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A glimpse of Reality...

“I have been given all things by My Father . . .”

‒ Lk 10:22

When a companion and I met Father Thomas Keating at the airport, I was so thrilled and excited to see him again since three years ago, when I attended a Contemplative Outreach conference in Andover, MA. I didn’t expect him to remember me, and when I was reintroduced to him, all he said was “Hello”. But the way he said it made me feel so good . . . It was as if we were the only two people there. What a perfect example it was of being totally present to another. Surely, this must be a fruit of all those years of practice of contemplative prayer. Then, my thoughts went a little further . . . this must be the way my heavenly Father loves me . . . so intimate, so personal.

Lord, thank you for allowing me a glimpse of the reality of Your love for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

"If I am in your truth, God, keep me there. If I am not, God, put me there."

‒ St. Joan of Arc

 

 

 

 

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“Amazement seized the people and they praised God. They were filled with a holy fear and said, ‘What wonderful things we have seen today.’”

‒ Lk 5:26

In these, our troubled times, it is not unusual to look at the general picture and bemoan our fate to high heavens. Many times, I find myself in a complaining mode, too, because of the present turmoil our country is in. However, today’s reading somewhat opened my eyes to take note of the little things happening around me in the day-to-day business of living. A little act of kindness, a loving thought, a helping hand extended without being solicited, a smile, the beauty around me . . . all these wonderful things that make life pleasant, and yet taken very much for granted. As I ponder on this, I examine myself . . . my motivations, my relationships, my actions and I find much room for improvement.

Lord, thank you for making me aware of the amazing things in life I need to appreciate. Give me the grace to be able to grow into the image that You created.

 

 

 

 

When James Finley was a young monk at the monastery of Gethsemane, he shared with Thomas Merton (who was his spiritual director) his frustration at his seemingly inept efforts to experience God’s presence. Merton responded: “How does an apple ripen? It just sits in the sun.” Not that we don’t need to continue to seek God, but by our own efforts alone we cannot achieve spiritual maturity. We must bring ourselves to the Light where God’s grace seasons us into juicy, sweet, flavorful ripeness.

Thomas Merton

 

 

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“And I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven . . .”

 Mt 8:12

The visit of Fr. Thomas Keating to grace our 10th anniversary celebration with his presence was to me like a banquet. It was such an awesome spiritual experience that I will always treasure as long as I live. And I thank the Lord for giving him the strength and stamina to come after ten years of staying put in his Abbey in Colorado due to health reasons. His visit was like a gentle breeze, so refreshing in these our troubled times.

So, now that he’s gone back, where do I go from here? I feel I must not allow his visit to just go by without a conscious effort on my part to change. Even just a gesture of gratitude. I must live out whatever I got out of his talks and one-on-one meeting with him.

Dear Lord, thank you for this beautiful experience. May it make me grow in your love that I may glorify you in everything that I think, say, and do.

 

 

 

 

“Joy comes from the holiness of discovering ourselves, of finding our true likeness to God."

‒ John Main

Door to Silence

 

 

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“Imagine a person who has taken a mustard seed and planted it in the garden. The seed has grown and become like a small tree . . .”

‒ Lk 13:19

Doing my lectio on the mustard seed in the Gospel, my grandmother, who has been dead for almost thirty years suddenly came to mind. The seed she had planted in me as a little girl has grown, adding a beautiful dimension in my life. She was my first piano teacher and, even though at that time, I did not appreciate much what she was teaching me, she had instilled in me the love for music. My heart swells with gratitude to the Lord for giving her to me as my Lola, for, because of the seed she planted in me, I am able to give glory to the Lord in the music ministry of our parish.

Thinking about my Lola made me realize that I had neglected praying for her for a while no. So, I will do all the requirements for a Plenary Indulgence and offer it for her. Thank you, Lord, for reminding me to keep praying for the souls of our beloved departed.

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith”.

‒ Lk 17:16

During these troubled times of our life today, I would find myself being drawn more and more to prayer and fasting. As I ponder on the happenings, not only in our country, but also all over the world, it is apparent that this is more a spiritual warfare than anything else. Issues have become so clouded it is hard to see who is right and who is wrong. There is really no way out except through divine intervention.

Lord, increase my faith that I may be able to see beyond all these turmoil and uncertainty . . .that You are always there for us and that everything will work out for the good.

A glimpse of Reality...

“Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath and a crippled woman was there. An evil spirit had kept her bent for eighteen years so that she could not straighten up at all. On seeing her, Jesus called her and said, ‘Woman, you are freed of your infirmity.’”

‒ Lk 13:10

That woman in the Gospel was me. For eighteen years I have been crippled, possessed by an evil spirit and bent so that I could not straighten up at all, spiritually speaking. But the Lord healed me by bringing Centering Prayer into my life. Although there’s still a lot of “straightening up” to do in my life, I know I am on the road to freedom from my false self.

Thank you Lord for Your healing love for me.

 

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”

There is this special lady whom I met when I got into Centering Prayer. One of the first things she said about the prayer was: “I have found the pearl of great price!” It has been ten years since, and like her, every time I come across this gospel, I think exactly the same thing.

Before I got into this prayer, my life was completely topsy-turvy . . . an emotional upheaval . . . a life drenched with tears and sadness that never seemed to end or go away. I felt like the merchant searching and searching. However, the merchant was one up on me in the sense that he knew what he was looking for, I didn’t. And yet, it is with a strange sense of gratitude that I look back on the life that I had. For I realize that it was precisely, that sort of life that brought me to the prayer.

It wasn’t easy getting to that pearl. But, when I found it, I knew I had come to the end of my search. Many times, I have thought of myself: If God should ever come to me and tell me He would give me back everything I thought I wanted, but would never let me have this pearl, I just know, I would choose the same path all over again. . there is just no way I would give up this pearl. And thus, in that sense, I guess I have sold all that I had to buy this pearl of great price.

And once again, with deep gratitude, I thank You God for allowing me a glimpse of this pearl of great price; for giving me the strength to hold on, for bringing me to Centering Prayer.

 

 

 

We began teaching Centering Prayer using the sacred word as the symbol of consent to God’s presence and action because most retreatants were used to hearing the word of God in scripture and in the liturgy. We thought they would find the use of a sacred word congenial to their cultural background and religious training. Later we continued to present the prayer in essentially the same way but referred to the other symbols of breath and glance as options that some might be more attracted to. Some people prefer the sacred breath as their symbol or have tended to move toward the breath as symbol as their practice matures. The breath is what the term “spirit” means in the biblical languages; a symbol of life that is always present. Just noticing the breath is a very gentle, subtle and hardly noticeable practice as we use it. It is not, as in the Eastern traditions, a practice of following the breath physically or counting the breaths, which are concentrative procedures. In the long run we will tend to lose whatever symbol we choose as we grow into the primary experience of Centering Prayer which is complete self-surrender. Consenting to the presence and action of God is the essence of the practice of Centering Prayer.

Jesus exhorts us in Matthew 6:6 to “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.” It seems to be a call to hide from our ordinary self-awareness. In any case, you are not thinking of yourself in a prayer that does not have any conceptual content.

I believe that contemplation is an innate capacity of human nature, available to everyone just by being born. We already have it; we just don’t think so. We can’t, of course, acquire pure contemplation by trying to get it. That kind of effort is just another ego trip. Some people may say, “just relax, do nothing, and it will arise of itself.” But it is not that simple. No doubt God works on our psyche in different ways, at different times and on different occasions. The Spirit is softening us up in every way, of which inner purification is one of the most obvious.

To have a state of no thought at all is not the goal. The presence of God is so clear to faith that it doesn’t matter how we are inclined to interpret it at any particular moment. In Centering Prayer we do not think about anything deliberately, not even about our felt experience of God or our felt absence of God. It doesn’t matter. We need to be just as relaxed and at peace with thoughts going by as without thoughts going by. God is just as much in thoughts as in complete silence.

External silence leads to interior silence and interior silence into the letting go of interior dialogue. Then follows a sense of stillness, even though there is always present some attentiveness to God’s presence.

As soon as we understand something, we have to be detached from our understanding in order to keep abreast of the exquisite delicacies of the divine action. When we think about our understanding or notice our feelings rather than just being with whatever state we are in, we muddy the waters so that the divine light cannot penetrate to the bottom of our being.

The language of the mystics speaks of waking up and of staying awake. Prayer in secret is not a state of suspended animation. It is rather the habit of disregarding particular perceptions and surrendering to the divine presence just as it presents itself. In this perspective, the absence of God is also God.

