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Spring News 2018 – Issue 53

“Contemplative Outreach is a voice crying in the wilderness of the violence and disunity that still exists among the religions of the world today. … The purpose of Contemplative Outreach is to guide people attracted to the Christian understanding of the practice of contemplative transformation. … What Contemplative Outreach is trying to transmit is something greater than any one religion. … The contemplative life is the heart of the world. In becoming contemplative, one manifests the face of God more vigorously than in the practice of one’s religion without that dimension. It is urgent and crucial that we make this basic teaching available in every language
and every culture.”

Format for the Centering Prayer Support Group

Create a safe and sacred place that is a welcoming environment. If the people are not used to coming straight into silence have quiet music playing as people arrive until you think they can come straight into a silent room.

Discourage talking near the prayer room as the sound carries. Get everyone into the habit of entering the prayer room in silence and taking their place in silence.

1. Start on Time

Ask the participants to sit comfortably, settle briefly, close their eyes and consent to the Divine Presence and Action within.
If it is felt necessary, read the guidelines of the Centering Prayer Method.
The Method Leaflet is only read as an aid to memory.  Please DO NOT give the full explanations.

2. Opening Prayer

(or choose another suitable short prayer. Some like to use the prayer from the Cloud of Unknowing))

“Father, Son and Holy Spirit, alive at the center of our being,
we wish to consent in love to you.
May our Sacred Word,
which we will pray when we become aware of anything else
be a sign and symbol of our intention
to consent to Your Divine Presence and Action within.”

3. Twenty minutes silence

After 20 minutes pray the Our Father very slowly and then invite the participants to open their eyes when they are ready.

A short refreshment break could be taken now before listening to the DVDs or reading from a book etc.

There are plenty of alternative suggestions to organise a group and plenty of materials. For further information please contact C.O.UK, e-mail infocouk@btinternet.com

Back to Basics

After an Introductory Day groups are encouraged to view the DVDs of six sessions which follow on from the Introductory Day. These are

  1. Prayer in Secret
  2. The Discipline of Centering Prayer
  3. What Centering Prayer is and what it is not
  4. The Basic principles of Centering Prayer
  5. The Method of Centering Prayer 1
  6. The Method of Centering Prayer 2

This time gives people the experience of Centering Prayer to know whether it is for them or not. If the group decides to continue there is the formation for the Spiritual Journey which is set out in the Spiritual Journey Programme, also available on DVD.

A Course on the Spiritual Journey – Abbot Thomas Keating O.C.S.O.

The needs of the members of these initial contemplative commun¬ities vary because of their personal background. Some may already have significant experience of Eastern forms of Meditation; others may have progressed in traditional Christian devotional practices; and still others may be just beginning to get interested in the Spiritual Journey.

The Course/Curriculum seeks to organise the primary resources in such a way as to accommodate the changing needs and spiritual development of each person in the most fruitful way, at the same time providing flexibility in adapting the material to the different situations that exist in various parts of the country and abroad.

The purpose of this curriculum is to present a set of concepts which form the background for the practice of Centering Prayer.

Course Aim

To renew the Contemplative dimension of the Gospel by introducing the Centering Prayer method to persons seeking a deeper life of prayer, and to provide a support system capable of sustaining it.

For each part of the DVDs there are guidelines which set out the aim of each DVD and what the Participants can expect to learn from them.

Mrs Sylvia Jones from Sheffield kindly produced these Guidelines. We are eternally grateful for these invaluable guidelines which are especially helpful for Facilitators.

PART ONE: Developing Centering Prayer

1. Introduction, Attitudes towards God
2. Prayer as Relating to God
3. Four Levels of Scriptural Experience
4. Towards Resting in God
5. Centering Prayer as method.
6. Progress in Centering Prayer

PART TWO: Models of the Human Condition

7. The Human Condition- Evolutionary Model
8. Formation of the Home Made Self- Existential Model
9. The Pre-Rational Energy Centres
10. Frustrations Caused by the emotional programmes
11. Dismantling the emotional programmes
12. The False self in action

PART THREE: Paradigms of the Spiritual Journey

13. The Four Consents
14. The Human Condition Philosophical Model.
15. Anthony as a paradigm of the Spiritual Journey.
16. Liberation of the False Self.
17. Liberation from Cultural Conditioning
18. Spirituality in Everyday life

