God’s first language is silence; everything else is a poor translation.
– Fr. Thomas Keating
Centering prayer originates from the ancient contemplative tradition and teachings of the early Christianity. The desert mothers and fathers are known to have participated in this practice, and writings about centering prayer are found as far back as the 14th c. in the anonymously authored text, The Cloud of Unknowing.
Centering prayer is a modernized prayer method that nurtures our relationship with the Divine by taking us beyond conversation to communion with God. It consists of learning to gently release our attention from our thoughts in order to rest in open attentiveness to the presence of God in silence – without words.
This gentle releasing of thoughts involves:
- consenting to the presence and action of God within
- surrendering our will completely to God
- relating to God who dwells in secret, within us which then is the releasing of the busy mind, inner dialogue, self-talk, inner critic.
Typically, a sacred word or phrase is chosen, which serves as a symbol of our intent to consent to the presence and action of God. This word also serves as a tool to aid in gently returning to God when thoughts arise. A thought is anything that brings your attention to a focal point. Whatever captures our attention, we simply let it go. This gentle release is not so much the absence of thoughts as much as detachment from them. We do not deny or repress what is our consciousness. We simply accept the fact of whatever is there and go beyond it, not by effort, but by letting go of whatever is there. This leads us to the opening of mind, heart, body, and emotions to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond all the words. This opening allows us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer.
Below I have listed several resources help you learn more and get started in the practice of centering prayer. If you are interested in learning more and delving into this practice individually in spiritual direction or with a group through an in-person experiential contemplative prayer workshop, feel free to contact me here.
Centering Prayer Mobile App, by Contemplative Outreach
Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence, by Ruth Haley Brown
Open Mind, Open Heart, by Thomas Keating
The Heart of Centering Prayer: Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice, by Cynthia Bourgeault
Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation, by Martin Laird
Armchair Mystic: Easing into Contemplative Prayer, by Mark E. Thibodeaux
Visit Meditation for Children if you would like to learn more about how to teach centering prayer or other silent meditation practice to children.
World Community for Christian Meditationhas established, under the teaching of Benedictine monk John Main, a slightly different method of this way of praying, to learn more visit their website.
https://youtu.be/3IKpFHfNdnE (Intro to Centering Prayer – Thomas Keating)