Unaddressed tensions in our nervous systems produce unconscious anxieties that keep our minds distracted.
When our minds are repeatedly trained to quiet and focus, the unconscious anxieties begin to surface. The deep stillness of the mind allows profound relaxation far beyond what is possible through sleep. This profound relaxation releases stored up tensions in the nervous system and in the muscles of the body. The release of these tensions can come in the form of sharp pains, tears, or strong feelings of fear or grief. In the centering prayer community this is called “unloading.”
As a result of unresolved tensions in the body most minds are tense, even in a so-called relaxed state. Most minds are like tense muscles, not relaxed muscles. This problem can be overcome through silent prayer. In other words, on the most basic level centering prayer teaches the mind to relax. When the mind learns how to relax and release stored tensions, the whole nervous system and the muscular system relaxes. Eventually this process invites the practitioner into a peak experiences, summed up with Paul’s words: “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).