Thomas Keating talks about Lent as a time to look at unconscious
dynamics that keep us from a deep relationship with God.
Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk at St. Benedict's monastery in Snowmass,
Colorado, is a co-founder of the centering prayer movement. He recently
spoke to Beliefnet producer Anne A. Simpkinson about the contemplative
dimensions of the Lenten season.)
How can we make Lent a more
contemplative time? And, if people are already practicing contemplative
prayer, how can they deepen their practice?
Lent is meant to be a
communal retreat for all Christians--at least those who observe Lent.
The liturgy is an instruction in the mystical meaning of Lent as
preparation for the Holy Week celebration of the mystery of redemption.
Redemption basically is
about holistic health, if you want to translate it into modern parlance.
What I suggest--based on the Christian tradition but not often
preached--is that you can't enter into the fullness of the Pascal
mystery of the redemption unless there is a radical transformation of
motivation within you. So, on the first Sunday of Lent, you have Christ
going into the desert and experiencing basic human instincts--security
needs, power-control needs, and affection-esteem needs. The three
temptations that [Christ faced in the desert] address each one of those
If you accept the belief
that baptism incorporates us in the mystical body of Christ, into the
divine DNA, then you might say that the Holy Spirit is present in each
of us, and thus we have the capacity for the fullness of redemption, of
Lent is a time to renew
wherever we are in that process that I call the divine therapy. It's a
time to look what our instinctual needs are, look at what the dynamics
of our unconscious are. The church is hinting in the first Sunday of
Lent that Lent is about temptation, or what we think is temptation. It's
about the raw experience of human instincts, and how they unconsciously
influence our conduct and decisions all our life long unless we keep
working with them.
Lent is the time to expect
temptation and [experience] afflictive emotions such as shame,
humiliation, anger, greed, the time to look at how those instincts,
which are developed in early childhood are frustrated--or gratified. See
there's a hazard in self-exaltation if we get what we want, or
depression if we don't get what we want. To work on those [emotions]
during Lent, I think, is more effective than fasting or rituals.
With regard to prayers, I
would suggest doing a little more meditation, add another half-hour
period [of prayer], if that's possible. If it's not possible, be more
alert to the false self and its [emotional] programs as they manifest in
everyday life. This is a form of practicing the presence of God.
Do you think that giving up
chocolate or meat or whatever is only a scratching of the surface of
Yes, but if you scratch the
surface and find out there's something underneath, it's helpful that
way. (Laughter) It seems to me that scratching the surface of the
unconscious, allowing a few cracks to show, hastens the evacuation [of
emotions tied to the false self], and is a good thing.
I imagine giving up
chocolate would make us understand how powerless we are because of how
hard it is to do. I think that's one of the benefits of something like
that. If we can't give up chocolate for 40 days, how can we give up
It's a good start. But the
liturgy, or the church, whoever put that together in their mystical
wisdom wasn't thinking about your taste buds. (Laughter) Lent is about
more serious matters. The Church was thinking about how it feels to
confront the emotional damage of a lifetime that is sitting unnoticed in
your unconscious. Unless one does an extraordinary kind of deep
psychotherapy, it might take five years on the couch [to uncover and
work with such things]. But the practice of a non-conceptual meditation
[centering prayer] initiates a process that may go on for a lifetime.
Every Lent is an invitation to go deeper into that process.
Lent is--and I think the
Eastern Orthodox Church would agree--a 40-day retreat that the church
invites everybody to go through every year. If it is really well done,
it would be comparable to an extended Vipassana (Buddhist meditation)
retreat. It would have a transforming effect each time you did it.
It would be a real challenge
to take on Lent this year because our lives are so pushed and pulled by
so many external demands.
Perhaps more than ever
today. [I think of] the intrusion of mass media. I don't know what
that's going to do to people, what it's going to do to a generation
without some balancing factor like Lent. Lent could become more and more
crucial to spiritual practice. Even 10 days of retreat is barely enough
to get in touch with oneself, and then you go back and you lose it in
three or four days. That's why Contemplative Outreach started an
immersion retreat, which lasts three weeks, and why we're considering
retreats of greater length.
Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O ... Taken from Beliefnet webpage
The essence and
heart of Centering Prayer is consenting to God’s presence and action
within. It leads to contemplation and its continuing development.
qualities reveal how this consent deepens through daily practice.
arises in consenting to God’s presence within. External silence supports
this movement and leads to interior silence.
flows from interior silence. It disregards the endless conversation we
have with ourselves and rests in the experience of God’s presence.
is the growing awareness of our oneness with the whole human family and
with all creation. It is sensitive to the ever-present inspirations of
the Spirit, not only during the time of formal prayer, but in the
details of everyday life.
is an expression of solidarity that is an inner call to serve God and
others based on the realization that God is loving and serving them
through us. In other words, God in us is serving God in others.
is what Jesus called “prayer in secret” (Matt. 6:6). This is the
experience of God’s presence beyond rational concepts and preoccupation
with our thoughts and desires. Interior silence tends to move into
solitude and then into stillness. Stillness is the habitat of
contemplative prayer. As Saint John of the Cross teaches, contemplation
is the inflowing of God into our souls, and in the Christian tradition,
is looked upon as pure gift. In actual fact, it is a gift that has
already been given. Just by being human, one has this capacity. Many
advanced mystics affirm that contemplation is the natural state of human
consciousness, of which the Garden of Eden in Genesis is a symbol.
is the growing capacity to live in the midst of the dualities of daily
life in such a way as to integrate contemplation and action. Even in
enormous activity, endless distraction, and immense concerns, we can
remain in the divine presence. That presence invites us to enter the
inmost center of our being where God dwells and where the Spirit
inspires all our actions. Simplicity is the final integration and
unification of all our human capabilities. It is the peak sustained by a
whole mountain of interconnected and interdependent parts, in which each
acts according to its particular nature in complete harmony with every
other part. Simplicity arises out of the immense complexity of human
nature as it is brought into unity through letting go of attachments and
trusting in God.
The first step
towards this simplicity is simplicity of lifestyle and the cultivation
of interior silence through contemplation. Contemplative prayer and
action under its influence gradually liberates us from attachments both
conscious and unconscious that cause the loss of interior peace. It
moderates the tumultuous emotions that can tear us apart and undermine
the sense of being rooted in God and in the state of life we have
not the same as action, but they are not separate. They are distinct,
but God is
as much in one as in the other. It is we who may not be present to one
or the other. Simplicity is based on the truth about ourselves and the
experience of God. It is the acceptance of everything just as it is. The
Holy Spirit can then move us to change what needs to be changed or do
what needs to be done.
Surrender is the total gift of self to God, a movement from divine
union to unity. It marks the beginning of what Jesus calls “eternal
life” as an abiding state of consciousness. Self-surrender through the
practice of Centering Prayer is a traditional path to divine union. The
movements of self-surrender and trust are the work of the Fruits and
Gifts of the Spirit, and of the increasing joy of giving oneself
completely to God.
Ultimate Reality as Unmanifest is to lose oneself completely. This is
the invitation of
the amazing texts in Saint John’s Gospel about our being in God and
God living in us. (cf. Jn 17: 20-22).
Suffering is the
consequence of the fact of living in an imperfect world. For that there
is no cure. Sharing the divine life does not mean that created things
are not good; it is just that they are incapable of fulfilling our
boundless desire for perfect happiness. Nothing could be more down to
earth or more humbling than this ever-present Presence, which just is.
It does not have to prove itself. It does not need to acquire anything.
It just is. Its desire is to make us equal to Itself in the expanding
interior freedom that goes with that unity.
As we experience
the dynamic unfolding of grace, our perspective changes in regard to
God, the spiritual journey, and ourselves. In between these stages there
may be delightful plateaus which are great blessings and have huge
physical, mental, and spiritual effects. The dark nights are
psychological states, and the darkest of all is the spiritual suffering
that arises from being a creature, unable because of our weakness to
handle the difficulties we encounter in this life, but going through
them with invincible confidence in God’s infinite mercy.
