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Winter News 2017 – Issue 51

Centering Prayer throws light on a new perspective of everything, to a new understanding of ourselves and all creation. It leads to a deep conversion of the heart.

Centering Prayer is the path to a radical new way of seeing the world. It is not, as is sometimes thought, simply an act of devotional piety, nor is it a Christianized form of other meditation methods. Bourgeault cuts through the misconceptions to show that Centering Prayer is in fact a pioneering development within the Christian contemplative tradition. She provides a complete course in the practice and then goes deeper to analyse what actually happens in Centering Prayer: the mind effectively switches to a new operating system that makes possible the perception of nonduality. With this understanding in place, she takes us on a journey through one of the sources of the practice, the Christian contemplative classic The Cloud of Unknowing, revealing it to be among the earliest Christian explorations of the phenomenology of consciousness.

The Heart of Centering PrayerBourgeault’s illumination of the Centering Prayer path provides compelling evidence of how important the practice has become in the half-century since it first arose among American Trappist monks, and of its maturation and refinement over the ensuing years of sincere study and practice.

“A masterpiece of spiritual wisdom firmly rooted in the Christian mystical tradition. A brilliant analysis of nondual Christianity in theory and in practice and a major contribution to the Centering Prayer movement and to interspiritual dialogue.” – Thomas Keating, author of Open Mind, Open Heart

The Method of Centering Prayer. Part 2

This is a very ancient prayer, so old that many Christians seem not to know of its existence in the Christian Contemplative Tradition. It is only in recent times that it has seen a revival. Centering Prayer, is a new name for an old prayer and based on the inspired work of the unknown author of the 14th century spiritual classic on prayer called “the Cloud of Unknowing”.

The Method of Centering Prayer

This prayer builds on all our other ways of prayer helping us to develop a mature prayer life. Centering Prayer does not deny or do away with other forms of prayer such as vocal prayer, reflective prayer and responsive prayer. Rather these other forms of prayer are the foundations of Centering Prayer as is reading Scripture. Centering Prayer can cast a fresh light on these other forms of prayer and deepen them.

Prayer is more than just thoughts or feelings expressed in words. Prayer can exist without the need of words. It goes beyond conversation to communion, which is a very powerful prayer in which the Spirit guides. It is a prayer which, if we consent, opens our hearts and minds to God’s divine grace and contemplative prayer.

The Centering Prayer is very simple but also a very nuanced powerful form of prayer. Our intention is the heart and soul of the Centering Prayer practise. It is unique in its approach from other forms of meditation.

There are four guidelines for this method and it is advised to keep to these guidelines at the beginning and not to mix them with any other method or you will have a spiritual smorgasbord. This will lead nowhere.

Guidelines:

1.Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.

We choose a sacred word of one syllable, as suggested by the author of “The Cloud of Unknowing”, such as “Love” or “God”.

The sacred word is not sacred because of its literal meaning but because of the meaning we give it as the expression of our intent to consent to God’s presence and action within.

Other sacred words could be “peace”, “joy”, “yes” or choose one you prefer. As long as it is short.

Having chosen a sacred word, we do not change it during the time of prayer as this would be to start thinking. It is best to keep the same word for this prayer so that it sinks into the psych and becomes so easy to remember that in time it says itself.

2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.

Sitting comfortably means relatively comfy so that we don’t fall asleep!

Whatever position we choose we keep our back straight and supported and our feet on the ground. Do not cross your legs or arms as this may impede the blood flow to the limbs.

3. When you become aware you are engaged with “thoughts” return ever so gently to the sacred word.

If we become aware of thoughts during the time of prayer, we simply return ever so gently to our sacred word.

Bluebell

Image courtesy of Jon Thompson – www.jonthompson-photography.com

“Thoughts” in this method is an umbrella term which means any perception that goes across our stream of consciousness. These could be body sensations, sense perceptions, feelings, images, reflections, commentaries and even spiritual experiences. Just for this time of prayer we let them all go and return ever so gently to the sacred word. We do not get cross at having thoughts as this would be to start thinking. Thoughts are inevitable, integral and a normal part of Centering Prayer. What we are doing is letting them go not becoming attached to them.

The sacred word serves to cancel all other thoughts and distractions by its meaningless repetition, giving no thought to the literal meaning of the sacred word. A word without an emotional charge is also important. The sacred word is not a mantra keep repeating, though it may feel like this at the beginning.

During the time of prayer, the sacred word may become vague or even disappear and we are left with just our intention.

4. At the end of the prayer time, about 20 to 30 minutes, we remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

This is to enable our psyche to become use to our normal awareness again and to let the atmosphere of silence into our daily life.

If we are doing this prayer on our own, we can use a timer as long as it is not too loud or sharp. Or we can make a CD with quiet music or a short scripture reading to start the 20 or 30 minutes silence ending with some soft music.

