For more than two years now, the rhythm of my week has included a small group gathering for Centering Prayer. It started simply as a 6-week offering to both learn and practice this contemplative way of praying. We gathered each Wednesday morning at 9:00, stilling our bodies and minds and opening our hearts to the presence of the Beloved. At the end of the six weeks, that small group of women expressed a desire to continue gathering each week. So we did.
Fast forward to February of this year and the arrival of Frankie, the Wheaten Terrier pup. After three years without a dog – our Westie died in January of 2015 – my husband and I decided it was time to take the plunge again.
Frankie loves our prayer time. It’s actually the influx of people into the house that she really loves. To say that she gets excited when folks start arriving for prayer is a vast understatement. She’s even caught on to the fact that just before folks arrive, I set a table with visual invitations to companion our prayer. That’s her signal; as soon as I start clearing the table to create space for the visual offering, Frankie becomes a wild child. She bolts to the front door with exuberance, running back and forth in a joyful dance. She pauses briefly to peer out the window, unable to contain her excitement as she waits for the first guest to arrive.
Needless to say, practicing group Centering Prayer with a puppy is filled with challenges. She is a puppy after all and expecting her to sit quietly for 20 minutes without disturbing anyone is a bit of a stretch. But, along with the challenges that she’s added to our gathering, she’s also brought great delight. Like the foot washing she regularly performs. She loves feet! And there’s really not a better greeter than Frankie. You know without a doubt that she loves you and is so glad you are here. She’s learned that when the meditation chime goes off, it’s time to settle down; and for the most part, she does. Occasionally we can hear her panting or chewing on her bone. When the chime sounds again to mark the end of our time, she jumps up knowing that it’s okay to love on everyone again.
Welcoming Frankie into our circle is like welcoming the Spirit into our midst. It is a wild and uncontrollable thing! The group has dubbed her the “spiritual puppy.” Her presence often brings unexpected challenges and delights. She helps me practice at letting go – that’s a vital part of Centering Prayer. Her panting noises invite me to recall the psalmist’s words, “as a deer pants for water, so I long for you, O God.” Her exuberant anticipation for our gathering is a happy reminder of how the Beloved One waits with joyful expectation for moments of communion with us. And her lavish love given freely and without restraint is the best reminder of all: we are drenched in the lavish love of the Beloved One.