— Taken from the Contemplative Outreach December 2017 Newsletter
A creative vision
releases an enormous amount of energy
and can transform society beyond our wildest dreams.
Divine empowerment is present.
... The power of the stars is nothing compared to the energy
of a person whose will has been freed from the false-self system
and who is thus enabled to co-create the cosmos together
with God. God’s top priority is the creation of a world
in which the goods of the earth are equitably distributed,
where no one is forgotten or left out,
and where no one can rest until everyone has enough to eat,
the oppressed have been liberated, and justice and peace
are the norm among the nations and religions of the world.
Until then, even the joy of transforming union is incomplete.
The commitment to the spiritual journey is not a commitment to pure joy,
but to taking responsibility for the whole human family,
its needs and destiny. We are not our own; we belong to everyone else.
— Thomas Keating,
The Mystery of Christ
morphs into the presence of God.
Then silence is not just silence, emptiness, or nothingness.
It is rather the best preparation for divine union there is, because
over time it reduces all the obstacles.
God's love is like the atmosphere that fills every empty space.
From “God is
Love The Heart of All Creation.
A conversation with Thomas Keating and
Carl J Arico”
TWO THOMASES TOGETHER
I had a dream.
Walking along the road to Emmaus, I came upon two men arguing and
discussing the events which had taken place in Jerusalem – the
manifestation of Jesus Christ in all levels of existence. I introduced
myself and asked if I could walk with them. I listened intently as they
talked about the rest of the story — the contemplative journey — the
call to be transformed and enter into unity consciousness with the
divine. I was spellbound. Although I did not understand all they were
saying, I felt myself intuitively responding to the truth of it all.
They then invited me to join them at table. I sat dining on their words
and the lively discussion. We soon entered silent prayer. When the
prayer ended, I opened my eyes and they were gone. I knew something had
changed within me; I felt renewed. As I looked around the room, I
noticed they had left their business cards: one from Thomas Merton and
one from Thomas Keating. They were companions on the journey and I had
the privilege of experiencing them together.
Dreams do come
true. For me, Thomas Keating created a conceptual framework for the
Christian contemplative journey and Thomas Merton embodied the
contemplative journey and reached out to connect with social challenges,
allowing his heart to be touched by the realities of the world. Their
lives and works are different sides of the same coin.
The two Thomases
have been spiritual guides in my life. The challenge for me is how to
take their teachings and make them a daily reality. Well, I found a way.
I have two daily
readers on my Kindle – one with the teachings of Thomas Keating and one
with the teachings of Thomas Merton. Each day I set aside time and I ask
my spiritual guides, “Well my friends, what do you have for me today?” I
then read and listen for words or phrases that catch my attention and I
weave a spiritual quilt for the day.
For example, on
October 4th, the feast of St Francis of Assisi, the Thomas Keating
selection was from Intimacy with God on Centering Prayer. These words
caught my attention: humble method, new light, self-surrender and trust.
The Thomas Merton selection was a journal entry from 1965 and what
caught my attention was, “it is given,” and “beginning to know what life
I pondered both
sets of words for a time. What emerged as my spiritual quilt for the day
was, “The humble method of Centering Prayer, which is a gift given,
brings to me a new light to know for the first time what life really is
when it opens to self-surrender and trust.”
This became my
active insight prayer for the day. More needs to be said about these two
great contemplatives of our time. I celebrate their spiritual
companionship and teachings in my own being each day. I see Thomas
Keating standing on the shoulders of Thomas Merton.
From “God is
Love The Heart of All Creation. A conversation with Thomas Keating and
Carl J Arico”
— Taken from the Contemplative Outreach December 2017 Newsletter
"We can’t prolong
the battle of greed or domination with the weapons of destruction that
we have now without serious damage to ourselves and the ecology and all
other life on earth …
life as it’s been called until now is the most important thing there is
to do in life … the healing of the human condition with its limitations
and faults and openness to evil, as well as good. ... [T]he
contemplative dimension of life is aimed at prayer and practice to
further this capacity for transformation and to realize in the future
somewhere the New Creation.”
