[Centering Prayer’s] simple but powerful pathway of transformation illumines . . . what it means to “put on the mind of Christ.” . . . The theological basis for Centering Prayer lies in the principle of kenosis, Jesus’s self-emptying love that forms the core of his own self-understanding and life practice. . . .
Saint Paul explains this principle by way of his beautiful hymn in Philippians 2:6-11, prefacing his comments by saying, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus”:
Though his state was that of God,
yet he did not deem equality with God
something he should cling to.
Rather he emptied himself,
and assuming the state of a slave,
he was born in human likeness. . . .
The phrase “emptied himself” in line 4 is the English translation of the Greek verb kenosein, which is where the word kenosis comes from. In context, you’ll see exactly what it means: it’s the opposite of the word “cling” in line 3. Jesus is practicing gentle release. And he continues to practice it in every moment of his life, as the next verse of the hymn makes clear:
He being known as one of us
humbled himself obedient unto death,
even death on a cross.
How beautifully simple—the path of Jesus hidden right there in plain sight! While some Christians are still reluctant to think of Jesus as teaching a path (isn’t it enough simply to be the Son of God?), in fact, the Gospels themselves make clear that he is specifically inviting us to this journey and modeling how to do it. Once you see this, it’s the touchstone throughout all his teaching: Let go! Don’t cling! Don’t hoard! Don’t assert your importance! Don’t fret. “Do not be afraid, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!” (Luke 12:32).
A friend and former CAC Board Member, Susan Rush, has served many years on hospice and palliative care teams. She has also worked closely with Contemplative Outreach, an organization founded by Thomas Keating and others to renew the Christian contemplative tradition by teaching Centering Prayer. She reflects on the gift of this practice, which she says is key to spiritual resilience:
A wise person once said, “Find a spiritual practice and do it as if your life depends on it.” In my case, that practice is Centering Prayer. Centering Prayer is a prayer of intention, a prayer of consent, a prayer of surrender. It is a prayer that allows us to touch the Divine Ground of our Being, a prayer that helps us see our true self and get a glimpse of the Love that lives within us and in all creation. It is a prayer for living and a prayer for dying.
One comes to the practice of Centering Prayer with only one intention—to consent to God’s presence and action within. Because of that intention, commitment to the contemplative journey through a daily practice of Centering Prayer involves more than just setting aside time to pray; it also means opening ourselves up to a conversion of our will and total transformation.
When we first start Centering most of us are amazed at how busy our minds are. The silence we long for eludes us. We can’t hear God. But as we continue to practice—time and time again letting our thoughts go and returning ever so gently to our intention—we realize that this is all an Ultimate Mystery and requires a graced trust. With committed practice, gradually we are able to embrace the Divine Dwelling within us. There is a knowing, a conviction, that we are with God.
If we stay faithful to the practice, our false self begins to be dismantled and we live more and more from our center, from that Divine Ground of Being, from our true self. We are transformed. As the beloved Thomas Keating, who spent his life conceptualizing and teaching this prayer form, wrote, “By consenting to God’s creation, to our basic goodness as human beings, and to letting go of what we love in this world, we are brought to the final surrender, which is to allow the false self to die and the true self to emerge. The true self might be described as our participation in the divine life manifesting in our uniqueness.” . . . 
I once heard a patient say that her dying process was an “ego-ectomy.” The contemplative life through the practice of Centering Prayer can be an ego-ectomy, too. We come closer to our dying every day of our living, so let us live our lives to the fullest, for God’s sake. Let us do our spiritual practice as if our lives depended on it—because they do. Let us welcome our ego-ectomy through the dismantling of the false self now—in life—in order to experience each day as a sacred gift.
People in prison commonly live with a sense of personal failure. Most prisons and jails foster, even amplify, this sense of failure by dehumanizing practices like constant herding and extreme over-crowding. Prisoners’ efforts to cope with these humiliations result in behaviors similar to those identified with veterans as PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder).
The violence in a war zone, like the threat of violence in a maximum-security prison, creates a chronic debilitating state of fight or flight for the individual. To simply cope, the prisoner develops the ability to avoid and numb feelings and represses intrusive memories. This leaves many of them with enormous anxiety and a deep sense of personal shame.
When their basic sense of personal worth is stifled in this way, the sufferers are driven to further extremes of self-loathing. As penal institutions perpetuate a culture of dehumanization, the symptoms of PTSD proliferate. Though they can be visible (angry outbursts, aggressive behavior), they also fester in secret (night terrors), buried in the deep crevices of the psyche.
As one prisoner describes it, “The external reality and climate of violence that dominates one’s existence and sense of self in these high-security prison environments cuts a prisoner off from any sense of personal interiority.” 
Experts tell us that the deepest wound of PTSD is a “moral injury,” that is a wound to the soul, caused by participation in events that violate one’s most deeply held sense of right and wrong. The perpetrator or victim realizes how wrong it was. The irony, of course, is that this “disorder” is actually an appropriately normal response to an overwhelmingly abnormal situation
.. Centering Prayer bypasses the mind with its horrific memories and trauma and invites practitioners to “detach” from their narratives and “let go” into the spaciousness of Silence. There they can encounter God or Divine Reality through the deep longings of their hearts. The silence pulsates with a compassion and warmth that other remedies cannot replicate. The deep sense of moral injury and shame no longer needs to be repressed. They can begin to forgive themselves and feel like they just might be lovable.