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The Path of Centering Prayer
Four decades ago—when I was young, stressed out, nonreligious, and searching for meaning—I discovered the gift of meditation. I was initially drawn to the directness and emptiness of Zen Buddhist meditation, which I used as a daily practice. But after a few years, I found myself blown open by Divine love during meditation—an experience that, paradoxically, drew me even deeper into emptiness.
As my relationship with God grew, my meditation practice evolved toward Centering Prayer. Flowing out of the Christian mystical tradition, Centering Prayer is a simple yet profound form of meditation that awakens practitioners—whether or not they're Christian—toward a direct, contemplative experience of the Divine presence.
Maybe you're like me when I was young—drawn to explore a form of meditation that embraces your relationship with the Divine while also opening you to greater inner freedom and the ability to be more present to others.
Centering Prayer helps us experience God's presence within and then integrate that sacred presence into our daily lives. When we're centered in God, we awaken more fully to the unity of life.
As I've worked with students of Centering Prayer over the years, I've found hidden treasures in its founder Thomas Keating's teachings—as well as in my own meditations—that I believe need to be brought forth in order to deepen the practice. I wrote The Path of Centering Prayer to share those treasures with others.
One such treasure is learning how simple contemplative attitudes deepen meditation and our experience of God. For example, meditation ripens as we rest in the receptive attitude of effortlessness. But how can you be effortless? It's possible, but not so easy.
There is an active contemplative attitude that makes effortlessness more accessible. Gentleness, something we can practice in meditation is a gateway to the receptivity of effortlessness.
For instance, right now, gently notice your thinking mind. Then, ever-so-gently, bring your attention to your breathing. Rather than struggling against your thoughts, just gently become aware of them. As you do, gently return to your breathing. Be willing to let go of being gentle, letting effortlessness arise within.
It's as if you were in a lake learning to swim. Instead of wildly flailing your arms, struggling to swim or at least not to drown, if you're gentle you can begin sensing something deeper in the water, an unseen buoyant presence. If you gently let go into this presence, you can effortlessly rest in the unseen presence that supports you. Gentleness invites effortlessness—in swimming, in meditation, and in life itself.
The Path of Centering Prayer shares many such companion attitudes and other guidance to enhance your practice. May you find the gifts you need to deepen your experience of God
More information about content found in Chapter Two of this book can be found in these articles.