Here are some thoughts about the practice of Welcoming Prayer and how it might help us better deal with specific emotional pains encountered in life.
The purpose of Welcoming Prayer is to practice consenting to God’s presence and to his actions in our life even when pain is being experienced. By responding with Welcoming Prayer, rather than letting the ego automatically react, one can begin to recognize and then emotionally digest hidden emotional blocks.
The most common human reaction to emotional pain is a knee-jerk like rush to escape as quickly as possible. However, such thoughtless habitual reactions do not usually lead to permanent release from whatever is blocking emotional & spiritual progress. The emotional block just stays there — unrecognized, untouched and still hidden — to fester and come back another day. Welcoming Prayer offers a way to resolve specific emotional blocks.
Welcoming Prayer Process top
- FOCUS on the physical sensations
- FEEL & Sink deeply into the pain
- WELCOME, welcome, welcome God’s lessons
- LET GO and let God handle it
FOCUS on the physical sensations
We humans naturally try to escape or ignore pain rather than to allow and “know” it. Instead, in Welcoming Prayer focus on the precise feelings, physical pains or other such bodily sensations you are experiencing. Focus, feel, sink into the pain rather than try to suppress it.
Deeply FEEL the pain
Rather then immediately jumping away to escape emotional pain, sink deeply into your bodily sensations so that you experience them as fully as possible. Don’t try to intellectually understand or explain these physical sensations. You and your body are quite capable of fully experiencing pain in ways that are impossible to verbally describe. By so doing you become more aware of the truth, of what it “really is.”
- Analogy: When a light is shined on the giant boogie man under the bed you start seeing that he is really just a shadow or perhaps a big box. By seeing the truth more clearly your emotional, intellectual and spiritual parts become better able to comprehend a problem and then start automatically resolving previously undigested pieces of it.
- Analogy: The practice of “counting to 10” before reacting in anger is a simpler example which illustrates the advantage of taking a contemplative break before automatically reacting. By slowing down the reaction then you have more time to better recognize the truth & consequences and to come up with more appropriate responses.
WELCOME, welcome, welcome
Say these words to yourself. What one is welcoming is the conscious awareness of previously hidden feelings. The recognition that these feelings exist naturally begins the internal process of dealing with them.With them welcome God’s presence and his actions even though you don’t comprehend intellectually why God would allow such actions to happen. Realize that God may be using painful means to teach spiritual lessons that you need in order to come closer to heaven within and without. For example, it may take painful means to teach you life lessons about compassion, forgiveness, or handling limitations. Often these lessons involve yourself, e.g., forgiving yourself or having compassion for yourself.What you are welcoming is God and the life he is giving you now and the lessons he is now teaching you. You probably won’t understand the pain, and perhaps never will, but you can welcome it for the ultimate spiritual good which you believe God means for you. Welcoming is a way of consenting to get closer to God and his ultimate goodness.
- Analogy: Deep massages are often painful but you realize that this pain is part of the process of working out muscle spasms and increasing deep tissue blood flows. Therefore, such pain is really something to welcome.
- Analogy: Athletes often experience pain when pushing their bodies to the limit during practice. But, many of the best athletes learn to enjoy such pain because they realize this is the way to improvement.
- Example: Many of us have found that dealing with the death of loved ones is an important lesson in the preciousness of life and love. Death can also teach lessons about the relative unimportance of material things.
- Example: Being so sick that you are worried about dying can, later on, make you more sympathetic and compassionate with others in their sickness.
LET GO & Let God
Let go of the desire to change the feeling and situation. Let go and willingly consent to letting God handle what is happening in his own way.The ultimate solution to life’s most difficult situations is often to fully surrender to God’s power. There are many things about life which the ego/intellect will never understand and will never control no matter how desperate. In fact, this truth may be the life lesson you are being taught. Hitting “rock bottom” is another and even more painful way to learn this same lesson.Realize when a lesson is beyond your corporal powers. Realize that you need a higher power than your own ego and intellect to teach you life’s spiritual lessons. Be open to working with God but let God handle the teaching in his own way and time. God knows best how to teach the unknowable. If not he, when who? Happily, full release to God’s will is often enough on its own to either quickly release the pain or to make it easier to deal with. In any event, stop struggling with the problem and let it work itself out in God’s way and time. That’s what will happen anyway … your egotistical struggles will only slow down the overall process.You may also find that “It is our own resistance to things as they are that causes most of our unhappiness.” “Letting go of your oppositional energy against suffering will actually free you from it.” Consider a fish who must first stopping pulling in order to release a hook from its mouth. This may be another good lesson you learn from practicing Welcoming Prayer.
- Analogy: When learning to float face up in water the water helps lift you if you completely relax. Any tension tends to cause you to sink. So, let go and let God lift you up.