— By Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O, CO Newsletter, June 2011

With just a little bit of attention, it is easy to notice how prevalent group identification and group consciousness is in the world today. It is easiest to see it at its extreme, for example, in fanatical loyalty to sport teams and political parties or movements. It’s harder to see in the more subtle ways it plays out in our ordinary, every day lives. This level of consciousness is known as ‘mythic membership,’ and is described by Thomas Keating in Chapter 5 of Invitation to Love:

“Over identification with the group is the dominant characteristic of mythic membership consciousness. When we derive our identity from the social unit of which we are a member, we give the group unquestioning loyalty. The sense of belonging to something important gives us feelings of security, pleasure, and power.”

Another way of saying this is we over identify with the cultural and emotional conditioning we all acquired, and this conditioning coalesces around groups and their belief systems, whether ethnic, religious, political, social, family, etc. During adolescence we identify with our peer group as a means of developing socialization skills and group acceptance. It is meant to help us grow and flourish; it is not meant to fixate us at this particular stage and bind us there for a lifetime. Basing our consciousness on group identity can be very powerful and demanding, even hypnotizing, and when it reaches this level of identification, mythic membership prevents us from identifying with our own integrity in divine relationship with God.

Essentially, our cultural and emotional conditioning becomes such an attachment; it becomes our ‘skin,’ our false self. It is not surprising then that we don’t even notice our actions and reactions to our external and internal worlds because we are so identified with them. Perhaps you’ve heard this wisdom story: A little fish asked its mother, ‘What is water?’ The mother tossed her on to the sand and she began to struggle, flipping around on the beach. Then the mother pushed her back into the water and the little one swam away. She learned the answer to her question.

We have been lulled into ignorance and illusion of who we are. The obvious truth of the Indwelling Presence is right before our eyes and we deny it, reverting to our usual programmed behavior based on social expectations. Mythic membership is one of the obstacles we encounter on the spiritual journey. If we can’t let go of mythic membership, then we can’t surrender to God!

Over time, Centering Prayer helps us see our behaviors and mis-identifications and turn them over to God through our commitment to consent to God’s presence and action within. The gentle return
to the sacred word actually interrupts clinging to our thoughts - which are always rooted in our preoccupation with ourselves. When we let go of our thoughts during our Centering Prayer period, even for a split second, we open to God. And little by little we are able to ignore or turn away from our desire to cling to our self reflections about who we think we are and embrace silence, God’s first language. In this silence we acquire a space between our thoughts and there the truth of who we are emerges. We become present to what is in the moment.

So in Centering Prayer, we move from struggling with letting go of thoughts, to a diminishment of thoughts and finally, a diminishment of our own self awareness. In the silence that emerges we gradually grow in faith, trust and willingness to surrender to God, one consent at a time, simply letting go of thoughts.

— CO Newsletter, June 2012

The spiritual life combines an ever-deepening practice of interior silence and service of others motivated by the love for God. Both are necessary for the spiritual journey because they cultivate a disposition of alert receptivity and openness to the guidance of the Spirit.

Contemplation and action are manifested in the practice of servant leadership. For a while, the Church of the Middle Ages nearly lost the vision of Christ as servant leader and joined forces with the political powers of the time. Maybe that was historically inevitable because there was no other kind of force to establish a safe society for people than the institutional Church. But when any group affirms its elite status or superiority over all other groups, there is a hazard that the ego will take possession of that idea and go for it, because now it has an excuse or motive for justifying all kinds of egoic forms of domination.

Jesus emphasized servant leadership to his apostles over and over again. What we do for others is not to fix them, which presumes that we know how to fix them and presupposes that we are coming from a superior position. We are called by God to care for others as a privilege. All the members of the human family are members of what St. Paul calls the Mystical Body of Christ. He doesn’t need our leadership talents. But he does appreciate and need our practical love and humble service. He manifested the divine humility by sacrificing all the honor and privileges of his nature as the Son of God. If we made that disposition our own, trying to fix situations would change into allowing God to heal the wounds that are impossible for us to deal with, let alone to fix. By making ourselves the servant of those we serve, the divine healing work of Christ can flow through us without our egos getting in the way. Servant leadership leads to gratitude for being able to serve.

The most profound truth regarding the spiritual journey is that we are being transformed into Christ. We are turning ourselves over completely to God in the full consciousness that this is a service that we are offering for the healing of the whole human family, not just for our particular intentions.

Our heart in the sense of our inmost being has to become big enough through grace to take into it everyone who has ever lived – past, present, and to come. We are loved by God to the point of his
becoming one with us and our particular experience of the human condition. The cross is suffering
endured out of love for all the members of the Mystical Body and their transformation into oneness
with the Father.

