Welcoming Prayer is a tool to help quickly center and hopefully reduce painful emotional responses.
Listen to a 2.5 minute introduction to the welcoming prayer :
It’s purpose is to help one “let go and let God,” naturally heal old emotional wounds, and show you better paths to take in life. People who know how to effectively use Welcoming Prayer can often quickly recover from an upsetting situation within just a few seconds. For example, it can be used to help you sleep by clearing the mind of bad feelings that wake you up in the middle of the night. Practitioners also eventually start seeing life more clearly because they naturally repeat less blind, unconscious, survival reactions.
A variety of emotional & physical knee jerk reactions were stored during childhood deep within your body to help you “survive.” An example might be the fight or flight reactions to unusual noises. Many of these automatic reactions are quite useful for dealing with simple physical threats; however, in a more complex world, blind reactions often make the situation worse.
Welcoming Prayer is designed to lead to better cooperation between your big-me, your higher self, and your little-me, the survival conditioning that has accumulated over time within your body. By welcoming blind emotional reactions for what they are — automatic survival mechanisms — one begins to see them from an observer’s viewpoint rather than from a victim’s viewpoint.
Welcoming Prayer starts by deeply experiencing feelings within your body and then welcoming your increased awareness of these feelings. This awareness naturally leads to healing and to better solutions. Letting go of your little-me‘s death grip on these feelings allows them to naturally pass by and disappear, like leaves floating by on a stream.
Welcoming Prayer Process
You can try the Welcoming Prayer process and learn more about it by reading the resources below. Many have experienced almost magical relief by using it. When you have an overly emotional experience in daily life, take a moment (5-10 seconds) to be still and to follow these steps:
Focus on the precise feelings, physical pains or other such sensations you are experiencing. A simple definition of feelings is that they are physical sensations within your body. We often ignore these sensations or they are so subtle we don’t notice them in daily life; but, if you start looking for them, you will notice specific feelings that are definitely coming up in specific situations. “Gently become aware of your body and your interior state.”
Try to precisely identify these feelings (i.e., physical sensations). Even if a feeling is somewhat nonspecific, like anxiety about unknown concerns, you will still experience subtle physical sensations that you can notice if you look for them.
Allow the feeling to sink in and really feel it. Don’t try to escape it or fight it. Stay with this process until you connect to the feeling on a physical level. Often fully experiencing a feeling causes it to just naturally dissipate on its own. In order to let them go (discussed later), you have to fully own them.
Try to name the feeling if possible. If you can’t name it then still get very clear on exactly where it is and how it physically feels within your body. You are trying to enhance your abilities to precisely identify physical sensations (i.e., feelings) that affect you and putting a name tag on them can sometimes help you remember them from before.
The more I practice the more I notice that many of my feelings, i.e., physical sensations of bad or good, cannot be easily named. So, I just focus on welcoming the physical sensation rather than any named feeling. If I had to name them some might be called unpleasantness, anxiety, tropism, etc. However, it is often easier just to mentally note a particular sensation exists in my neck, heart, stomach or mouth without trying to name it.
Saying “welcome, welcome, welcome” three times is one way to welcome the Holy Spirit in the feeling. I will sometimes repeat the welcome word many more than the minimum three times recommended.
• Welcome your increasing awareness of your emotional and physical knee jerk reactions and their triggers. Becoming aware of the specifics of a negative feeling is a positive thing well worth welcoming.
• Welcome that increased awareness enhances the ways you will begin to deal with realities. You will become more mature and in harmony with life.
• Welcome that “this too shall pass.” It is possible let go of painful feelings (i.e., let God handle it) and allow them pass by naturally on their own. Let them go in a way similar to the way you would let go of your attention to a leaf floating by on a stream. Another helpful tip is to realize that past memories & future worries do not exist in the present; so, be here now!
• Welcome the opportunity to practice, during your daily activities, going along with God’s will rather than your own. Thy will be done … for my own good.
One way of thinking that seems to work for me is to “welcome” the detailed awareness of the feeling since awareness seems to lead automatically to its dissipation. I’ve read that it is unconscious feelings which do the emotional damage, not the conscious ones. That’s an excellent reason to welcome your increasing conscious awareness of them.
Another way to welcome the feeling is to name it and say to yourself something like “welcome fear,” “welcome anger,” or “welcome” whatever other feeling you may have. By welcoming your physical and emotional reactions to events and situations in daily life you are surrendering to God’s presence and God’s action within your life. Of course this is directly opposite to the natural resistance your ego has to such situations.
Thomas Keating, one of the founders of the Contemplative Meditation movement says, in Open Mind, Open Heart (p.99), that “If you can embrace the painful feeling, whatever it is, as if it were God, you are uniting yourself with God, because anything that has reality has God as its foundation.” He says ” I welcome everything that comes to me today because I know it’s for my healing.” If you believe God is good then verbally welcoming the emotion God is giving you helps you recognize that it is there for your own good.
You are only welcoming your actual physical feeling in each moment and not passively accepting situations that are intolerable. Once you open to your inner experience, without indulging or feeding your reactive ego, your response to the outer world will be much clearer and more decisive. You can begin responding from a state of awareness instead of automatically reacting.
4. Let Go
“Let go and let God” handle life including this particular situation. Another statement some people prefer is “I cast my burden on the Christ within.” Another is “relax and release.”
You can let go by repeating one or more of the following sentences which will apply to most situations:
• “I let go of the desire to change this feeling.”
• “I let go of my desire for security, affection or control.”
• “I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person or myself.”.
These are phrases describing your intention to totally surrender to God’s will in the situation. Turn the feeling or emotion over to God and let it go. Many find to their surprise that, after going through the Welcoming Prayer process, the feeling has completely dissipated. For others sometimes that will happen and sometimes not. If you experience resistance from your reactive ego at any stage or the feeling has not completely dissipated then try going through the process again starting at the top.
Practicing Contemplative or Centering Prayer Meditation enhances your ability to become more aware of bodily sensations and then to let go of thoughts and feelings as they float by. Thus more meditative practice can make the Welcoming Prayer process more effective.
Clear your mind just like you do during Contemplative Meditation. Practice getting into the here and now and let thoughts and feelings pass by without getting attached to them.
If the feelings you were welcoming persist then repeat the entire welcoming prayer process, especially the parts your tend to get stuck at. Often repetition will accomplish the trick of completely removing a burden from your mind or at least it will help. Practice makes perfect.
Thank you to Thought-Management tools, tips, ideas, discussion
Note: The commentary above relies heavily on and includes quotations from these resources. Look them over yourself.
- learningtopray.blogspot.com – Good background quotes from authoritative sources such as Thomas Keating.
- davidsonumc.org – “The reason for paying attention to your body and your interior state is that the mind deceives. … There is never a thought, feeling or emotion that does not have a corresponding body sensation. Each experience is imprinted in every cell of our body.”
- meaningandauthenticity.blogspot.com – Excerpts from Cynthia Borgeault’s book Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening.
- bustedhalo.com – Commentary on Welcoming Prayer.
- contemplativeoutreach.org – The practice of the welcoming prayer by the Contemplative Outreach organization.
- Further discussion of Welcoming Prayer