The Other Mindful Practice: Centering Prayer & Psychotherapy
P. Gregg Blanton
Published online: 6 July 2010 # Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010
Abstract A review of the literature reveals that one particular form of mindful practice, mindfulness, has received the most research attention during the past decade. While all of this attention has been focused on mindfulness, the clinical usefulness of other mindful practices has been ignored. Built upon this background, the purpose of this article is to bring attention to an overlooked form of mindful practice that grows out of the Christian tradition: Centering Prayer. The article begins with a description of Centering Prayer, along with a comparison with mindfulness. The remainder of the article explores the clinical implications of Centering Prayer. First, ways in which Centering Prayer informs our understanding of the need for and the goals of counseling are suggested. Next, four therapeutic skills of Centering Prayer, along with three distinct ways for integrating Centering Prayer into psychotherapy are offered. Throughout the clinical section of the article, numerous practical ideas and strategies are developed. Finally, a case study is included to illustrate the potential benefits of including Centering Prayer in psychotherapy.
Keywords Mindfulpractice.Centeringprayer.Psychotherapy
In recent years, there has been a rising interest in mindful awareness practices among mental health professionals (Siegel 2007). Siegel (2007) defines mindful practice as “focusing the mind in specific ways to develop a more rigorous form of present-moment awareness that can directly alleviate the suffering in one’s life” (p. 9). These practices have been described as an essential part of Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, and Taoist teaching. Over thousands of years, mindful awareness practices have emerged in various forms: mindfulness, yoga, tai chi, qui quong, and Centering Prayer. During the last 10 years, most studies that examine the integration of mindful awareness practices and psychotherapy have focused on a Buddhist practice called mindfulness (Smith 2004). Mindfulness, which is defined as awareness of the present experience with
Pastoral Psychol (2011) 60:133–147 DOI 10.1007/s11089-010-0292-9
P. G. Blanton (*) Montreat College, Montreat, NC 28807, USA e-mail: [email protected]
acceptance (Germer 2005a), “has become one of the hottest growth areas in the field of psychotherapy” (Germer 2006, p. 54). The most frequently cited method of mindfulness training is the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn for treating patients with a wide range of chronic pain and stress-related disorders (Baer 2003). In 1979, Kabat-Zinn established the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and today, there are over 2,500 MBSR programs around the world (Davidson and Kabat-Zinn 2004). The primary goal of MBSR is on training participants in various meditation techniques that result in the development of mindfulness (Bishop 2002). To accomplish this goal, members participate in 8 to 10 weekly group sessions, with one session being a full day retreat. Participants are expected to complete homework exercises that largely involve practice of mindfulness techniques, both in formal and informal practice. Members are aided in their homework exercises with audiocassettes that guide them through the mindfulness exercises. Even though mindfulness stands alone in MBSR, recent treatment developments have begun to focus on the integration of mindfulness and psychotherapy (Mace 2008). Psychodynamic psychotherapists were the first to discover and utilize mindfulness, but there has been a recent surge of literature on mindfulness-based cognitive-behavioral treatment (Germer 2005b). The three leading approaches within the cognitive-behavioral tradition are: (1) dialectical behavior therapy (DBT; Linehan 1993a, 1993b), (2) mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT; Segal et al. 2002), and (3) acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT; Hayes et al. 1999; Hayes et al. 2005). All three of these treatment packages contain a substantial mindfulness component (Germer 2005b). MBCT, which was developed to alleviate chronic depression, teaches the mindfulness practices of MBSR. MBCT is an 8-week group intervention program. Linehan, the innovator of DBT, notes that mindfulness skills are central to DBT. However, unlike MBCT, which looks to Kabat-Zinn for the development of mindfulness skills, Linehan acknowledges that her ideas about mindfulness are adapted from the work of Thich Nhat Hanh (1976). Linehan (1993a, 1993b) describes three mindfulness “what” skills (observe, describe, participate) and three mindfulness “how” skills (i.e., how to do the “what” skills). DBT clients learn mindfulness in a year-long weekly skills group. ACT, a third approach from the cognitive-behavioral tradition, can also be thought of as a mindfulness-based therapy (Hayes et al. 2004). Clients in ACT are taught to experience current thoughts and emotions, without judging, evaluating, or attempting to change or avoid them. ACT explicitly teaches clients to attend to thoughts and feelings nonjudgmentally, with acceptance (Baer 2003). ACT is implemented in either an individual or group format. The potential of these mindfulness-based approaches has produced a wave of empirically based treatments for familiar problems (Germer 2005a). Studies show evidence for the effectiveness for mindfulness-based approaches in the treatment of depression (Hayes and Harris 2000; Lynch et al. 2003; Ma and Teasdale2004; Morgan 2005; Segal et al. 2002; Teasdale et al. 1995; Teasdale et al. 2000; Zettle and Raines 1989), anxiety disorders (Germer 2005c; Kabat-Zinn et al.1992; Lopez2000; Miller et al. 1995; Orsillo et al. 2003; Robins2002; Roemer and Orsillo 2003), borderline personality disorder (Linehan 1993a; Linehan1993b; Linehan et al. 1999; Zettle 2003), substance abuse (Breslin et al. 2002; Linehan et al. 1999), and eating disorders (Kristeller and Hallett 1999; Telch et al. 2001).