Suggestions for Lent
The Transformation of Suffering: An Online, Self-Guided Retreat:
This e-course explores the transformation of suffering as an
evolutionary and transformative process in and through the divine/human
experience — Christ in as, as us. The content includes excerpts from
various Thomas Keating videos and writings, the wisdom of numerous
contemplative witnesses and the practice of Visio Divina with the
crucifix images of artist William Congdon. $65 USD. For more information
and to register,
The Paschal Mystery: A Journey into Redemption & Grace: This is a
40-day mini-retreat and is based on the teachings and writings of
Fr.Thomas Keating and is intended to serve as a daily companion to move
ever deeper in trust and intimacy with the living God in the midst of
trials, purification, various forms of suffering or simply within the
norms of everyday life. Scripture passages are complemented by beautiful
images, Fr. Keating's writings and a mini-practice on which to focus for
On Sale. $10 USD for both hard copy and digital versions.
to God as God Is
This book collects the
intimate talks and daily presentations made by Thomas Keating to people
who have been practicing Centering Prayer for several years, have some
experience of the spiritual journey and especially to those engaged in
some form of contemplative service. $15 USD.
The Will of Divine Love
This book looks at the
process of spiritual evolution in created reality. It also looks at
Centering Prayer and other transformative spiritual practices –
Welcoming Prayer, forgiveness practice and creative self-expression –
that unload the unconscious and help us to enter the “promised land’ and
the inner wealth of our divine inheritance as souls created in God’s
image and likeness. $25 USD.
Solitude: Wherein Wisdom Dwells
Part of the Contemplative
Life Program (CLP), this 97-page booklet focuses on the practice and
disposition of silence and solitude. Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina
feature prominently in the practices of this 40-day mini-retreat, which
includes beautiful images, brief inspirational readings and a suggested
daily practice. Sections of the booklet include prayer in secret;
dimensions of silence; places of solitude; thoughts in solitude; and a
day of silence and solitude, which provides a format for your own
one-day retreat at home. Booklet or PDF version on sale for $10 USD.
Transformation in Christ series with Thomas Keating
all products in all formats:
DVDs with guidebook &
reflections cards (with English
& Spanish subtitles)
English digital version
Spanish digital version
CD with reflection booklet
$20 USD. Mp3 version
Guidebook $20 USD; PDF version
$12 USD; PDF version
Gift of Life: Death &
Dying, Life & Living series with Thomas Keating
all products in all formats:
DVDs with guidebook (with English & Spanish subtitles)
English digital version
Spanish digital version
CD with reflection booklet
$20 USD Mp3 version
$12 USD; PDF version
$12 USD; PDF version
Digital downloads now
available for many products. Get instant fulfillment with no shipping
costs. Search in the online store under Media>Digital Download
United in Prayer Day
Dedicated to Healing Violence
March 17, 2018
Celebrate this 26th annual
worldwide day of prayer in three ways:
1. Attend a local group
these local websites for event information. Here is a sample
schedule to assist planning for a group retreat.
Download Group Schedule
2. Organize your own
in-home retreat. Here is a sample schedule to assist planning for an
A 24-hour, worldwide silent prayer vigil will be hosted on March 16-17
dedicated to healing the violence within ourselves and the world. All
are welcome to sign-up for 30-minute prayer periods, either as
individuals or in groups. Online sign-up
We offer three suggestions
for spiritual enrichment:
audio interview mp3 download with Sr. Mary Margaret (Meg) Funk on
"The Practice of Renouncing Violence” (about 34 minutes). Free;
suggested donation $10. A
transcript with a bio of Sr. Meg is also provided.
an online video segment
with Thomas Keating on “Human Evolution” from the God is Love video
series (about 27 minutes).
or, choose a video segment
from the Part II of the Spiritual Journey series on the Human Condition,
in the support of the emphasis this entire year on formation in the
contemplative journey. The suggested section is from “Frustrations
Caused by the Emotional Programs,” starting from about 19 minutes and
ending around 41 minutes (about 22 minutes in length). Or choose another
Please donate to support
the sharing of Centering Prayer around the world.
