We often tend to slight serious meditation and prayer as somtething not really necessary. To be sure, we feel it it something that might help us to meet an occasional emergency, but at first many of us are apt to regard it as a somewhat mysterious skill of clergymen, from which we may hope to get a secondhand benefit."
-Bill Wilson

Talking About The Journey

  I know we shouldn't judge our experience in centering prayer and I don't mean this in the way of judging but only by way of talking about the journey I wanted to share this.  Being  on retreat and with the long periods of prayer  at times gave me a totally different cp experience. Sometimes I felt so attentive to my hp and so aware when thoughts began creeping in, and the returning to that attentiveness using my sacred word.  Those experiences were great!  We would all  walk out of the prayer room and be able to look outside seeing the crisp snowy mountains, the clouds and blue sky.  It was obvious everyone in the room had similar experiences that arose from the silence.  We were surrounded by all this beauty!
Now that I'm back in my everyday routine my prayer seems less rich, more crowded with thoughts, and often I can't believe how long I go before I even realize I've been engaged in the thought.  Sometimes too, I feel like I'm just repeating my sacred word over and over again, almost like I'm not aware I'm saying it, and continue to engage in the thought.  It was disappointing at first because I wanted to be able to keep what I had there. I think I've noticed this before but more so this year.  
My first thought was do I need to do four hours of sits a day to get anywhere? I do have a job and a life too (sarcasm).  I'm beginning to realize what Thomas means about developing a friendly attitude to my thoughts.  They're an integral part of the prayer.  How friendly can I be to my prayer practice just the way it is? Can I let go of the attachment to what I experienced on retreat?? 
Dave from Denver

Trusting The Process

For me there is a difference between observing my prayer practice and judging it.   I have to do at least one or the other if I want to talk with others about the prayer practice.  And I do want to talk about it. It's maybe a contradiction in itself since I've come so to love the Silence and have actually become much less prone to talk a lot in daily life, yet I wish to discuss this inner journey with fellow travelers.  I'm very interested in how you and others perceive the process for it often helps me to clarify my own process. 

This being my 8th consecutive 10 day retreat at Snowmas I know better than to have "expectations" of what might happen for me during the retreat.   That goes for the time leading up to the retreat and the time right after too, as it all seems to be part of the whole experience. 
That being said, I do have specific memories of times in the prayer room that I consider to be as precious and holy as any in my lifetime, those periods of "no time"  marked by no awareness of self or thoughts of self but of loving communion with God.   Who can't want more of that!  The bell ringing and slowly  emerging from the deep Silence, opening eyes and being somewhat surprised to find a room full of my fellows also stirring as if we've all just woken up from a wonderful dream that none of us could recall.  
But this year thank  goodness I did not put such pressure on my Higher Power to produce more of the same because I cannot say that that was my experience.  It seemed that I was not to be put under heavy anesthesia but that it was mostly "in-patient" surgery this year. Lots and lots of thoughts, lots and lots of returning to my sacred word lots of sighing and twitching and fiddling about.  BUT at the same time lots of trust and acceptance that my Higher Power had my healing well in Hand and was giving me precisely what I needed at this specific time in my recovery.  
The funny thing was upon my return to real life my prayer practice at least for now does not seem routine but mostly sweet and at times very deep and my ordinary life a bit lighter than it has been for quite some time.  In other words almost the opposite of last year's experience, crisis before retreat, overall lots of deep, deep periods of prayer and  contemplation  and returning home with a kind of a daily low level uneasiness or unloading for weeks even months upon my return home. 
It appears I am learning to trust  the process and Trusting my Higher Power is truly a fruit of the prayer for which I am very grateful. 
Joelle (STL)