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While all of this attention has been focused on mindfulness, the clinical usefulness of other forms of mindful awareness practices has been largely ignored. Isn’t it time to bring more attention to these overlooked forms of mindful practice? The purpose of this article is to accomplish this purpose with a Christian form of mindful practice: Centering Prayer. Several authors have attempted to draw attention to Centering Prayer. Siegel (2007) includes it alongside mindfulness as a beneficial form of mindful practice. Robins (2002) has suggested that contemplative practices based in other religious traditions should be introduced to clients who object to the Buddhist roots of mindfulness. Even Linehan, the originator of DBT, recognizes the similarities between Centering Prayer and mindfulness and recommends it as an effective alternative to mindfulness (Robins et al. 2004). The mental health profession needs to address some important questions. What is Centering Prayer? What are the similarities and differences between Centering Prayer and mindfulness? What are preliminary ideas on the integration of Centering Prayer and psychotherapy? This article attempts to address these questions.
What is centering prayer?
Centering Prayer, developed by Meninger, Pennington, and Keating in 1975 (Keating 2005), is a synthesis of various sources from the Christian contemplation tradition. Bourgeault (2004) tells us that Centering Prayer is a contemporary expression of the ancient custom of contemplation as it was practiced by the Desert Fathers and Mothers in the third and fourth centuries. Until recently, their teachings were sealed away in a set of Latin volumes called the Patrologia Latina, but Merton (1960) made the Desert teachings available for the first time in a contemporary, accessible way in book called The Wisdom of the Desert. The essence of the Desert teachings was captured by John Cassian, who studied with the Desert Fathers and Mothers in the fourth century. He brought what he learned from this Egyptian monastic experience back to the West in a collection of writings called the Conferences (Pennington 1982). His teachings have been maintained primarily in the West by the Rule of St. Benedict. Centering Prayer is inspired by John Cassian and other sources from the Christian contemplative tradition (Keating 2005). In Conferences, no. 9, Cassian describes a method of “pure prayer” which was later developed in The Cloud of Unknowing, which was written by an anonymous fourteenth-century author. The writings of St. John of the Cross in the sixteenth-century and the more recent works of Thomas Merton inspired Meninger, Pennington, and Keating to develop Centering Prayer. This contemporary expression of an ancient tradition was first called “Prayer of the Cloud,” but it later adopted the term coined by Thomas Merton: “Centering Prayer” (Bourgeault 2004). It is important to note that Centering Prayer was developed in the 1970s. During this decade, there was a movement among spiritual teachers of major Eastern religions to come to the United States and present their respective methods of meditation. (Note: In 1977, the American Psychological Association sounded the call for research into the clinical effectiveness of meditation.) Numerous young people who learned these other traditions came to St. Joseph’s Abby in Spencer, Massachusetts, where Keating was abbot, asking for a Christian method of contemplation. Since there was not a contemporary method of Christian contemplation, Meninger, Pennington, and Keating were prompted to create one.
