Centering prayer is about two things: awareness and consent. As we sit in silence we use some symbol: a word or an inward glimpse, or perhaps simple awareness of the breath to signal our consent to whatever it is that God wishes to do with us. We notice the many and ingenious subterfuges we use to keep knowledge of God at bay, and rather than fighting them, are simply aware of them, and watch them as they drift past in our quietened mind. It is simple but not easy.
In the quiet, things changed for me. My perception shifted in ways which I didn't notice until I got back to Aspen and saw a different town than the one I had left, and knew that actually, it wasn't Aspen that had changed. The issue is, how do I relate these changes to the things which must occupy my time and attention here on the other side of the globe? One simple way would simply be to stay. The monastic life is very attractive to me, and I could easily imagine spending my last years in the silence and the rhythm of the daily offices, but there are other people to whom I have commitments who might hold contrary opinions. So I spend a night in a little lodge, catch a small plane and then a big one and then a small one again. I go to my daughter's house in Christchurch, play with my grandson and drive 400 km with my wife. And slowly, like easing into a hot pool, become accustomed again to the life I have built for myself.
The old habits of mind, the old patterns of interaction with other people and the world are very easy to slip back into. If I didn't watch it, I would find that in a month all the benefits of my long silence would have faded away into nothingness and what would all the cost and trouble have been for? But the central lessons remain: awareness and consent. And I preserve these by the same methods they are always preserved which boil down to disciplined daily practice, which, I must say does seem a little easier at the moment.