Volume 1, Number 1                                                                                                                                                           June 1998



That's the goal of contemplative prayer
An interview with THOMAS KEATING, O.C.S.O.

"Thomas Keating is a Cistercian monk and founder of the Centering Prayer Movement.  In his book "Open Mind, Open Heart" (Amity House, 1986) and a series of video and audio tapes, Keating provides step-by-step guidance into CENTERING PRAYER [contemplative prayer].  He also helped found and administers Contemplative Outreach, a support network for people practicing contemplative prayer.

"Father Keating, what is contemplative prayer?

"Contemplative prayer is a way to "hang out" with God.  It's based on the conviction that God resides within us - not way out in the cosmos somewhere.  In contemplative prayer, we open ourselves to that Presence within us.  We accept God's invitation to develop a friendship that will lead to divine union, the full awareness of God's presence in us, in all humanity, and in all human experience.

"Are there outward signs when someone reaches a contemplative level of prayer?

"Some contemplatives experience psychic and charismatic gifts - visions, prophecy, speaking in tongues, etc.....

[The object and goal of contemplative prayer is to learn to "go within", to achieve interior silence:  to QUIET the mind and the "inner chatter", TO LEARN TO "LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND" so as to contact GOD WITHIN (rather than WITHOUT, UP-THERE)]

"INTERIOR SILENCE is where you move beyond prayerful conversation [USING WORDS] and simply enjoy God's Presence.

"Of course, your mind will wander as you try to empty it of thoughts, so you MUST CONSTANTLY RECENTER YOUR ATTENTION ON GOD.  Many people do this by using A SACRED WORD - God, Jesus, Love.  Whenever you begin to latch on to some thought, you SIMPLY recall the SACRED WORD and that recenters you toward God.

"As you regularly practice CENTERING prayer, you learn to let go of harmful or upsetting things in daily life.  Thus, CENTERING prayer becomes a keystone of a change of consciousness, a true liberation from the false stuff*.  It opens you to the possibility of tasting God's presence.  And your psyche gets a regular opportunity for deep rest.

*[FALSE STUFF:  What to wear, cook, how the hair looks, bills to pay, family 'stuff', etc.]  "The false-stuff (self) system doesn't care if you change your clothes, or your hair, or whatever, as long as you don't ask it to change.  But you must change if you are to grow up and, still more, if you are to be transformed.

"The Gospel addresses our desires for excessive security, affection/esteem, and control, particularly in the first three Beatitudes and in the accounts of the first three temptations of Christ.  The Gospel asks us to graduate from these emotional desires into fully integrated human beings who take responsibility...

"The divine energy that comes with contemplative prayer is THE MOST POWERFUL ENERGY THERE IS, AND IT IS REQUIRED IN SUSTAINED SERVICE...

"At this stage things don't get easier, however.  Your psyche uses this rest to EVACUATE the emotional damage of a lifetime, and you recognize all kinds of PRIMITIVE thoughts and emotions that have been repressed.  You may have a painful feeling that you're spiritually regressing.  Many people turn back at this stage.  It is very difficult to let go of the desire for security.  You don't have the slightest idea where you're going on this spiritual journey; you're being asked to TRUST GOD.  If you hang in there, you learn to give yourself wholly to God, and this giving finally leads to UNION WITH GOD."

i bow.