Suggested donation $10.
If you have any questions,
please email Pamela Begeman, email@example.com.
A TASTE OF CENTERING PRAYER
“When you pray, go
to your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.” (Matt.
Centering Prayer is a
simple Christian practice that helps us to locate and take refuge in our
“inner room,” consent to the presence of God-in-2nd-person, and lead us
into deep prayer, devotion, and contemplation of the divine. Largely
popularized in recent decades by Father Thomas Keating, Centering Prayer
traces its origin to the contemplative prayer of the Desert Fathers, the
Lectio Divinia tradition of Benedectine monasticism, and to works like
The Cloud of Unknowing and the writings of St. Teresa of Avila and St.
John of the Cross. It endures to this day as one of the Christian
tradition’s most powerful contemplative practices.
Take 20 minutes out of
your day, and do the following:
Choose a sacred word as
the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action
within (e.g. God, Christ, I AM, Love, Now, Faith, Amen, etc.).
Sitting comfortably and
with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred
word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action
When you become aware of
thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.
At the end of the prayer
period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes,
before returning to the rest of your day.
About Fr. Thomas
Father Thomas Keating is
considered by many to be one of the few genuinely realized Christian
saints in the world today. He continues to be a prominent voice in the
Christian Centering Prayer movement through the organization he founded,
Contemplative Outreach, an international network committed to renewing
the contemplative dimension of the Gospel in daily life.
-- Taken from Integral
We consent to God's
presence, letting God decide what he wants us to do.
God seems to want to find out what it is like to live human life in us,
and each of us is the only person who can ever give him that joy.
Hence our dignity is incomparable.
We are invited to give God the chance to experience God
in our humanity, in our difficulties, in our weaknesses,
in our addictions, in our sins.
Jesus chose to be part of everyone's life experience,
whatever that is, and to raise everyone up to divine union.
— by Thomas Keating, “Fruits
and Gifts of the Spirit”
Centering Prayer is
sometimes accused of falling short of true intimacy with Christ. What is
meant by “true intimacy?”
think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words.
Contemplative prayer, the pure gift of God, is the opening of mind and
heart – our whole being – to the Divine Presence within us, beyond
thinking, conversing, and even consciousness itself.
is a method that prepares our faculties to awaken to the gift of
contemplation. It leads to an intimate relationship with Christ that is
beyond words, and moves into communion with him both in daily prayer and
action. Centering Prayer is Christo-centric and consistent with the
Christian mystical interpretation of the Gospel. Through the work of the
Holy Spirit, Centering Prayer leads to a deeper intimacy with Christ.
Jesus invites us to learn
this kind of prayer in his Discourse at the Last Supper: “I do not pray
for them alone (those at the supper). I also pray for those who through
their preaching will believe in me. All are to be one; just as you
Father are in me and I am in you, so they too are to become one in us.”
And a little later: “The glory you have bestowed on me, I have bestowed
on them, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me.
Thus their oneness will be perfected … May the love with which you
love me dwell in them as I dwell in them myself (John 17: 20-26).”
This is the
teaching that Centering Prayer proposes, following the whole Christian
contemplative tradition, and brought into dialogue with contemporary
psychological, anthropological, and neurological discoveries, as well as
with the wisdom teachings of other religious traditions.
In Catholic theology,
Jesus is not just a human being possessing a complete human nature. He
is the Word made flesh, the Son of God, who in his divine nature assumed
the historical humanity of Jesus. It is through the person of Jesus, the
Divine Human Being, that we are drawn to experience the Eternal Word of
God, not just through abstract theological formulas, but directly.