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The result was Centering Prayer, a new name and a new package for the ancient Christian tradition of contemplation (Keating 2005; Pennington 1982). The unique intent of the originators of Centering Prayer was to provide a simple method for practicing Christian contemplation. As a result, the method of Centering Prayer has only four straightforward guidelines (Keating 1999). The first rule is to “choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within” (p. 139). Centering Prayer works on the power of intention (Bourgeault 2004). The person’s intention is to focus on the indwelling presence of God, so Centering Prayer consists primarily in returning to and refocusing one’s intention. When you find yourself engaged with a thought, you simply let it go and return to your original intention to be open to God. You use your sacred word when you observe that you are being attracted to a thought. What is a sacred word and how is it used? The sacred word is any word chosen by the person that elicits a sense of love for God in that person (Pennington 1982). It can be a word like Jesus, Abba, Love, or Silence, that spontaneously comes to mind when a person turns his or her attention towards God. The sacred word is not used like a mantra, because the word is not repeated constantly. Instead, it is only used when practitioners observe that they are being attracted by a thought. The word is gently used to return the person back to God’s presence. If a person does not find a word useful for this purpose, other strategies are permitted. A person may want to silently use a sound or notice one’s breathing. Keating (2005) writes, “Our intention and consent to God can also be expressed by noticing our breathing as a symbol of the Spirit” (p. 107). This seems appropriate, because in both Hebrew (ruach) and Greek (pneuma), the word “spirit” means breath. The second guideline is to “sit comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly, and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within” (p. 139). Notice that Centering Prayer starts when you use your sacred word. It is used as a way of acknowledging the Divine Indwelling. Consenting to God’s presence is different than “turning on the presence of God” (Keating 1999). It is a way of saying, “Here I am.” The next step is then up to God. In Centering Prayer, you put yourself at God’s disposal. The person is only interested in being open to God so the results are up to God. The third strategy is: “When you become aware of thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word” (p. 139). This rule captures the four Rs of Centering Prayer: Resist no thought, Retain no thought, React to no thought, and Return to the sacred word (Bourgeault 2004). The phrase “ever-so-gently” alerts us to the practice of using the sacred word to release, not suppress, thoughts. By using the sacred word, you return to your original intention to be open to God. Keating (1999) writes, “Your only activity is the attention you offer to God either implicitly by letting go of all thoughts or explicitly by returning to the sacred word” (p.82). The final rule is, “At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes” (p. 139). The standard time for one formal period of Centering Prayer is 20 min. Once the 20 min is complete, the final period of silence is designed to help the person transition into daily life, maintaining an attitude of silence and attention to God. A more complete understanding of Centering Prayer requires more than this brief introduction to the simple guidelines of Centering Prayer. Therefore, in the next section, we will explore Centering Prayer more thoroughly by comparing it with mindfulness. Since Jon Kabat-Zinn (1990, 1994, 2005) is the most frequently cited author on mindfulness training, we will appeal primarily to his writings.
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Comparison of centering prayer and mindfulness
At first glance, the purposes of mindfulness and Centering Prayer seem very similar. First, both forms of mindful practice are seeking for a distinctive connection. In mindfulness, this special relationship is with the present moment. A mindful exercise is anything that brings the practitioner back to awareness of the present moment of experience (Germer 2005a). Mindfulness includes a conscious desire to abandon one’s agenda to have a different experience, and it involves embracing whatever one is thinking, sensing, or feeling. Approaching experiences this way allows them to become more vivid and more bright. Through the lens of mindfulness, “Ordinary experiences may be seen as extraordinary” (Kabat-Zinn 1990, p. 154). Centering Prayer also fosters a special connection; however, this bond is with God. Keating (1999) declares that Centering Prayer is about awakening us to the presence of God. He argues that the Divine presence is available to us at every moment, but our worldview blocks out this awareness. Since the human condition is a felt separation from God, Centering Prayer is the remedy for this disease. Pennington (1999) writes, “Centering Prayer is but responding to the offer of the intimacy of divine friendship” (p. 121). Through contemplation, a person is able to access the experience of God’s presence within us. In Centering Prayer, a person is able to have the experience that Jesus had of God as Abba (Keating 2005). Pennington (1982) writes, “When we go to the center, we leave behind time and place and separateness. We come to our source” (p. 92). The second goals of mindfulness and Centering Prayer are even more similar. The practice of mindfulness helps people wake-up to who they are. This idea of “waking-up” resides within Buddhism, because the word “Buddha” simply means that one has awakened to his or her own true nature. Kabat-Zinn (1994) says that mindfulness is “fundamentally about being in touch with our deepest nature” (p. 45). In another place, Kabat-Zinn (1990) states that in mindfulness, we learn to become aware of “something deeper within ourselves, a discerning wisdom” (p. 29). He adds (1990) that mindfulness has “no goal other than for you to be yourself” (p. 37). How does one become oneself, according to mindfulness? The answer, according to Kabat-Zinn (1990) is to simply realize that “you are already there” (p. 37). Perhaps more than anything else, mindfulness helps people realize that “they are already whole” (p. 95). Through mindfulness, people examine who they are and find greater self-acceptance. Kabat-Zinn (2005) writes, “Isn’t it time for us to discover that we are already larger than we allow ourselves to know?” (p. 125). We find that the goal of Centering Prayer is also about “waking-up” to who we are. By leaving behind thoughts, feelings, and images, people can “assent wholly to being who we are” (Pennington 1982, p. 89). According to Centering Prayer, when we return to our center, there is nothing left to do. We are already being who we are. Keating (2005) observes that the regular practice of silence allows God an opening through which the image of God within us is awakened. Jones (2003) points out that in contemplation we see the image of God within us and we reflect that divine presence. Both Centering Prayer and mindfulness give similar responses to the question: What obstacles get in the way of discovering who we are? There are two primary obstacles, according to mindfulness. First, our thinking, colored by past experiences, interferes with accessing that other part of ourselves. Therefore, according to mindfulness, we need to stop, be present, and let go of our thoughts. It is difficult to stop and be present though, because we are so active “doing.” However, by shifting into the “being” mode—this is what mindfulness does—we are able to “let go of the past and future and wake up to what we are
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now, in this moment” (Kabat-Zinn 1994, p. 14). In mindfulness, we learn that “we are not our thoughts, we can watch them come and go and learn not to cling to them or run after them” (Kabat-Zinn 1990, p. 440). The second obstacle to realizing one’s wholeness, according to mindfulness, it the “selfing habit” (Kabat-Zinn 2005, p. 17). This phrase refers to the human tendency to define ourselves. Mindfulness teaches us that we are always being hounded by the fear that we are less than we think we are. We constantly feel incomplete. As a result, we endlessly participate in the process of creating new stories about ourselves. However, according to Kabat-Zinn, stories, by their very nature, limit us from realizing our full selfhood. As long as we are attached to these stories, we will have a limited view of ourselves. Kabat-Zinn (2005) writes,“You are not who or what you think you are. We are much larger, and more mysterious. Once we know this, our possibilities for creativity expand enormously” (p. 329). Centering Prayer also is a process of leaving behind thoughts in general, and thoughts about the self in particular, in order to get in touch with our entire selfhood. First, Centering Prayer is about letting go of thoughts. By withdrawing our attention from the ordinary flow of our thoughts, Centering Prayer is designed to make us aware that we are not just our thoughts. Centering Prayer is a method that teaches practitioners how to handle the thoughts that arise by letting them go. By releasing your thoughts, you can enter into the “being” mode. Keating (1999) writes of Centering Prayer, “It is an exercise in being rather than doing” (p. 85). Centering Prayer is also a process of leaving behind thoughts about the self. According to Centering Prayer, people look outside of themselves to construct an image of themselves. However, Centering Prayer is about looking in another direction, to the center, to see who we are. We are more than our thoughts or stories tell us about ourselves, Centering Prayer teaches us. The constructs of self that occur in our heads or in society are limiting, so we need to release them. Instead, Pennington (1999) observes “we come to know ourselves really only in the eyes of someone who loves us” (p. 90). This someone is the one Jesus called Abba. Since letting go of thoughts is so important in Centering Prayer and mindfulness, they each suggest a method for accomplishing this end. As we noticed earlier, Centering Prayer makes use of a sacred word or one’s breathing. Once you realize that you are attracted to a thought, you use the word or breath to return your intention towards God. In mindfulness, the basic instructions for sitting meditation are very simple: “We observe the breathe as it flows in and out…And whenever we find that our attention has moved elsewhere, wherever that may be, we just note it and let go and gently escort our attention back to the breath, back to the rising and falling of our own belly” (Kabat-Zinn 1990, p. 64). Even if your attention to the breath wanders off a hundred times, and you have to bring your attention back to the breath a hundred times, it is good, because you are building your powers of concentration, just as muscles develop by repetitively lifting weights. Already, from the previous discussion, we can see that mindfulness places more emphasis on the body than does Centering Prayer. The three major formal techniques practiced in MBSR are hatha yoga, body scan, and sitting meditation. In the sitting meditation, as you tune into your breathing and notice the sensations of your chest and belly rising and falling, you can work at being in your body. The body scan is a method of checking in with and listening to and relaxing every region of the body systematically. This helps people develop greater familiarity with their bodies also. Finally, hatha yoga consists in gentle stretching and strengthening exercises. They are done very slowly, with present awareness of breathing and bodily sensations, as one puts oneself into various postures.
