Contemplative Prayer

Contemplative prayer can be traced to the desert fathers and mothers, early Benedictine monasticism, and early Catholic teachers like Saint Bonaventure and the Carmelites. But then, the teaching was largely lost. Almost no teachers taught contemplative prayer from the 16th century onward. If you learned the practice, you learned it on your own, following your own instincts and the guidance of the Spirit.

In the 1970s, Thomas Keating and a handful of other monks re-introduced Centering Prayer into Christianity. They knew it was an excellent portal drawing us into the silence essential to deepening our awareness of God within us.

Today, we need Centering Prayer more than ever before. 

It’s a simple practice, but its power comes through repetition over time and patience with yourself.

As Episcopal priest and mystic Cynthia Bourgeault taught it to me, you begin by sitting comfortably with your eyes closed, relaxing into your breath. Become aware of God’s presence within you.

Choose a word or phrase that holds your desire to open yourself to God. It might be “Be still and know.” It could also be something as simple as “Love” or “One” or “All.”

Repeat that phrase slowly in your mind allowing everything else to fall away. Thoughts may arise. Simply acknowledge them and dismiss them, refocusing on your phrase or word.

Then, let the word or phrase drift away until you are held in simple stillness and peace. Stay there as long as you can or as long as you like. 

Over time, this practice deepens your Being and opens you to levels of knowing, present all along, but inaccessible to most. The only requirement to Centering Prayer is that you show up. The only way to fail is to quit. Its gifts are revealed in time and through practice.

“RESIST no thought; RETAIN no thought; REACT to no thought; RETURN to the sacred word,” says Cynthia. 

Perhaps try it for 20 minutes a day. What do you have to lose? 

We are in this together,


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