At Jesus’ baptism
in the Jordan, the Father’s voice rang out saying, “This is my beloved
Son … Listen to him.” This listening points to prayer as an intimate
relationship with God. As listening deepens, so does the relationship
with God, which gradually matures over time until we become one with
him. This is the thrust of the practice of Lectio Divina: first to know
Jesus in his humanity and historical life, then to know him in his
passion, death, and resurrection; then to know Jesus in his
resurrection; and finally to know him in his Ascension and risen life in
The practices of
Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina open us to new levels of responding
to the Spirit of God within. This growing relationship may require
different responses from us as each level unfolds. In other words, the
focus of each level is distinct and produces different results. To grow
in divine love, through the earlier stages of relationship is to
experience a deeper knowledge and love of Christ. They change one’s
perspective not only of God but of all reality.
is not meant to replace other kinds of prayers, rather it casts a new
light and depth of meaning on them. Centering Prayer embraces the
unitive stage of Lectio Divina, as do all Christian prayer practices
that encourage complete surrender to Christ.
The source of
Centering Prayer is the Divine Indwelling, where one is responding to
the call of the Holy Spirit to consent to the Divine Presence and action
within oneself. Through the continuing practice of Centering Prayer, we
experience a deepening commitment to the needs and rights of each member
of the human family and an increasing respect for the interdependence
and oneness of all creation.
As we move from
conversation to communion with God's human and divine nature, Christ, we
experience the divine intimacy as it was practiced in the first few
centuries and preserved in the Christian contemplative tradition both in
the West and in the Eastern Orthodoxy. The contemplative life, already
present within us through the Divine Indwelling, awaits our consent.
Contemplative Outreach Newsletter, June 2016
If we want to be anything
other than what God has made us to be, we are wasting our time.
It will not work. The greatest accomplishment in life is to be what we
which is God's idea of what he wanted us to be when he brought us into
and no ideas of ours will ever change it. Accepting that gift is
accepting God's will for us,
and in its acceptance lies the path to growth and ultimate fulfillment.
— by Thomas Keating, “The
Heart of the World”
NEW GOVERNING BOARD IN CO LTD.
An announcement was made in the Dec. Newsletter of CO Ltd. re the
transition from the former Circle of Service to a new Governing Board
“on behalf of all the individuals and all the groups that make up the
Contemplative Outreach community. The Board is now separate from
Management but collaborates closely with it through Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler,
whose title is now Executive Director.” Its functions include: setting
the overall direction for CO, approving the budget, and hiring/managing
the Executive Director. Like most non-profit boards, it is not involved
in daily operations.
Fr. Carl Arico, a member of the CO leadership team for many, many years
stepped down from his position, believing in the wisdom of passing on
the torch to other volunteers who are willing to serve the organization.
The new members of the Governing Board are Mary Dwyer (Chairperson),
Nick Cole, Lois Snowden, Tom Smith, Thomas Hall, Fr. Gilbert Walker and
Kathy Di Fede. As a primary oversight group, the Board embodies the
vision and mission of CO and upholds the spiritual and service aspects
of CO in harmony with the CO Vision, Theological and Administrative
CONTEMPLATIVE OUTREACH YOU TUBE CHANNEL
To watch videos on You Tube
"Divine love is
compassionate, tender, luminous,
totally self-giving, seeking no reward, unifying everything."
— Thomas Keating
THE BENEFITS OF CENTERING PRAYER
Centering Prayer is a
receptive method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift
of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God's presence
within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than
consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with
God and a discipline to foster that relationship.
Centering Prayer is not
meant to replace other kinds of prayer. Rather, it adds depth of meaning
to all prayer and facilitates the movement from more active modes of
prayer - verbal, mental or affective prayer - into a receptive prayer of
resting in God. Centering Prayer emphasizes prayer as a personal
relationship with God and as a movement beyond conversation with Christ
to communion with Christ.
To watch on YouTube, please
"A part of the process of
letting go is to forgive ourselves and to trust God enough that if we
are sorry for our misbehaviors, God has completely forgotten about them
and would prefer that we would too. To live in the present moment means
that the past has been integrated into who we are now. To think back
would be a foolish thing to do because we can never judge the
dispositions that we had then with how we now would judge certain
behaviors. ... Part of acceptance is just to be still and surrender to
God knowing that all God wants is our love."
— by Thomas Keating