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The Christian roots of Centering Prayer
Centering Prayer is drawn from ancient prayer practices of the Christian contemplative heritage, notably the Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, Lectio Divina, (praying the scriptures), The Cloud of Unknowing, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila.. It was distilled into a simple method of prayer in the 1970's by three Trappist monks, Fr. William Meninger, Fr. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating at the Trappist Abbey, St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts.
Fr Thomas Keating has founded the spiritual network called Contemplative Outreach. "The vision of Contemplative Outreach is first of all to try and renew the contemplative, mystical tradition from earliest times. I see Contemplative Prayer as the point of unity between the Christian denominations. And ... we are in a better position to dialogue with the great spiritual traditions of the eastern religions, Buddhism and Hinduism, who also have a rich contemplative tradition."- Fr Thomas Keating in the Contemplative Outreach video "Reaching out to the World" embedded in the Centering Prayer Videos section on this EasterSpirit site.
How to do Centering Prayer?
Choose one of these external sites: wikiHow or 11th Step Meditation . They contain the simple step by step guidelines. But then do visit Fr Thomas Keating's Contemplative Outreach, the main body promoting this practice through literature, courses, accreditation, and so on. There, the article by Fr Thomas on the nuances of Centering Prayer practice, which is to be read carefully, will help ensure that you don't miss the special characteristics of the method - and no, it's not exactly like oriental meditation.
Last modified on 13 Jan 2010
Thomas Keating on Centering Prayer
Fr Thomas Keating, Trappist monk and a founder and president of Contemplative Outreach ltd., points towards the roots of Centering Prayer in the Gospels in many places. He suggests that the clearest such Gospel text is
"Whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:6)
In Jesus' time, Fr. Keating says, nobody had a house with more than one room in it - if indeed they had a house at all. So Jesus is really using the image of the private room to say ‘When you seek God, go into your innermost level.'
A number of Psalms point to the silence of resting in God. Here is part of psalm 131:
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
An article in the Taizé website (www.taize.fr/en_article12.html) reveals that one psalm suggests that silence is even a form of praise. We are used to reading at the beginning of Psalm 65: "Praise is due to you, O God". This translation follows the Greek text, but actually the Hebrew text printed in most Bibles reads: "Silence is praise to you, O God". When words and thoughts come to an end, God is praised in silent wonder and admiration.
Fr Keating writes: "Centering prayer is not so much an exercise of attention as intention. It may take a while to grasp this distinction. You do not attend to any particular thought content. Rather, you intend to go to your inmost being, where you believe God dwells. You are opening to Him by pure faith, not by means of concepts or feelings." (Open Mind Open Heart p. 39). Articles and media content by Fr Thomas Keating are here.
In the words of Contemplative Outreach, "Centering prayer is a modern meditative prayer practice that renews the Christian contemplative tradition. This tradition is rooted in Jesus' teaching, refined by early Church fathers & 3rd/4th century mothers and fathers of the desert. It predates all schisms within Christianity and transcends doctrinal differences. this silent prayer gradually transforms and heals our relationship with God, ourselves, and others. It leads to a commitment to the needs/rights of each member of the human family and fosters a sacred respect for the inter-dependence of all creation. It prepares Christians for a better understanding of interdenominational differences and deepens respect for other world religions."
"For the Church's first sixteen centuries Contemplative Prayer was the goal of Christian spirituality. After the Reformation, this living tradition was virtually lost. Today, with cross-cultural dialogue and historical research, the recovery of the Christian contemplative heritage has begun. The method of Centering Prayer, in the tradition of Lectio Divina (praying the scriptures) is contributing to this renewal."
"Pure faith will bring you closer to God than anything else. To be attached to an experience of God is not God; it is a thought. The time of centering prayer is the time to let go of all thoughts, even the best of thoughts. If they are really good, they will come back later." Keating, Open Mind Open Heart p. 57
"My only knowledge of what happens in Centering prayer is afterwards - it's in the fruits." - practitioner, in the Contemplative Outreach video "Reaching out to the World" embedded in the Centering Prayer Videos section on this EasterSpirit site.
How to do Centering Prayer - this simple method of bottomless depth is explained here on the Contemplative Outreach site , with practice guidelines. The two videos shown on the present page are very useful - have a look at them. So are the other videos on the Centering Prayer Videos page of this EasterSpirit site.
Last modified Jan 13, 2010
Centering Prayer - the Guidelines
The simple guidelines of this method of meditative prayer or contemplatio, are described by the Catholic Benedictine Trappist monk Fr Thomas Keating, ocso. The video is © by Contemplative Outreach, of which Fr Thomas is a co-founder.
In this second video below, Fr Thomas Keating explains in more detail the third guideline, on how to deal with thoughts that arise during Centering Prayer. This video is also © by Contemplative Outreach.
Other sources (PDF downloads from the present site):
Fuljett bil-Malti It-Talba tal-Kunsens (Centering Prayer)
Leaflet in English Centering Prayer
Contemplative Outreach has worked hard to promote Centering Prayer. Go to their website here. www.contemplativeoutreach.org
Contemplative Outreach is the organisation that carries on the work of Fr Thomas Keating and his colleagues. It serves a spiritual network of individuals and small faith communities committed to living the contemplative dimension of the Gospel.
The common desire for Divine transformation, primarily expressed through a commitment to a daily Centering Prayer practice, unites our international, interdenominational network. Spirituality & Practice.
Go to their sites if you want to learn about Centering Prayer or about Lectio Divina in either the monastic method or the scholastic method; or if you are interested in contacting one or more groups of practitioners, or if you need advice or free material in written, audio, or video formats.
Contemplative Outreach, Ltd USA , (world HQ) 10 Park Place , 2nd Floor, Suite 2B, Butler, New Jersey 07405 USA firstname.lastname@example.org
The USA office publishes a newsletter that includes articles by Fr. Thomas Keating and others; and provides a list of telephone numbers of coordinators around the world. To receive a copy of the national newsletter, write to: Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. P.O. Box 737, Butler, NJ 07405, (973) 838-3384.
St. Benedict's Monastery, Colorado USA: www.snowmass.org/
Contemplative Outreach UK
Tree Tops, Hoghton Lane, Higher Walton , Preston , Lancashire , PR5 4ED
Contemplative Prayer, Centering Prayer & The Cloud of Unknowing:
Centering Prayer for Children - A book: Journey to the Heart, by Frank X Jelenek and Anne Boyajian, Paraclete Press - fun language and graphics suitable for ages 3-10
Last modified in December 2009