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I am excited to share my review of Intimacy with God: An Introduction To Centering Prayer by Thomas Keating.
Thomas Keating is a founder of the Centering Prayer movement, an author, a teacher, and a monk who has worked for many years to foster understanding among the world’s religions. A member of the Cistercian Order in the Benedictine tradition, he has served at monasteries in Colorado and Massachusetts. Fr. Thomas Keating is a founding member and the spiritual guide of Contemplative Outreach.
“This book describes the unfolding experience of contemplative life that grows as the false self and the accompanying sense of separation from God recedes.”
I have been a practitioner of centering prayer for just over 3 years. Let me share some key insights that I gained as I read this wonderful book.
“The Christian spiritual path is based on a deepening trust in God. It is trust that first allows us to take the initial leap in the dark, to encounter God at the deeper levels of ourselves. And it is trust that guides the intimate refashioning of our being, the transformation of our pain, woundedness, and unconscious motivation into the person that God intended us to be.”
Each time I sit in silence I trust God. Laurence Freeman reminds us that meditation is an act of faith. During this time, I trust that God will transform me slowly and at His, not my pace, into the person He intended me to be. This can certainly be scary and frustrating because I constantly bring my ideas and preconceived notions to the silent prayer table.
I must let go of who I think I am, what I think I want to be so I can open to the Divine. Each time I sit in silence with God I practice my faith muscle. As I trust God during the silence of centering prayer I better learn how to trust God during my non silent times of the day.
“The body is storehouse of emotional energy that is not adequately processed.”
A long term silent prayer practice heals my body. Silent prayer is a safe place where I can and should feel comfortable to allow the release of the often unconscious emotional energies that are stored in my body as clenched teeth, tight chest, heavy shoulders, upset stomach to name a few. God loves me and only wishes to heal me to my innermost core.
Pain: A Sacred Symbol
“Then we just sit with it, and the pain itself becomes our sacred symbol.”
This is an excellent suggestion. My sacred word is an internal image of a Jesus icon. There are times when my mind especially races during centering prayer. My mind is preoccupied with worry and anxiety. Rather than use my Jesus icon at this time, I can use the worry or anxiety as my sacred symbol over and over again until the closing bell has rung.
Wear Away the False Self
“By returning to the sacred word again and again, we gradually are wearing away the layers of false self until they are emptied out.”
“The fullness of divine life of course is not permanently established until we come to the bottom of the pile of our emotional junk. The undigested emotional material of a lifetime has to be processed by the Divine Therapist before we can as access the fullness of liberation from the false self.”
This beautiful act of ever so gently returning to the sacred word wears away the false self layers! It is a daily act when I release the false self chains and become the person God wants me to be. I can also return to my sacred word even during my non silent times of the day and remain focused on who God wants me to be.
“In our day, we are almost completely desensitized to sacred reading because we are so used to newspapers, magazines, and speed reading.”
Sometimes it is nice to read a book slowly and chew on it. That is why I like lectio divina. Sacred reading is a different type of reading. I read with the eyes of the heart. What glimmers and shimmers as I read the pages? What is the Divine trying to reveal to me? I encourage others to try it too.
“It is the opening of mind and heart – our whole being – to God beyond thoughts, words, and emotions.”
When we sit in silence with the Divine we bring our whole being to God: body, mind and heart. I relax my body yet remain alert. I let go of thoughts and emotions that are on my mind. I open my heart to God. This is important! We must open our whole being to God: body, mind and heart.
“….so that when we sit down in our chair or on the floor, we are relating to the mystery of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection, not as something outside of us but as something inside of us.”
I will admit that I struggle with this one. If God is in me, as I sit in silence I relate to the mystery of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection as something inside of me. It makes sense and I trust that God will continue to reveal more of this mystery to me.
What suffering am I in the midst of? What must I die to in order to better experience the presence of God? What new life have I seen resurrected in my daily routines and activities?
“The primary teaching of Centering Prayer is basically very simple and can be expressed in two words: “Do it!” It will then do you. But it requires doing it every day.”
“No one understands contemplative prayer without some experience of it.”
“When we are sitting in Centering Prayer, we may seem to be doing nothing, but we are doing perhaps the most important of all functions, which is to become who we are, the unique manifestation of the Word of God that the Spirit designed us to be.”
The next steps are simple yet very important. Keep at it! A twice per day, centering prayer practice will transform you. You will become the person God intends you to be!
I will go back and re-read this enlightening book.
Intimacy with God: An Introduction to Centering Prayer by Thomas Keating
Open Mind, Open Heart 20th Anniversary Edition by Thomas Keating
Manifesting God by Thomas Keating
Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks – This is a great way to listen to books with your cell phone while you drive, walk or relax at home. I frequently listen in my car during my commute to and from work. I’m a proud affiliate.
Centering Prayer Course: A Training Course for Opening to the Presence of God – Centering Prayer is a silent prayer practice that can move you toward a profound relationship with the Spirit of God within. It is a way of praying that opens the door to the Divine Indwelling—the ground of our being. With Centering Prayer, Father Thomas Keating and his colleagues Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler and Father Carl Arico present the first online course in this method for deepening your intimacy with God and ultimately consenting to the presence and action of the Divine in all aspects of your life.
Wisdom for Living: The Parables of Jesus by Thomas Keating, Contemplative Outreach: When rightly understood, the parables help us to see how extraordinary a wisdom teacher Jesus really was, and how revolutionary, in the best sense of the word, was the content of what he taught and to which he bore witness by his life and death.
The Gift of Life by Thomas Keating, Mary Anne Best, Susan Rush: This course will explore the gift of life in all its phases, even those of diminishment and death, as phrases of evolution and transformation in and through Christ. It is based on the recent DVD series with Fr. Thomas Keating, The Gift of Life: Death & Dying, Life & Living.
Drawing from the wisdom of monastic life, modern psychology and best practices in personal productivity, the Monk Manual provides a daily system that will help you find clarity, purpose, wisdom, and peace in the moments that make up your life.