PART FOUR: Contemplation – The Divine Therapy

19. Night of Sense
20. Night of Spirit
21. The Beatitudes
22. The Spiritual Sense
23. What Contemplation is not
24. From Contemplation to Action

Over the years other Parts have been added which will be set out in the next Newsletter. There are available a list of enrichment programmes to supplement the curriculum. These can be obtained by request by e-mailing infocouk@btinternet.com. These include:

  • A Day of Prayer
  • A Day of Renewal
  • Centering Prayer with Lectio Divina
  • Centering Prayer with text book study
  • Further Enrichment Materials (DVDs and books)
  • Enrichment programmes, Retreats and Courses

Reflections on the Retreat “God is Love, the Heart of all Creation”, by Margaret Bowers Feb. 2018

God is Love, the Heart of all CreationWe have come to know and believe in the love God has for us. God is love and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him, in her (1 John 4.16). The opening scripture read by Father Thomas Keating, along with the artwork of William Congdon, beautifully set the scene for God is Love, The Heart of all Creation, the latest in a DVD series from Contemplative Outreach.  The concluding words; Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself (Luke 10:27) really summed the whole experience up for me as one who seeks to follow Christ and serve in the world with integrity, in the light of vast evolutionary discoveries on so many different levels.

The wisdom and humility of Father Thomas that shines through as Father Carl Arico interview him was inspiring. Hearing Thomas speak on such huge subjects as cosmology, evolution, religion and all creation, unity consciousness, being spiritual not religious, pulled so many loose threads together for me.
In an atmosphere of silence and prayer broken only by times of discussion with other retreatants in small groups, which felt supportive, encouraging and enlightening, affirmed for me the God who is in and amidst every detail of life, always has been and always will be. It left me filled with renewed hope, excitement, and joy, and deeply encouraged to continue this journey of discovery and transformation with an ever-open heart and mind and with more companions on the way. Thanks to everyone.

Another Reflection on the Retreat “God is Love”.

Monastery of Our Lady and St. Bernard

A 5 Day Retreat, at the Monastery of Our Lady and St. Bernard, nr Stroud, Glous. by Lesley Jones.

The COUK retreat led by Elizabeth Smith, assisted by Richard Eddleston took place in February 2018, and lasted from the Tuesday evening until the Saturday morning.

The themed retreat ‘God is Love’ was based around the teachings of Father Thomas Keating. The short series of DVDs consisted of listening to him talk on an evolving understanding of cosmology and how we are to understand this in the light of John 1. 1-. ‘In the beginning was the Word.’

The basis of his teaching is that creation has been evolving from the beginning of time and that the cosmic Christ permeates all that is, that there is a wholeness and unity that must be realised. There is a growing consensus among scientists about the evolving cosmos and this resonates with the intuitions of mystics throughout the ages.  The practice of CP opens us to the reality of God, however we call him, to participate.

The SistersMonastery GroundsWe were richly blessed by the eight retreatants who came from a wide variety of backgrounds and experience. We were split into two smaller groups of four, to discuss what we had seen, before feeding back into the whole group. This led to some lively debate and reflections. What came over strongly was how all of us welcomed the opportunity to share views which we did not always feel able to do so freely in our home church contexts. We very much appreciated the opportunity to be with fellow travellers on the journey of faith, all who had a regular practice of Centering Prayer.

 

 

The setting of the monastery in the beautiful countryside of very rural Gloucester, was a delight to the senses, with snowdrops and primroses out everywhere. The birds were getting busier, with a pair of tawny owls hooting outside my room at night. One night the air was very clear and still, with a myriad of stars enhancing the sense of eternal mystery.

Our timetable left us plenty of time to just be, to delight in the silence, aided by the quiet efficiency and hospitality of the sisters.

Daily EucharistWe were able to walk in the grounds or go further afield around the village itself, or the surrounding countryside.

The days started with a time of Centering Prayer, followed by meals, taken in silence. More periods of CP punctuated the days, enabling us to go deeper into the contemplative silence. The retreatants were a mix of seasoned practitioners, to relative beginners, but everyone appreciated these times together. There were opportunities to attend the daily Eucharist, and/or evening vigils.

One evening we had a short talk by Richard Eddleston on the practice of the Welcoming Prayer, a practice that helps increase our awareness of when one of the emotional energy centres for happiness has been triggered and we are caught up in a spiral of afflictive emotions and thoughts. The welcoming prayer helps create a space for these effects to can be defused.

