A Open Letter From Joanna Brunson
"I knew that my Centering Prayer practice had the greatest effect on my life, and I wanted that for others. I still feel that way. I believe that encouraging others, through Centering Prayer, to partake in the ‘Art of Letting Go,” is the best way for me to make a difference in this world."
Centering Prayer has been my method of contemplative prayer for almost ten years. Within a couple of years after I first began, I knew my ability to “let go and let God” had been greatly improved and I wanted to encourage others to begin the practice.
In 2013 I was accepted to the Living School, a Wisdom School started by Richard Rohr, who also founded the Center for Action and Contemplation located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. One of the requirements for attending was to have daily contemplative practice. So, I needed to find out what that looked like. I had a prayer practice with my list of things and people I was grateful for and people I was holding up to the Lord for various reasons. I read and reflected on scripture. I’d add one or two rote prayers. I had thought that I was good, but now I knew I needed to add contemplative practice.
For both Richard Rohr and Cynthia Bourgeault (one of the other faculty members of the Living School), Centering Prayer was their contemplative practice. If Centering Prayer was what they were doing, that’s what I would do. I signed up for a six-hour Introductory Workshop at St. Mary’s in Sewanee, Tennessee: in six hours I learned how to pray contemplatively.
Another requirement for the Living School was to complete a project applying the enriched spirituality that we had learned. Some fellow students wrote books, and a dear friend organized pilgrimages to Assisi. I chose to start Centering Prayer groups in Columbus, GA where I lived. With all the reading, listening and conversations I had had during my two years of Living School, I knew that my Centering Prayer practice had the greatest effect on my life, and I wanted that for others.
I still feel that way. I believe that encouraging others, through Centering Prayer, to partake in the ‘Art of Letting Go,” is the best way for me to make a difference in this world.
I first noticed the effect of Centering Prayer on my life in the workplace. I am a type A person, always moving, solving issues. I am a go-getter and problem solver. If I needed to speak to my boss, I’d wear a hole in the carpet, circling until I would see no one was in his office or if he was off the phone. I needed attention now!!! After a year or so of practicing Centering Prayer, I found myself waiting in my office, sending an email request for a meeting instead. He wasn’t one to respond quickly--thus my previous circling behavior. But now I’d wait until he came by, or I’d meet him on my way to get coffee. I began to realize I just needed to wait, and the right time would always present itself. The folks I worked with noticed the changes too. After always being too busy, I was more relaxed and approachable. My peers sought me out more for advice, and my work relationships slowly changed for the better.
In addition to my studies with the CAC’s Living School, I have been trained as a Spiritual Guide through An Croi, a Celtic wisdom institution located in Louth, Ireland. I also completed the Cardoner Companion training at St Thomas More Catholic church, where I am a member. I lead two Centering Prayer groups at STM, one over Zoom and the other in-person.
I am grateful for the trust placed in me, as I take on the responsibilities of Coordinator of the Atlanta chapter of Contemplative Outreach. I won’t try to replace Maggie. It’s not really possible and luckily, it’s not necessary. Maggie has assembled our team of folks who contribute greatly and beautifully to Contemplative Outreach Atlanta. I am depending on you. Although Maggie is moving away physically, she’ll remain an integral part of Contemplative Outreach Atlanta. She has agreed to coordinate our Saturday Big Sits that she initiated and that have been so well attended by Centering Prayer practitioners from all over the world. So as coordinator, my job will be to simply coordinate and rely on all of you to continue the great work you have been doing these past five years. I look forward to our working together.