Philippians 2:5-11 NRSV Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
This passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians focuses on the practice of self-emptying. It seems to lie at the core of the spirit of a Lenten discipline and the practice of giving something up. The passage directs me to my practice with centering prayer and reminds me of a prayer by Nicholas of Flue which I often use to begin or end my centering prayer meditative practice:
My Lord and my God, take away from me everything that distances me from you. My Lord and my God, give me everything that brings me closer to you. My Lord and my God, detach me from myself to give my all to you.
A spiritual director recommended to me journaling as a helpful exercise to do in advance of my centering prayer practice. It allows me to purge all of my thoughts, especially the negative ones, and air my grievances, worries and burdens in private.
Part of this self-emptying journaling practice involves creating a list of the cobwebs that get in the way of my connection with God and my connection to others. That list involves the swirl of daily life including anxiety, anticipation, pettiness, disappointments, hurtful feelings, mistakes, regrets, embarrassment, envy, competitiveness, anger, sadness, the PAST, unrealistic expectations, overindulgences, fears, too much focus on material possessions, denial, pride, inadequacies, grudges and differences.
By letting go of these distractions, I can see God more clearly, and I can see the greater community of humankind more compassionately. The process of letting go is humbling and reminds me to live more by the example of Christ.
This exercise allows me to approach centering prayer with a clearer heart and mind, with more ease and calm. Journaling and centering prayer combined sharpen my senses and my connection to God, allowing me to focus more clearly on the positive and my connection to others in the present. It enables me to focus my gifts and how to give more freely to others.
Admittedly, I have become somewhat lax in my routine discipline of centering prayer. So, as I reassume this discipline, especially during Lent, and mindfully engage in the practice of self-emptying, I am reaching out for God’s hand to walk with me and to make room for everything that brings me closer to Him.
Virginia Bear Banister