— By Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O, CO Newsletter, June 2018

THE IMPORTANCE OF RELATIONSHIP

By Patricia Johnson, Administrator

Beloved members of our one family,

I had a visit with Thomas a few days before I started writing this article. He wanted to see me to thank me for my work over the years. This is the man that we all owe so much gratitude for what he has untiringly and endlessly given us all his years. And yet, here he was thanking others for their contributions of service. It was mind boggling and poignant to me. He thanked me for loving people into life. He wrote a poem about the impact Sarah Johnson* had on his life. Here is this man at the end of his life, in pain, and still giving his all back into the universe. If ever I had an example of what it means to Love unconditionally, this moment in time was one huge example. The greatness of his giving, the greatness of his humility, left me with nowhere to go, nothing to do, and the recognition that doing nothing takes a long, long time.

What I want to pass on at this time is this: my debt to him is monumental; my service to you all over the years —whether in retreat form, sits and talks, or as a bridge for a new way of governing—is both an honor and a privilege. The vision of Contemplative Outreach is “We embrace the process of transformation in Christ, both in ourselves and in others, through the practice of Centering Prayer.” The big emphasis is on the words PROCESS and PRACTICE. The process of transformation contains both joy and pain. Practice takes us through both and we land at the other side. At this writing, Thomas was experiencing pain and using practice to allow him to reach the other side. What an amazing model he is for all of us as we attempt to move through our lives with grace and strength.

Thank you for allowing me to serve you.

*See the December 2009 issue of Contemplative Outreach News for an article about Sarah Johnson, written by Fr. Thomas.

— CO Newsletter, June 2018

“The heart of the Christian message is Love—to love one another as Christ has loved us and to love our neighbour as ourselves.”

Love is the energy that relates us one to another as human beings. It unites each of us to the center of ourselves and, beyond that center, to the Indwelling Spirit. The love that we share is fueled by God’s love for us. It is an endless supply of love flowing through us. As Christians, we call it Grace.

We can’t isolate ourselves from interacting with others; our families, friends, neighbors, anyone we meet in our daily encounters. Unless we behave in a loving way—starting with loving ourselves—we are not allowing the love of God to flow. We can’t say, “I love God, but I don’t love my neighbor.”

Contemplative living cultivates the freedom to say and do what the Spirit prompts us to say or do, without exceptions or conditions. Keeping an open heart, mind and intention, refreshed daily by our Centering Prayer practice, is vitally important. We begin to grasp that, as we sit in silence each day, we are holding and supporting one another in the energy of love.

It is an approach from “the ground up” to being human, to being lovers of God and lovers of one another.

In the silence the only thing we have to do is to be present and open. The Spirit does the work. The Spirit binds us to each other and we let go of our thoughts that separate us. That is to say, we let go of judgments, assumptions and opinions of who we are and who others are, and remain open to find out the truth of who we really are in God.

Whether we are Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or Hindu is not important. These words label our belief systems. What we share and what unites us is our human condition. If we let go and let God live our lives for us and act from a place of love, transformation is possible. We find that differences can be resolved and peace can be part of our lived experience. Grace, then, is the recognition that there is no separation between us and all that is good and true.

Contrary to popular opinion about the nature of contemplation—that it is simply a withdrawal into oneself—contemplation is both silence and action. Contemplation places us in the immediacy of open presence, which is living life as it is one moment at a time.

The humble giving of ourselves, one to the other, in order to understand the movements of love and the free flow of Grace with open heartfulness is the joy that is lying in wait for us through the contemplative life.

— Taken from CO e-News, Dec. 2007

OUT OF A STONE

By Fr. Thomas Keating

Can the Creator of all lure poetry out of a stone?
Or cause a stirring of Divine Love in a human heart?

All is possible for the Creator of all,
Who loves to manifest the impossible
In endless configurations.

As the false self diminishes,
And the ego becomes a servant,
Everything turns into poetry
And everything becomes a moment of Divine Love.
But, the separate self lingers on.

Once the separate self has been laid to rest,
The Divine Presence alone remains,
And the Creator of all becomes all in all.

The silence of the Creator is thunderous,
Drowning out everything else,
And hiding in endless creativity.

