Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
“Centering Prayer” is a Christian practice that has spread around the Christian world and opened new doors to interspiritual relationships and experience. Thomas Keating is considered the ‘co-founder’ of the Centering Prayer movement, and his pioneering work continues to be an important resource for anyone interested in spiritual practice. Cynthia Bourgeault is recognized as one of the best Centering Prayer teachers, and she has simultaneously been building bridges between Christianity and other traditions, focusing on spiritual practice, wisdom, and the perspective of nonduality. Her Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening (2004) is reviewed here by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, founders and directors of Spirituality and Practice, where the review was first published. Below the review you’ll find a compelling 53-minute video introduction to Centering Prayer from Rev. Bourgeault. And don’t miss the quotation from her book on the heart and this practice on the right. Ed.
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Cynthia Bourgeault has studied and taught in a number of Benedictine monasteries in the United States and Canada. An Episcopal priest, she is well known as a retreat and conference leader, a teacher of prayer, and a writer on the spiritual life. She is the author of Mystical Hope, Love Is Stronger than Death, and The Wisdom Way of Knowing. In this paperback, Bourgeault salutes Centering Prayer as the key to interior awakening. She has been a practitioner of this devotional discipline since 1988 and considers Thomas Keating as her teacher and mentor. He has written the foreword.
There are chapters on the method, the tradition, the psychology of Centering Prayer, and a final one on how it leads to inner awakening; the latter covers attention of the heart, working with the inner observer, the welcoming prayer, and Centering Prayer’s relevance to Christian life. Bourgeault has some thought-provoking things to say about silence, intention, apophatic prayer, self-emptying, and the purification of the false self.
We love Thomas Keating’s characterization of meditation as “taking a brief vacation from yourself.” We also are buoyed by the observation that Centering Prayer is a passport to freedom. Instead of building up the false self which is always looking after itself, this “Divine Therapy” challenges us to give it all away and empty ourselves. Seeing this devotional practice as a way of nurturing the heart is very helpful indeed.