These are anxious times indeed as we hunker down and await Hurricane Dorian’s movement through our area. Continue to pray for the people of the Bahamas, especially those on the Island of Grand Bahama as they weather the storm as I write these words.
In moments of anxiety or even fear, I have found that praying the “Welcoming Prayer” is an important contemplative practice for me to experience Christ’s presence in the midst of my anxiety or fear. The “Welcoming Prayer,” as taught by Mary Mrozowski, Cynthia Bourgeault, Thomas Keating, Richard Rohr and others seeks to invite you not to ignore, repress or even disassociate from your unpleasant feelings or feelings of emotional upset, but instead, use them as an invitation to enter into the presence of the Spirit of Christ.
To begin, take a few moments to center yourself in silence. Find a quiet place to sit down and close your eyes. Pay attention to what you are physically feeling in your body. If you are feeling anxious, what does that anxiety feel like in your body? Is your chest tight? Is your heart pounding? Do you have shortness of breath? If you are fearful, how is that fear manifesting itself physically within your body?
If this is the first time you have tried this kind of practice, it may take some time to “listen” to your body and to identify your physical feelings, but stay with this practice until you are able to identify them. Once you have identified your physical feelings that are the manifestations of your emotional upset, simply “welcome” them. In your mind, or even out loud say, “welcome anxiety,” or “welcome fear.” Do not try to analyze your feelings, don’t try to figure out why you are feeling something or if you are justified feeling this way (and by the way, just for the record, if you are feeling anxious or fearful because a hurricane approaches, you are indeed justified in feeling anxious and fearful). Also, don’t try to suppress your feeling of anxiety or fear, don’t beat yourself up for feeling this way. Simply acknowledge your feeling, both the emotional feeling and the physical feeling in your body, and welcome it.
After you have “welcomed” your upset, surround it with the light of Christ’s healing presence. Say to yourself, in silence or aloud, “welcome anxiety (or fear etc.) you are loved, you are surrounded by the compassionate presence of the Spirit of Jesus.” As you continue, imagine the Spirit of Jesus beaming a bright light of love, mercy, compassion, presence, and peace to the very place in your body that is manifesting the feeling of upset. If you are feeling tight chested and your heart is pounding, use your imagination to visualize the Spirit of Jesus beaming rays of loving, healing, and compassionate light straight into your chest. Intentionally try to sit in the moment aware that in your upset you are in Christ’s presence, that Jesus is literally holding you in his arms, embracing you, hugging you, and caring for you in this moment of upset.
As you feel your upset (fear or anxiety) naturally subside, offer a prayer of surrender to conclude your time. Say the following: “I let go of my desire for safety and security; I let go of my desire for power and control; I let go of my desire for esteem and affection; I let go of my desire to change things. I let go and I let Jesus. In Christ’s name, Amen.”
It’s important to note that this is a practice that you will need to enter into fairly regularly, especially if you are in a period of acute upset. Praying this prayer does not mean that you will never feel anxiety or fear ever again. In fact, it means just the opposite; praying this prayer will help you realize and embrace the reality that as human beings we will feel anxiety and fear and upset quite a lot. Our task is not to suppress these feelings, but allow them to usher us, in our fragility, into Christ’s presence. In many ways, we are embracing our fragility and allowing that to lead us into places of deeper intimacy with the Spirit of Jesus. You may find that over these next few days, you will need to practice this “welcoming prayer” frequently or even continually.
Know that Jesus is with you, right now. Know also that I am praying for you.