RE "VENI SANCTE SPIRITUS"

Editor: The video was created by Rachelle Rule, secretary of the COP Secretariat, who passed away August 30, 2014. In her YouTube video, published on May 8, 2009, Rachelle had the following notes:

“Taken from the CD "Inner Room"…Taize / Contemplative music featuring Fr. Thomas Keating reading Scripture for Lectio Divina. This cut also features Soprano soloist Rebecca Gale together with the Spiritus and Aunyx Choruses. CD Produced by Jonathan Blair. Video taken from the YouTube and edited by chelrule. Remastered on May 10, 2009.”

To date, the video has had more than 37,000 viewers. Here are a few comments:

From mary margaret (8 years ago)
“...i could sense the angels singing with this... :)
thank-you.... Father, Son, Spirit... :) “

From mysticoversoul (6 years ago)
“Thank you so very much for posting this music video of the much-loved Taize chant "Veni, Sancte Spiritus." I have been so taken by the video's sacred quality that I have embedded it at my Web site at contemplatingtruth (dot) WordPress (dot) com. Again thank you.”

From Fran Schultz (5 years ago)
“Beautiful and touching and has real healing qualities. Thank you for this precious gift. Veni, Sancte Spiritus…”

From Thomas Rowan (3 years ago)
“Well, thank you. The best rendition of one of life's most perfect songs should never be kept in 'private.' “

May Rachelle rest in God’s embrace forever, and surrounded by the angels singing “Veni, Sancte Spiritus”.

The essence and heart of Centering Prayer is consenting to God’s presence and action within. It leads to contemplation and its continuing development.

The following qualities reveal how this consent deepens through daily practice.

1. Silence arises in consenting to God’s presence within. External silence supports this movement and leads to interior silence.

2. Solitude flows from interior silence. It disregards the endless conversation we have with ourselves and rests in the experience of God’s presence.

3. Solidarity 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.

4. Service 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.

5. Stillness 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.

6. Simplicity 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 embraced.

Contemplation is 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.

7. Absolute 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.

Knowing the 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
 

Thomas Keating: From the Mind to the Heart

This beautifully illustrated book with the paintings of Charlotte M. Frieze, comes from the conversations Fr. Keating had with his friend John Osborne in 2010 for the film, The Rising Tide of Silence and three years later for the new film, From the Mind To The Heart. Fr. Keating's thoughts about silence and contemplation, power and the false self, and humankind's shifting relationship with God have emerged in the film and this companion book. $25 USD. Click here.

Self-Guided Online Courses

Learn or renew your practices or deepen your experience of the contemplative life. Available
anytime, anywhere with internet access.

Partial scholarships available.

  • Silence and Centering Prayer

  • Embracing Living: The Welcoming Prayer

  • Lectio Divina: Heart to Heart - Listening and Living with God

  • A Journey of Discernment

  • Forgiveness: A Growth in Love

  • The Transformation of Suffering

And more. Visit the complete listing on the CO website at Programs>Online Courses. Click here.

That We May be One: Christian Non-Duality

Though this term has not generally been associated with the Christian Tradition, in fact, its essence runs throughout the New Testament, most prominently in the Gospel of John and the Letters of Paul. Opening to the Divine Indwelling through practicing Centering Prayer is the consent to God's presence and action within us. This separate-self sense gradually evolves into the conviction of self in God.

Six topics are included:

  • The Western and Scriptural Models of Spirituality (15 min.);

  • The Invitation of the Christian Contemplative Tradition Beyond Rational Consciousness (19 min);

  • The Self and Evolving Consciousness (16 min);

  • Christian Non-Duality and Unity Consciousness (18 min.);

  • The Present Moment and All That Is (13 min.);

  • Fallen, Beloved and Surrendered (17 min.)

Formats:

  • DVD package and reflection booklet: $25 USD

  • MP3 (audio only) and reflection booklet PDF : $10 USD

  • MP4 (video) and reflection booklet PDF: $15 USD

Consenting 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. Click here.

The Will of Divine Love

 

Kess Frey

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. Click here.

 

Silence & 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. Click here.

 

Heartfulness: Transformation in Christ series with Thomas Keating

all products in all formats:

DVDs with guidebook & reflections cards (with English
   & Spanish subtitles) $50 USD.
English digital version $25 USD
Spanish digital version $25 USD
CD with reflection booklet $20 USD. Mp3 version $12 USD
Guidebook $20 USD; PDF version $5 USD
Companion book $12 USD; PDF version $8 USD

 

 

Gift of Life: Death & Dying, Life & Living series with Thomas Keating

all products in all formats:

DVDs with guidebook (with English & Spanish subtitles) $50 USD
English digital version $25 USD
Spanish digital version $25 USD
CD with reflection booklet $20 USD Mp3 version $12 USD
Guidebook $12 USD; PDF version $8 USD
Companion book $12 USD; PDF version $8 USD

Digital downloads now available for many products. Get instant fulfillment with no shipping costs. Search in the online store under Media>Digital Download

 

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. 6:6)

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 within.