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In Centering Prayer, the attitude toward the body is very different. Pennington (1999) states that posture is important, but he does not want to give it too much attention. He does say that one should be comfortable and one’s back should be straight when one practices Centering Prayer. Poor posture can hinder the process of prayer. Pennington even realizes that a bit of exercise before Centering Prayer can be useful if it relaxes the body. However, he makes it clear that exercises are in no way a part of the method. Exercise is peripheral to Centering Prayer, because there is no desire to burden people with certain types of bodily rituals. How much time should be spent in contemplation? Kabat-Zinn (1994) states that mindfulness has little to do with clock time, observing that 5 min of formal practice can be as profound as 45 min. The sincerity of your effort matters more than elapsed time. He says that if one can only manage 5 min, or even 1 min of mindfulness at first, that is good. Remembering to shift from doing to being for even a short while is a valuable practice. Thich Nhat Hanh (1976), a Buddhist monk who influenced Linehan to integrate mindfulness into her model of psychotherapy, recommends that beginners sit no longer than 20 or 30 min. He observes that it takes 10 to 20 min for your thoughts to “quiet down like a pond on which not even a ripple stirs” (p. 21). The instructions in Centering Prayer are similar to those of Thich Nhat Hanh. Pennington (1999) recommends a period of 20 min for beginners. However, if a person is unable to Center for 20 min, he recommends letting them Center for whatever amount of time that they are able. Finally, both forms of contemplation suggest that there are two types of contemplation. One form is formal, whereas the other is informal. When mindfulness is being practiced formally, people may be provided with audiocassettes or CDs that guide them through mindfulness meditation exercises. Formal practice is designed to help bring attitudes of mindfulness into a person’s daily life. As people become more aware of what is happening in the present moment, they become more aware of possibilities. This is the case because experiences happen in the present. Only with moment to moment awareness can people notice aspects of their lives that they were ignoring. Mindfulness can be practiced as people bring mindfulness to ordinary activities such as eating, walking, or even washing the dishes. Nhat Hanh (1976) writes, “Be mindful 24 h a day, not just during the 1 h you may allot for formal meditation…Each act must be carried out in mindfulness” (p. 24). Centering Prayer also recognizes that formal times of contemplation are designed to help people carry the same attitude into their daily lives in an informal way. Keating (1999) observes that the experience of God’s presence during Centering Prayer activates our capacity to perceive God in normal, everyday events. Keating (1999) writes, “The ripe fruit of contemplative prayer is to bring back into the humdrum routines of daily life the spontaneous awareness of His abiding Presence in, through, and beyond everything” (p. 115). Brother Lawrence, a layman who worked in a French monastery kitchen during the seventeenth-century, provides us with a wonderful model of informal Christian contemplation. Brother Lawrence (1666/2005) writes, “We need only to recognize God intimately with us, to address ourselves to Him every moment” (p. 32). For him, prayer was reminding himself of the presence of God. Brother Lawrence writes,
The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees. (p. 12)
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In summary, in this section, we have learned more about Centering Prayer by comparing it with mindfulness, a well-researched mindful practice. First, we notice that both types of contemplation have a similar goal; that is, helping practitioners wake-up to who they are. In addition, both forms of mindful practice agree that there is nothing people have to do to accomplish this goal. They are already whole, if they will only realize it. Mindfulness and Centering Prayer both share the goal of obtaining a special connection. The emphasis in mindfulness is upon connecting with the present moment. Accomplishing this goal through mindfulness opens great possibilities for the practitioner. In contrast, Centering Prayer draws attention to a person’s union with God. Having made this distinction, both Centering Prayer and mindfulness highlight the present moment. Mindfulness teaches that we only have the present experience, while the practice of Centering recognizes that God resides in the current moment. Both types of mindful practice share similar ideas about what interferes with waking up and connecting with the present moment. They recognize two major obstacles: thoughts and the propensity to create images of ourselves. Both mindfulness and Centering Prayer teach practitioners how to let go of thoughts. Letting go of constructed stories about the self is particularly important, because these self-made images of the self limit people from realizing their wholeness. Both methods acknowledge that we can only transcend ourselves when we let go of the pull to define ourselves. How do these two types of contemplative mindful practice