– Thy will be done.
– Let go and let God.
– I can’t. God can. I think I’ll let him.
– Go with the Flow.
– Don’t force it. (Note: you’ve probably already observed that that forcing it does not always work well in the adult world).
Variation on Welcoming Prayer (written months later)
This slight variation adds NAME to the previous Focus, Feel, Welcome, Let Go process.
- FOCUS, FEEL & NAME (do these three things)
Three things to do to increase conscious awareness of deep hidden emotions are (1) Focus on the physical sensations of negative feelings, (2) feel and sink deeply into the pain and (3) name the feelings. Once they are exposed it becomes possible to begin the mental & emotional process of naturally “digesting” them. Unless resolved such feelings can hang around under the surface forever ready to harass you another day. The conscious and unconscious “digestive” process sometimes resolves itself almost immediately or sometimes takes many iterations. Everyone handles different problems at different speeds and, like the related grieving process of moving from denial to acceptance, hiding from reality or suppressing emotion only tends to slow down progress.
- WELCOME, Welcome, Welcome (say ‘welcome’ three or more times and mean it)
What one is welcoming is the conscious awareness of previously hidden feelings. The recognition that these feelings exist begins the natural internal process of dealing with them.
- LET GO and let God handle it (say and do this)
Accepting reality for what it is will often immediately release related negative emotions. When this happens the experience can be similar to noticing the reality of a leaf floating by on a stream and then just letting it disappear downstream out of sight out of mind forever. In any event, beginning to accept reality always helps the conscious & unconscious digestive processes start working. What also helps is a belief (1) in God’s wisdom in allowing such realities and (2) in God’s ability to ultimately handle the situation. While we humans will never completely understand everything that happens in life, we do have the ability to make the conscious, healthy choice to let nature take its natural course.
Possible Benefits top
There are several possible benefits which may occur from The Welcoming Prayer Process. Look for them. Those listed below are mainly conscious. However, realize that most “problems” come from the unconscious and the results of resolving them may not be immediately visible.
- Relief of stress or pain.
- Opening of the emotional blinders.
- You may better see reality so as to make better conscious & unconscious decisions.
- Fewer stupid mistakes due to emotionally reacting rather than appropriately responding.
- Your intuition may improve. God may guide you by giving you intuitive feelings about what to do or not. You may be able to hear a still small voice. Start tuning in to your intuition and learning how to better use it.
Relationship to Centering Prayer top
As an aside, the Welcoming Prayer Method is quite similar in ultimate purpose to Centering Prayer Meditation. Both are ways to consent to God’s presence and God’s actions in one’s life.
Meditation Practice is more proactive in that it is done daily and is a way to steadily open oneself up to God’s presence and to benefit by releasing emotional junk hidden in one’s unconscious. Welcoming Prayer is usually used as a response to a particular pain encountered during daily life. It more specifically welcomes God’s presence in a particular situation and helps to release that particular emotional pain.
Both Welcoming Prayer and Centering Prayer practices help us dissolve our attachments to unconscious habitual reactions by increasing our awareness of the truth. An example is that childhood needs for esteem, control & security often lead to simple reactions (developed and solved in childish ways) that do not work in more complex adult situations. Also, when the habitual agendas of our unconscious dwindle we naturally begin to heal and our natural intention to love (care about) and enjoy life begins to take over.
Related Notes & Links top
- Further discussion of Welcoming Prayer
- Spiritually oriented meditation page
- Watching feelings float by in Welcoming Prayer is quite similar to watching thoughts float by during Contemplative Meditation. Both release emotional “junk” that is hidden in one’s unconscious. Both begin a natural emotional healing process which improves mental health.
- Caveat: These writings are based on my own current, ever developing understanding of the Welcoming Prayer Method. Hopefully they give the reader a few useful bits of information to consider as he or she works to improve their own practice and understanding.
- The writer does not know if God is a “his” or a “her” or an “it.” Most likely, an incomprehensible combination of all of the above. “His” is used as a writing convenience.
- Some readers may have difficulty with the word “God.” For them more useful synonyms for “God” might possible be Force, Source, Life or Nature.
- Sources: The Welcoming Prayer Flyer provided by Contemplative Outreach, The Methodology of Prayer from Daily Meditations by Thomas Keating, and The Practice of Welcoming Prayer by Cherry Haisten. The quotes in the article above come from these sources.
- In addition to handling emotional pain The Welcoming Prayer is also a method for handling physical pain and other struggles in life.
- Example: Money or relationship struggles could well be the result of hidden emotional hang ups that are keeping you from seeing God’s way to real abundance. You can use The Welcoming Prayer to help handle the emotional pain that you feel from these struggles, to help learn whatever spiritual lessons are provided, and to help see and deal better with the realities of life.
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