  • 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 Keating

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 Life

Centering Prayer is sometimes accused of falling short of true intimacy with Christ. What is meant by “true intimacy?”

Ordinarily we 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.

Centering Prayer 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 Trinity.

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.

Centering Prayer 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.

— From Contemplative Outreach Newsletter, June 2016

 

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 Principles.

CONTEMPLATIVE OUTREACH YOU TUBE CHANNEL

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"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 click here.

 

"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

 

In Centering Prayer … little by little, we enter into prayer
without intentionality except to consent
… and consent becomes surrender
… and surrender becomes total receptivity
… and, as the process continues,
total receptivity becomes effortless, peaceful.
… It is free and has nothing to attain, to get, or desire
… So, no thinking, no reflection, no desire,
no words, no thing
… just receptivity and consent.

Thomas Keating, ‘Centering Prayer’ segment, Heartfulness: Transformation in Christ

 

VISION / MISSION


Fr. Thomas Keating

Fr. Thomas Keating

Fr. William Meninger

Fr. William Meninger

Fr. Basil Pennington

Fr. Basil Pennington

Vision Statement

Contemplative Outreach is a spiritual network of individuals and small faith communities committed to living the contemplative dimension of the Gospel in everyday life through the practice of Centering Prayer. The contemplative dimension of the Gospel manifests itself in an ever-deepening union with the living Christ and the practical caring for others that flows from that relationship.

The purpose of Contemplative Outreach is to support one another in the process of Divine transformation through the practice of Centering Prayer. We also encourage the practice of Lectio Divina, particularly its movement into Contemplative Prayer, which a regular and established practice of Centering Prayer facilitates.

In the Philippines, this mission is being carried out by Contemplative Outreach Philippines (COP).  In addition to conducting workshops, retreats and other programs on Centering Prayer, COP guides and facilitates support groups for persons in the practice.  Since its establishment in 1990, the Outreach has shared Centering Prayer with men and women, religious and lay alike.  It has also sponsored recollections and retreats conducted by the founders themselves- Fr. Thomas Keating, Fr. William Meninger and the late Fr. Basil Pennington - all Trappist monks.  Commissioned presenters also conduct retreats and workshops.

Mission Statement

The primary purpose of Contemplative Outreach Philippines is to teach the method of Centering Prayer and to offer practices that bring its fruits into daily life.  The Outreach also teaches Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading), particularly its movement into contemplative prayer as facilitated by a regular practice of Centering Prayer.  The ministry offers workshops, retreats, and formation programs designed to present the richness of the Christian contemplative heritage in an updated and accessible format.

Contemplative Outreach Philippines is authorized to use the formats of Fr. Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., founder of Contemplative Outreach Ltd. In the United States and one of the three Trappist monks who developed Centering Prayer.  The Archdiocese of Manila recognizes the Outreach as the official organization authorized to teach Centering Prayer and its formation programs through its bona fide commissioned presenters.

Centering Prayer is a prayer of interior silence and alert receptivity to the Divine Indwelling, the center of one’s being.  Together with the daily practice of Lectio Divina, growth in Prayer awakens the spiritual level of one’s consciousness.  One’s will is cultivated to constantly and repeatedly consent to God’s presence and action as one becomes increasingly aware of them in day-to-day living.

History of Contemplative Outreach

Contemplative Outreach has its roots in the wish of three monks living at St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts in the early 1970s. Inspired by the decree of Vatican II, the monks wished to develop a method of Christian contemplative prayer that was appealing and accessible to laypeople. With no idea that their wish would eventually result in an international organization, Fathers Thomas Keating, William Meninger, and Basil Pennington embarked on an experiment. Today their experiment is called Contemplative Outreach.

