any reference to deities or belief. However, that does not mean they cannot be used by believers. With slight changes in wording, the names of deities and statements of faith can be inserted into each Centering. Just adding "O God" before a line might be sufficient. I will leave that to you.

The second point relates to the first. Notice that many lines begin with one of three expressions: "I will," "May I," and "Let me." These are interchangeable. I have used them as I saw fit, but there is no reason that a particular one has to be used in a particular case. "I will" is a bit stronger than the other two, but only slightly. Use whatever makes you feel comfortable.

Finally, a word on pronouns (and the necessary changes in verb that accompany them). As the Centerings were designed for solo use, they usually use "I" and "me." However, if you are practicing them with others (see here), you might naturally change these to "we" and "us." The verbs then, also, would need to be changed ("I am" but "We are"). Likewise, a Centering can be "directed" at another person. Instead of "I am staying home," perhaps your sick child is staying home. So instead of "May I," the wording might become "May he" or "May she," etc.

It is recommended that any changes be made in writing, and in the case of practicing with others, copies be made for all Practitioners, to avoid confusion.


See also:

How to Use Your Daily Centerings

Preparing for Your Daily Centerings

A Word on Times

Practicing Your Daily Centerings with Others

The Purpose of Each Practice

Practicing Your Daily Centerings with Others

Most of us will be practicing the Centerings alone. If there is an opportunity to gather with friends or family, however, I have built in some means of saying the Centerings with others.

I grew up in the Episcopal Church, which taught us four common ways of using "prayers." These are:

  • Listening: A leader reads, the others listen
  • Unison: All participants read together
  • Call and Response: The leader reads a line, and the other participants (often called "the people") answer
  • Antiphonal Reading: the participants are divided in half, each group reading part of the material

Have you noticed the asterisks (*) in the Centerings? These are designed to facilitate Call and Response or Antiphonal Reading. (No such marks are necessary for Listening or Unison).

So with this line:

If you die to yourself
*you will attain peace

In Call and Response the leader would say "If you die to yourself" and the people answer "you will attain peace." In Antiphonal Reading one "side" would say the first line, the other "side" the second.

Decide in advance how to handle each Centering you use (some through Listening, others in Unison, etc.) and who will do what. Then go!


See also:

How to Use Your Daily Centerings

Preparing for Your Daily Centerings

A Word on Wording

A Word on Times

The Purpose of Each Practice

A Word on Times

Each Practice in the Daily Centerings is named for a time of day. As each person's life is different, these times will mean different things to different Practitioners.

For example, the Practice intended for "Morning" might be done at (or near) sunrise; or whenever the Practitioner wakes; or over breakfast; or at the start of the day for a person who has an unusual schedule (like working nights). If it is a day off, a Practitioner might use the Morning Practice before starting the day's activities, even if that's at 2 p.m.

Here, then, are some alternative meanings for the name of each Practice:

Morning: sunrise, waking, breakfast time, start of day, before engaging in activity

Midday: Lunchtime, midday break, at a shift in responsibilities

Evening: After work, dinnertime, sundown, upon returning home

Night: When the day's work is through, when preparing for bed



See also:

How to Use Your Daily Centerings

Preparing for Your Daily Centerings

A Word on Wording

Practicing Your Daily Centerings with Others

The Purpose of Each Practice

The Purpose of Each Practice

When I was writing the Daily Centerings, I had a specific purpose in mind for the Practice at each time of day.

Simply put, these are:

In the morning, we practice Mindfulness

At midday, we practice Compassion

In the evening, we practice Gratitude

At night, we practice Peace

Here is an expanded expression of these ideas:

In the morning, we practice Mindfulness

  • We focus on the tasks of the day ahead
  • We become aware of the world and its phenomena
  • We awaken ourselves to the wonder of life

At midday, we practice Compassion

  • We call to mind the needs of others in our lives
  • We address concerns about our communities, nations, and the world
  • We affirm the good in ourselves

In the evening, we practice Gratitude

  • We recall kindnesses received during the day
  • We think of specific people who have contributed to the quality of our lives
  • We appreciate the circumstances that we live in

At night, we practice Peace.

  • We review any actions of the day that may get in the way of peace
  • We release the cares of the day
  • We relax in the knowledge of our health and happiness

A person with little time might even just "think on these things" at the appropriate time of day.


See also:

How to Use Your Daily Centerings

Preparing for Your Daily Centerings

A Word on Wording

A Word on Times

Practicing Your Daily Centerings with Others

Monday, July 20, 2009

About the Readings

The readings used with the Centerings are paraphrased from original works of great wisdom.

As of July, 2009, these are:

  • Morning: Walden by Henry David Thoreau. Goal: The practice of Mindfulness
  • Midday: The Dhammapada attributed to the Buddha. Goal: The practice of Compassion.
  • Evening: The Analects of Confucius. Goal: The practice of Gratitude.
  • Night: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Goal: The practice of Peace.

Click the link on the name of each work to learn more about it at Wikipedia.

The introductory line(s), paraphrase, and questions are original work, and are ©2009 by James Baquet.