What do centering prayer, crate training and Barbara Brown Taylor have in common?

Quiet time for Miss Liberty Belle

As my friend Diane read from Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark during a recent prayer call, I felt tension in my body ease, my heart soften and my attention draw within. My mind, body and heart came together in focused attention that allowed me to let go of everything else and just be present with my friends to pray.

It’s similar to what happens when Liberty goes into her crate. Sometimes she fusses for a few minutes or squeaks her racoon or Little Lampchop, but soon her energy softens and she relaxes into the loving containment of her safe place. Her crate is her private doggie den where she gets to be safe and secure in solitude. The crate provides an external source of energy regulation–forcing her to slow down and rest when her tired but spirited little puppy self wants to keep playing.

Weeks of traveling in Ireland and adjusting to this spunky new member of our household severely disrupted my usual prayer life. As my wise friend Kristin Ritzau suggested,  perhaps the disruption of delighting in Liberty is the prayer. Certainly the hours I spent in mindful wonder as we drove and walked the green lands of Ireland were a form of prayer. Yet, the specific practice of centering prayer is a form of mental hygiene for me. My mind is sharper, calmer and more focused when I practice my 20 minutes of letting go and just being present.

Dog expert Cesar Milan says that dogs need to know that their pack leader is clearly setting the rules, boundaries and limitations for their life both inside and outside the house. Crate training is one of the ways we provide that for Liberty. Centering prayer and spiritual reading are ways God does that for me. In prayer I surrender to the truth that I am not the ultimate leader of the pack. I am responsible for doing my part with my life, but ultimate outcomes are beyond my control.

What helps you be still, calm down, let go of tension, rest and trust that you are enough, you do enough, you have enough? What practices liberate you from the fear that if you don’t keep going you’ll miss out on something? Where do you find your quiet times throughout the day that allow you to connect to the peace and ease that is your true nature?

When will you make time and space for that today? Or this week? I think you’ll be glad you did.