If you are in a group, the prayer leader does the timing starting with a short prayer or short scripture reading and ending with a prayer such as the Lord’s Prayer said very slowly.

INTRODUCTORY DAYS

facilitated by Elizabeth Smith

Date: Sat 8th April – St. Luke’s. Leagrave, Luton
Contact: Lesley Jones
E-mail: lesleyjones3167@icloud.com

Date: Sat 13 May – St. John’s, Burcsough, Lancs
Contact: Janice Richards and Sue Hodgkins
Tel: 01704 621 598 | 07590 066 607
E-mail: janrichards653@yahoo.co.uk | suehodgkins@hotmail.com

Date: Sat.15th July, Liverpool – St. Dunstan’s Parish Centre
Contact: Mark Waters
Tel: 07795 822 193
E-mail: marko.waters@gmail.com

CONTEMPLATIVE OUTREACH UK RETREATS AND WORKSHOPS 2017

This replaces all other dates and prices

Introductory Weekend to Centering Prayer

Date: February 10th to 12th 2017
Venue: Our Lady & St. Bernard’s Monastery, Stroud, GloucesterInfo: Come along and deepen your prayer life. For beginners and anyone who wishes to revise their practice or just a quiet weekend in beautiful, peaceful surroundings.
Cost: £110

Presenter Training

Date: March 14th to 19th 2017
Venue: Our Lady & St. Bernard’s Monastery, Stroud, Gloucester
Info: For more information, Contact infocouk@btinternet.com
Cost: £355 – cost includes accommodation, tutoring and Presenter’s handbook. – Only one place available

Heartfulness Retreat

Date: May 31st to June 5th 2017
Venue: Our Lady & St. Bernard’s Monastery, Stroud, Gloucester.
Info: For those who have been practising Centering Prayer for some time. The participants are guided by means of Thomas Keating DVDs towards an understanding of the contemplative dimension of the Gospel and its extraordinary implications and applications for personal freedom and global peace.
Cost: £316 – book early to avoid disappointment

Introductory Weekend to Centering Prayer

Date: October 20th to 22th 2017
Venue: The Briery, Ilkley, West Yorkshire
Info:Come along and deepen your prayer life. For beginners and anyone who wishes to revise their practice or just a quiet weekend in beautiful peaceful surroundings.
Cost: £135

Introductory Days will be announced as they are arranged. Please check here for more details.

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

The Contemplative Outreach Ltd. International Conference

DenverDate: September 21 – 24, 2017
Venue: Marriott Hotel, Gateway Park, Denver International Airport, Denver, Colorado, USA

Registrations will open mid-May 2017; more details will be available at that time.

To help you plan for this very important gathering of the active community of Contemplative Outreach, the conference will begin at 4 PM on Thursday,21 September and concludes by noon on Sunday, 24 September. The hotel is located 10 miles from the Denver International Airport and offers complimentary shuttle to and from the airport. Hotel registrations with our discounted room rate will be available when we open conference registration.

This conference will provide an opportunity for listening, open discussion and planning for the future as we continue to experience a time of transition for Contemplative Outreach.

We are excited about this conference and hope you can join us in Denver next September.

Please refer all questions to Marie Howard, Conference Coordinator at MRHfamlife@aol.com or by calling 973 838 3384, x5.

The Virgin Eye: Towards a Contemplative View of Life

The Virgin Eye Robin Daniels. Edited by Katherine Daniels. Instant Apostle, Great Britain, 2016. Pages 416. £9.99.

Robin Daniels worked in private practice for 30 years as a Jungian analyst. He was supervisor for St Marylebone Healing Centre and facilitated a reflecting team of hospital chaplains. He ran marriage enrichment and bereavement groups for churches. This book weaves insights from depth psychology and literature with those of his Christian faith.

Sr. Wendy Beckett
“I started to read then paused while I fetched my Bible; then a pen to underline wisdom. Then I prayed. Then I started to tell someone else all about it. It is like having an amazingly wise old uncle showing you how to live; to truly be alive. I wish it had been available years ago.”

Extracts from a review by Fr. Vincent O’Hara, ODC.
Reprinted by courtesy of Fr. O’Hara.

“The author is a great observer, and his vision is filtered through a sympathetic eye, with tangible compassion for the human condition, but always aware of the “immortal diamond” that is each individual person. A quote from Matthew Arnold on the flyleaf points to one of the aims of the book: ‘A longing to inquire into the mystery of this heart which beats So wild, so deep in us’.

The book covers a vast canvas, beginning with a masterly assessment of contemporary challenges, which include the pace of change and the concomitant stress, and it then presents a vision for wholesome living, under three broad headings: God, Self and Others. One of the beauties of the publication is that all these are knit together in a cohesive way under the expert pen of the author and the sensitive arrangement of the editor.

…the publication is a highly-charged blend of psychology and spirituality, drawing on the author’s wide practice in the former and his obvious living of the later.”