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Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the…

Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation

by Martin Laird

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239679,012 (4.27)1
Sitting in stillness, the practice of meditation, and the cultivation of awareness are commonly thought to be the preserves of Hindus and Buddhists. Martin Laird shows that the Christian tradition of contemplation has its own refined teachings on using a prayer word to focus the mind, working with the breath to cultivate stillness, and the practice of inner vigilance or awareness. But this book is not a mere historical survey of these teachings. In Into the Silent Land, we see the ancient wisdom of both the Christian East and West brought sharply to bear on the modern-day longing for radical openness to God in the depths of the heart. Laird's book is not like the many presentations for beginners. While useful for those just starting out, this book serves especially as a guide for those who desire to journey yet deeper into the silence of God. The heart of the book focuses on negotiating key moments of struggle on the contemplative path, when the whirlwind of distractions or the brick wall of boredom makes it difficult to continue. Laird shows that these inner struggles, even wounds, that any person of prayer must face, are like riddles, trying to draw out of us our own inner silence. Ultimately Laird shows how the wounds we loathe become vehicles of the healing silence we seek, beyond technique and achievement. Throughout the language is fresh, direct, and focused on real-life examples of people whose lives are incomparably enriched by the practice of contemplation.… (more)
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    New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton (wrmjr66)
    wrmjr66: Merton's work is more of a mystical bent, but it is a modern classic.

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Showing 5 of 5
A deep and powerful dive into the value of contemplative prayer.

The author explores what the contemplative prayer tradition is about: what motivates it, certain types of practices (prayer words, etc.), and its progress. The author explores the "progress" of contemplative prayer in three phases as one gets deeper into contemplation, and even how "progress" is a difficult metric since one easily moves forward and backward in the process.

The author is very sanguine about the challenges and difficulties attending the discipline. He's the first I've seen to basically come out and say there's no specific model, and the whole premise works against a specific model, even though most of those drawn to it really want a model. His descriptions and explanations make sense even to those (like me) who have not moved deeply into the contemplative traditions even though they may seem compelling and attractive.

Throughout the author is conversant with the major characters and themes of the contemplative tradition from the past 1700 years. A highly engaging and recommended work for those who are considering contemplation. ( )
  deusvitae | Jul 18, 2019 |
This is book on cultivating silent and contemplative prayer. Unlike some books on the topic, it is neither ethereal or abstract. Instead it offers practical advice about how to grow into your personal practice of silence.

One piece of practical advice which I found particularly helpful was what to do with distracting thoughts. Other books on contemplative prayer simply say acknowledge the thought and move on. This book argued that contemplation happened not in the absence of thought, or in our ability to stuff thoughts down, but rather in our ability to let thoughts come without following them with a string of thoughts commenting and building upon them. Thus silent prayer isn't about repression but about cultivating attention to God amidst the distractions.

Beyond this, Laird's advice extends to breathing, posture, setting aside a regular time, the use of a prayer word or phrase to cultivate attention to God. Not really anything revolutionary that isn't said in other books of prayer. But it was said well none the less. ( )
  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
Laird's brief introduction to Christian contemplation is a clear and readable book on a subject that can sometimes be opaque. His readings of some of the desert fathers is particularly illuminating, and while it means he gives less focus to the Carmelite tradition, this focus helps keep the book clear and usable. He closes with a parable which is much better than the average attempt that are common in Christian writing today. ( )
  wrmjr66 | Sep 14, 2011 |
Though I am 50% through this book, I know I will immediately begin to re-read it once done. This book was a recommendation from the leader of a contemplative group I fellowship with out of Columbus, Ohio with an unoffical link to the Abby of Gethsemani in Kentucky. This book is an excellent resource for those who have just begun a journey into contemplative life and prayer (and I am told for those who are well on their way within the journey). It really amazes me how much discussion on contemplative life exist but not as much regarding taking the actual steps along the path. This book really bridges that gap. ( )
  MapleMystic | Apr 20, 2010 |
Enjoyable read. A Catholic Theologian puts the practice of 'zen' into Christian realms and thought. Although I am sure that was not his intention, it's a connection that is easily made. Does a nice job of describing the moves into 'contemplation' but gets a little convaluded at times. I'd recommend this book to anyone who is seriously looking at Christian contemplation. ( )
  disneypope | Sep 30, 2006 |
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