accomplish this important task of letting go of thoughts? They both recommend catching a thought, gently releasing it, and changing one’s attention. In mindfulness, the target of one’s concentration is typically the breath, whereas, in Centering Prayer, people refocus their attention, or intention, upon God. Both systems suggest 20 min for a formal time of contemplation. However, the goal in both forms of contemplation is to take the contemplative attitude into daily life. By maintaining mindfulness, a person can be aware of present experiences. By remaining Centered, a person can be alert to the presence of God in daily events. The goals, obstacles, skills, and methods of Centering Prayer are very similar to mindfulness, one of the hottest growth areas in the field of psychotherapy. Kabat-Zinn has deleted references to Buddhism in his brand of mindfulness, but Centering Prayer obviously retains it religious roots. Its purposes, strategies, and ideas about present experiences maintain a focus upon God. Built upon this understanding of the practice of Centering Prayer, we now turn our attention to its implications for psychotherapy. Why do people need counseling? What is the purpose of psychotherapy? What psychotherapeutic skills and benefits occur when Centering Prayer is integrated into psychotherapy? What methods are available for integrating Centering Prayer into counseling? These questions are addressed in the next section.
Integrating centering prayer and psychotherapy
Need for and goals of counseling
Centering Prayer, as a mindful practice, is useful in psychotherapy because it helps us understand why people need counseling. According to mindful awareness practices, there are two major determinants of human mental suffering. Siegel (2007) identifies the first cause of internal stress as the tension within the mind between what is and what should be.
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This refers to the mind’s tendency to grasp onto certain conceptualizations of the world and to filter experiences through these views. ACT, as a counseling approach that utilizes mindfulness, refers to this problem as fusion (Strosahl et al. 2004). Hayes and his colleagues (Hayes et al. 2004) define fusion as the tendency of people to live in a world overly structured by language. They (Hayes et al. 2004) write, “Language is at the core of the remarkable human tendency to suffer in the midst of plenty” (p. 3). Mental suffering is the result of the narrowing effects of language in three key areas. First, language tends to fuse one’s thinking about the event with the event itself (Hayes et al. 2004). In other words, one’s thinking about reality gets confused with reality itself. It becomes virtually impossible for people to distinguish their languagebased concepts of the world from the world that they directly experience. Next, language tends to draw focus away from the present moment into the past and future (Strosahl et al. 2004). After people conceptualize the past, they tend to assume that the future will repeat the past. Finally, language enables people to evaluate events. For example, certain situations are evaluated as good or bad, true of false. As a result of the evaluative process, people seek out preferred states and push away nonpreferred states. Some experiences are owned while other ones are disowned. Morgan and Morgan (2005) refer to this tendency to resist experience as clinging and they view it as central to mental suffering. The second cause of suffering, according to Odenski (2005), is our misunderstanding of the nature of the self. This second cause is related to the first, because it is our conceptualization of the self that leads us to a limited view of the self. We end up accepting a view of the self that is simply a product of language and the mind (Siegel 2007). This language-based version of self allows us to carry our identities into the world and to interact with the world in predictable ways. Siegel (2007) states, “Our personal identity is real, but it’s not the whole deal” (p. 130). In other words, the self is capable of so much more but it is restricted by language and our perceptions of reality. A form of psychotherapy that is informed by Centering Prayer can directly alleviate the suffering in clients’ lives. This healing comes about as we accomplish two goals of therapy. What are the outcomes of an approach that integrates psychotherapy and Centering Prayer? Siegel (2007) offers us two desired goals of such an approach. First, an integrated approach would free clients from the restraints of language (Siegel 2007). As a mindful practice, Centering Prayer helps clients see how their minds work and it helps them let go of a rigid identification with the activities of the mind. As clients learn to be in the moment, they learn to let go of evaluations and conceptualizations. By disentangling themselves from the chatter of the mind, clients learn that thoughts are passing events of the mind. Building upon Siegel’s ideas (2007), a second goal of an integrated approach can be identified. That is, a model that incorporates Centering Prayer will allow access to one’s deeper primary self, which Siegel calls the ipseitious self. This deeper sense of self is more commonly referred to in the literature as the tran

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