What Centering Is and Is Not

Technically, centering is NOT meditation.  This is a very important distinction every student of meditation should know and discern, because many students are misled into thinking that their initial or introductory centering practice is already the very practice of meditation, itself.  As a result, they fail to enter into the true meditative state at the shortest developmental time possible, or they miss out on experiencing deeper states, stages or levels of meditation. It can delay or impede one’s spiritual development and journey along the path.

During my early spiritually formative years when I was trying to learn the practice of meditation from various “new age” or faddish schools and systems of pseudo-spirituality, I was introduced to many techniques, methods, exercises and practices that were being passed off as “meditation.”  Over time, however, I began to discern correctly and to “separate the chaff from the grain” where meditation was concerned. It was then that I further realized what the teaching of “the blind leading the blind” meant.

Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?”

Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.”
(The Gospel According to Matthew 15:12-14, NLT)

There is a real difference between practices and exercises that are intended to prepare an individual physically, mentally and emotionally for meditation, and the actual practice and experience of meditation, itself. These are centering practices intended normally as a discipline on the mind-body continuum, to disengage the mind from what is known as “everyday human awareness” and to take the individual into a deeply relaxed state of mind — the alpha-theta bridge referred to in the neuroscience of brainwave pattern functionality.

Students should be made aware that centering as a practice or process is not, in itself, the end and all of spiritual practice; rather, centering is only a means to a further end which is the experience of true meditation. Centering is very relaxing, and the relaxation experience it produces is usually mistaken for actual meditation. As the cliché goes, it is only a meditation on one’s belly button. Not knowing this vital distinction often makes the student complacent with his or her current centering practice as THE spiritual practice of any lifetime. Such an attitude will prevent the student from actively exploring and pursuing authentic meditation practice.

      Centering is NOT meditation. Centering is a preparation for meditation.

Meditation does not occur until the mind enters a state or dimension of inner stillness and silence — known in various spiritual systems as resting in the presence of God or simply resting in God, or experiencing emptiness or the void, or entering the Holy of Holies, or seeking refuge in the Secret Place of the Most High, and other euphemisms to describe a common meditative state of mind in which individual consciousness has disengaged fully from its everyday human awareness.

On the other hand, centering is only a preparation for the experience of meditation.  Its primary function is to detach awareness from “material sense” or to disengage the mind from “everyday human awareness.”

Centering Practice Model

(Make sure that the free PowerPoint Viewer by Microsoft is installed in your computer system.)

Centering is critical and extremely vital especially to beginners for several reasons:

  • Centering allows the meditator to disengage or detach from what is termed “everyday human awareness.”  It frees awareness to gravitate toward one’s center of being, away from the heavily encrusted circumference of the human condition (the human state of awareness).
    Diagram of Human Attachment to Material Sense
  • Centering prepares the meditator by cultivating the essential qualities of openness and receptivity in awareness. It is likened to tilling the ground soil of the human mind.
    Diagram for "Fertile Soil of the Mind"
  • In neuroscientific parlance, centering functionally allows the brain to switch from an active and busy beta brainwave pattern, which is characteristic of externally-oriented human brain activity, to the slower, relaxed alpha brainwave pattern, which is ideal for doing prayer, affirmation, or other similar metaphysical (mind) practice using thoughts and ideas while engaging the intellect mind. Centering is a valuable tool in preparing individual consciousness for contemplation practice. (Refer to the immediate diagram above which shows how the psyche is affected by the practice of both centering and contemplation.)
  • The alpha state, which results from centering, readily facilitates a shift to the theta state of brainwave pattern, which is the actual state of mind a seasoned meditator will normally experience, especially during contemplation.
    Diagram comparing Alpha and Theta States of the Brain
  • Centering acclimatizes the human mind and accustomizes the body to the sensation and experience of sitting quietly over a period of time without actively engaging the thinking mind with its usual mental chatter and rambling thought patterns. It is a self-discipline requiring personal commitment and practice regularity. It disciplines the mind to quiet the emotions and the thinking proceas as the meditator sinks into deepening relaxation states fully alert and aware, without falling into the sleep state.
    Diagram for "God's Time Is NOW"
  • Centering slows down the individual to a point where the “here and now” can be experienced by the meditator as a continuous flow of ever-present moments, without the many stresses of worldly life and without the reference points of the past or the future.
    Diagram of "Past and Future in Now"

Always remember the significant distinction between mere centering, on the one hand, >and contemplation or meditation, on the other hand. Do not confuse one for the other. Each serves a definite yet different purpose in the scheme of the spiritual journey. Both play important roles in your spiritual growth as your tools for unfolding mystical consciousness, and you need to cultivate them in devotional tandem to progress along the path.

Bearing all of these in mind, do not let yourself be led astray on your spiritual journey by the many alluring paths in this world.

(The preceding post is taken from our site’s page titled “Centering as Practice or as Prayer.” For more information on the topic of centering, please visit the page to read the article in full.)

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About Marc of Contemplative Pathways

Marc teaches contemplative meditation in the context of contemporary mysticism. His understanding of the mystical life is rooted in close to 40 years of study, practice, unfoldment, realization and experience, in the course of which he has received the gifts of spiritual discernment and transmission. His teaching work meaningfully shifts consciousness in a student through the process and alchemy of mystical transformation.   Marc facilitates the mystical teachings under the style of Contemplative Pathways. He enables others to embark on the spiritual journey by learning and understanding the Truth teaching and by living its principles. He has been conducting classes and meditation meetings in the San Francisco Bay Area for over fifteen years in a classroom, lecture, workshop, online meeting, or group practice setting.   His methodology of instruction is divinely inspired and firmly rooted in pure authentic mysticism. His approach to the mystical life is essentially nondenominational, nonsectarian, culturally interfaith, spiritually transreligious, and definitively unitive and nondualistic. His other contributions to worldwide spiritual awakening and the global contemplative movement include spiritual mentoring and spiritual healing practice.   Within the context of the great shift in consciousness now occurring all over the planet, Marc’s work presently focuses on individual and collective spiritual transformation and healing. He promotes the practice of contemplation or meditation as the vehicle for transcendence and ascension to the higher dimensions of mystical consciousness.   Marc is firmly committed to the vision of a global spiritual awakening and the divine promise of humanity’s mystical illumination.  
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