As abbot of St. Joseph's Abbey, Fr. Keating attended a meeting in Rome in 1971. At the meeting, Pope Paul VI called on the members of the clergy to revive the contemplative dimension of the Gospel in the lives of both monastic and laypeople. Believing in the importance of this revival, Fr. Keating encouraged the monks at St. Joseph's to develop a method of Christian contemplative prayer with the same appeal and accessibility that Eastern meditation practices seemed to have for modern people. A monk at the abbey named William Meninger found the background for such a method in the anonymous fourteenth-century classic The Cloud of the Unknowing. Using this and other contemplative literature, Meninger developed a simple method of silent prayer he called The Prayer of the Cloud.

Meninger began to offer instruction on The Prayer of the Cloud to priests who came to the monastery for retreats. The prayer was well received and as word got out, more people wanted to learn the prayer, so Fr. Keating began to offer workshops to the lay community in Spencer. Another monk at the abbey, Basil Pennington, also began to teach The Prayer of the Cloud to priests and sisters at retreats away from St. Joseph's. At one retreat, someone suggested that the name of the prayer be changed to Centering Prayer, alluding to Thomas Merton's description of contemplative prayer as prayer that is "centered entirely on the presence of God...His will...His love...[and] Faith by which alone we can know the presence of God." From then on, the prayer was called Centering Prayer.

In 1983, Fr. Keating gave the first "intensive" Centering Prayer retreat at the Lama Foundation in San Cristobal, New Mexico. One of the participants of the retreat, Gustave Reininger, previously had met with Fr. Keating and a man named Edward Bednar to discuss starting a contemplative network. After their meeting, Bednar wrote a grant proposal, which he called Contemplative Outreach, and received funds to start parish-based programs in New York City that offered introductions to Centering Prayer. This marked the beginning of the Contemplative Outreach Centering Prayer Program and a milestone in Contemplative Outreach's birth as an organization.
Other participants of the retreat at the Lama Foundation also played a large part in the growth of Contemplative Outreach. In 1985, participants David Frenette and Mary Mrozowski, along with Bob Bartel, established a live-in community in the eastern United States called Chrysalis House. For 11 years, Chrysalis House provided a consistent place to hold Centering Prayer workshops and retreats. Many Centering Prayer practitioners and teachers who now carry on the work of Contemplative Outreach were trained and inspired at Chrysalis House.

In 1986, the three monks' experiment was incorporated as Contemplative Outreach, LTD., and the first official board of directors was named. Fr. Keating served as the first president, Fr. Carl Arico as vice president, Gustave Reininger as treasurer, and Mary Mrozowski and Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler as directors. At first, the organization was run from Gail Fitzpatirick-Hopler's dining room table. After several necessary expansions, the network's international headquarters now offices in 2000 square feet of space in downtown Butler, New Jersey with the help of seven full-time employees, two part-time employees, five volunteers, and, of course, the continued support and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

  ̶  From Contemplative Outreach E-News, Oct. 2009

 

“Freedom is the capacity to do what is the appropriate thing to do in any given moment."

‒ Thomas Keating

 

FAQs on Centering Prayer

Four new FAQs on Centering Prayer have been posted to help discuss and answer various doubts or concerns about the prayer practice:

1. What is the overall aim or intention of Centering Prayer?
2. How is Centering Prayer different from meditation, especially Eastern meditation practices?
3. How is Centering Prayer rooted in the Christian tradition?
4. A response to then Cardinal Ratzinger’s 1989 “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation.” This was written by Thomas Keating in response to questions about that letter and Centering Prayer.

See these questions and more in the FAQ section of the Contemplative Outreach website.

ABOUT THE PRAYER

The intent of Contemplative Outreach is to foster the process of transformation in Christ in one another through the practice of Centering Prayer.

 

A glimpse of Reality...

“’So,’ Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone.’”

‒ Jn 12:7

The word “alone” spoke to me. And as I pondered on it, I realized that it is only when I am alone that I can face myself. It is only when I’m alone that I can know my true self and see myself the way God sees me. And I realize the importance of this. . . That there can be no real conversion if I don’t face the reality of myself first and accept with all honesty what I see to be the real me.

Thank you Lord for showing me the way to build your Kingdom in me.

 

 

“…This mystery of oneness enables us to emerge from the Eucharist with a refined inward eye, and invites us to perceive the mystery of Christ everywhere and in everything.”

