Blog 10: Welcoming Practice
I have found a practice that I started paying attention to this summer. It is called “Welcoming Practice” and you can find more information on it in Cynthia Bourgeault’s books, Contemplative Outreach’s website, an online course of the same title, and many more resources when you google it. It is a way to pay attention on purpose and realign oneself in oneness with the God of Infinite Love and Compassion. Let me tell you about my personal experience practicing it this summer.
Obviously since I am new to this prayer practice I am no expert and know I have a beginner’s mind. But I can share with you this approach and you may consider using it as a compassion practice. There are 3 Steps and beginning is the key. Perhaps you notice that you are a little frustrated or irritated; often these feelings increase particularly if we try to resist them. If you’re reading this blog you are probably interested in enhancing compassion toward yourself and others and becoming irritated and frustrated just isn’t helpful on a contemplative compassion life path.
Step One is to Focus: to feel and become aware of what you are experiencing in your body. In our example of irritation, I notice that I become tight and constricted. I may even tighten my jaw and my breathing can change. Or it could be low blood sugar and I am hungry. What is important is to notice what is going on in the body before my mind steps in to evaluate and often criticize or justify my irritation. This may happen and it’s important to stay with what the body is experiencing rather than getting caught up in the mind’s storyline.
Step Two is to Welcome, that is, to welcome what you are experiencing, not to welcome the driver who just cut you off in traffic. It is an unconditional acceptance of “the reality of this situation…It is always the sensation you are accepting…and never the external situation itself.” Cynthia suggests that we “name the sensation lightly-‘Welcome, fear,’ ‘Welcome, pain,’ and so forth-rather than merely saying Welcome…” Contemplative Outreach does suggest saying “Welcome, welcome, welcome.” I have used both approaches and both are helpful. I use “Welcome, welcome, welcome” to get me focused on Step 2, and then I can be specific with what I am welcoming. This welcoming restores inner wholeness.
Step Three is Letting Go. It is not designed to fix things but rather to open ourselves and let go of repressing or reacting to what we are experiencing. It allows us the opportunity to reconnect with the Core Self one with God and then have the wisdom to act with compassion. Letting go of the storyline we construct around daily occurrences which allows us to see clearly. Cynthia writes, “The most important point I can make about this step is not to get to it too quickly…only when you sense that the energy bound up in the upset is beginning to wane on its own.” It is a letting go of our expectations and need for control.
Cynthia Bourgeault writes about Welcoming Practice, “in fact, it is one, if not the strongest and potentially life-changing in the repertory of Christian spiritual practices.”
 Bourgeault, C. (2016) The Heart of Centering Prayer. Boulder, CO: Shambhala Press, p.91.
 Contemplative Outreach (2014) “Welcoming Prayer: Consent on the Go.”
 Bourgeault, p. 92.
 Bourgeault, C. (2008) The Wisdom Jesus. Boston: Shambhala Press, p. 179-180.
 Bourgeault (2016), p.90.