One of the participants was an experienced retreat leader, with a speciality in body work, so if we so wished we had the opportunity to follow some exercises, outside overlooking the hills. For me this enhanced my awareness of our consisting of body, mind, and spirit. I felt at the end all aspects had been nourished. It had been a truly refreshing retreat, leaving me with much to be pondered. So many thanks to everyone who contributed to the time apart from our everyday commitments.

The Beauty of Silence

The Beauty of Silence

I always love waking up to the first snow fall when the whole world seems silent, cushions against sound by the snow. I remember walking to Vigils early one morning (3:30am) when the snow had fallen during the night, and no-one had yet walked on it. The silence was magical, the snow sparkled in the star light and all was still and silent.

But I have come to realise that there is more than one silence. Also, that the English language is ambiguous. I may think of silence in one way, you in another.

I would like to say a few words on silence to clarify. Silence is a journey.

There is exterior silence, like the silence I experienced on my way to Vigils.

This exterior silence supports the movement into interior silence, the quietening of thoughts.

Silence flows from interior silence. It disregards the endless conversation we have with ourselves and rests in the presence of God. Silence arises in consenting to God’s presence and action within.

Stillness -This is the experience of God’s presence beyond rational concepts and preoccupations with our thoughts and desires. Stillness is motionlessness within and without. Listening to no sound or looking at no form.

Interior silence tends to move into solitude and then stillness. Stillness is the habitat of contemplative prayer. By just being human we have this capacity. So many have forgotten about this ability due to all the distractions modern society offers us.

Contemplation is the normal development of a sincere and mature Christian life of Prayer.

The difficulty is learning to be silent and still. Meister Eckhart suggested that nothing so much resembles the language of God as does silence. This is a new language and takes time and patience to learn. But it is well worth it to hear the “silent music, the sounding solitude. The supper which revives and enkindles love” St John of the Cross.

Elizabeth Smith – February 2018

Calendar 2018

JULY, Sat. 7th Introductory Day.
Whirlow Spirituality Centre
Whirlow Grange Drive
Sheffield
Contact: Email: spiritualitycentre@whirlowgrange.co.uk

August Friday 31st to Sept. Sunday 2rd 2018
On Being Human – How we really are.
Includes the Welcome Prayer.
Monastery of Our Lady and St. Bernard, Brownshill, Stroud.

One of the greatest impediments to the spiritual journey is the False-Self which is firmly in place by the age of four. This Retreat will look at how the False Self is formed and grows and the importance of dismantling it.  Centering Prayer can help in this process. The Welcoming Prayer helps to dismantle the emotional programs of the false-self system and to heal the wounds of a lifetime by addressing them where they are stored – in the body.

Cost includes all meals and accommodation in single rooms £120

Introductory Days and Retreats will be announced as they are arranged. Please keep an eye on the website www.contemplativeoutreachuk, which is being refreshed at the moment.

If you would like to host an Introductory Day, please contact E.M. Smith at infocouk@btinternet.com

Book Review – Consenting to God as God is… By Thomas Keating

Consenting to God as God is Book

A book to be read by anyone who is in contemplative service especially those who are in leadership within Contemplative Outreach.

“This book is addressed primary to people with some personal experience of the spiritual journey……. The material in the book is addressed to people who have been practicing Centering Prayer for several years, who are familiar with its immediate conceptual background.” Thomas Keating.

“Consenting to God as God is is a way of describing the most fundamental exercise of Christian faith. This exercise recognizes the illusory character of our past ideas of God and gives birth to a new understanding that leads to a deep conversion of heart.” Thomas Keating

This book took some years to come to fruition after several meeting with the Spanish Council for Extension Contemplativa International which took place in Miami between the years 2007 and 2009.

The book can be challenging but worth it.  As a result of these talks and discussions with Thomas Keating, Extension Contemplativa International began to look at a more contemplative form of governance, to look at a non-hierarchical governance.

 

 

When I first started the Newsletter cut and paste meant that literally! The Newsletter was a way of sending out information and formational articles due to lack of the books etc on Centering Prayer and books by Thomas Keating here in UK. Times have changed, and the Newsletter needs to change to be a community Newsletter. This can only happen with your help. If you would like to contribute to the Newsletter, tell us about your own experience, about your group, review a book or write a poem, please send your writing to infocouk@btinternet.com with the subject “Newsletter.” – Elizabeth