‒ Thomas Keating

History of Centering Prayer

Centering Prayer was developed as a response to the Vatican II invitation to revive the contemplative teachings of early Christianity and present them in updated formats. In this way, the method of Centering Prayer is drawn from the ancient practices of the Christian contemplative heritage, notably the traditional monastic practice of Lectio Divina and the practices described in the anonymous fourteenth century classic The Cloud of Unknowing and in the writings of Christian mystics such as John Cassian, Francis de Sales, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux, and Thomas Merton. Most importantly, Centering Prayer is based on the wisdom saying of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount:

"...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 repay you."

Matthew 6.6 (New American Bible)

In the 1970s, answering the call of Vatican II, three Trappist monks at St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts, Fathers William Meninger, Basil Pennington and Thomas Keating, looked to these ancient sources to develop a simple method of silent prayer for contemporary people. The prayer came to be known as Centering Prayer in reference to Thomas Merton's description of contemplative prayer as prayer that is "centered entirely on the presence of God." The monks offered Centering Prayer workshops and retreats to both clergy members and laypeople. Interest in the prayer spread, and shortly after the first intensive Centering Prayer retreat in 1983, the organization Contemplative Outreach was formed to support the growing network of Centering Prayer practitioners.

Today Centering Prayer is practiced by people all around the world, creating local and global networks of Christians in communion with Christ and each other and contributing to the renewal of the contemplative dimension of Christianity.

Taken from CO Website

A Meditation on Centering Prayer

We begin our prayer by disposing our body.  Let it be relaxed and calm, but inwardly alert.

The root of prayer is interior silence.  We may think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words.  But this is only one expression.  Deep prayer is the laying aside of thoughts.  It is the opening of mind and heart, body and feelings – our whole being – to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond words, thoughts and emotions.  We do not resist them or suppress them.  We accept them as they are and go beyond them, not by effort, but by letting them all go by.

We open our awareness to the Ultimate Mystery whom we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing – closer than consciousness itself.  The Ultimate Mystery is the ground in which our being is rooted, the Source from whom our life emerges at every moment.

We are totally present now, with the whole of our being, in complete openness, in deep prayer.  The past and future – time itself – are forgotten.

We are here in the presence of the Ultimate Mystery.  Like the air we breathe, this divine presence is all around us and within us, distinct from us, but never separate from us.  We may sense this Presence drawing us from within, as if touching our spirit and embracing it, or carrying us beyond ourselves into pure awareness.

We surrender to the attraction of interior silence, tranquillity, and peace.  We do not try to feel anything, reflect about anything.  Without effort, without trying, we sink into this Presence, letting everything else go by.  Let love alone speak the simple desire to be one with the Presence, to forget self, and to rest in the Ultimate Mystery.

This Presence is immense, yet so humble; awe-inspiring, yet so gentle; limitless, yet so intimate, tender and personal.  I know that I am known.  Everything in my life is transparent in this Presence.  It knows everything about me – all my weakness, brokenness, sinfulness – and still loves me infinitely.

This Presence is healing, strengthening, refreshing – just by its Presence.  It is nonjudgmental, self-giving, seeking no reward, boundless in compassion.  It is like coming home to a place I should never have left, to an awareness that was somehow always there, but which I did not recognize.

I cannot force this awareness, or bring it about.  A door opens within me, but from the other side.  I seem to have tasted before the mysterious sweetness of this enveloping, permeating Presence.  It is both emptiness and fullness at once.

We wait patiently; in silence, openness, and quiet attentiveness; motionless, within and without.  We surrender to the attraction to be still, to be loved, just to be.

Centering Prayer List

A Contemplative Living Community in the Christian Contemplative Tradition

CENTERINGPRAYER / A Contemplative Living Community in the Christian Contemplative Tradition, is an unmoderated ecumenical (Christian) mailing list grounded in the Christian contemplative heritage. The list members are committed to the renewal of the contemplative dimension of the gospel through the teaching and practice of Centering Prayer and LectioDivina as taught by Father Thomas Keating, OCSO and his worldwide organization called Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. It is dedicated to those who are BEGINNERS and would like a community to teach, encourage and support them in their practice.

The list was founded on March 7, 1994, in honor of Abbot Thomas Keating's birthday. Father Keating is our mentor, friend and inspiration.

We hope to be able to welcome you to our cyberspace community.

Currently we are presenting an introductory workshop on Centering Prayer.

Centering Prayer is patterned on the formula given by Jesus in Matthew 6:6

If you want to pray, enter your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

To subscribe to the CENTERINGPRAYER List please write to: Centeringprayer@listserve.com

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CIRCLE - Sign of ongoing process.

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email us at cophil2009@yahoo.com

 

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