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The Heart of Centering Prayer: Nondual…

The Heart of Centering Prayer: Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice

by Cynthia Bourgeault

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This is the third book on Centering Prayer I've read (four if you count The Cloud of UnKnowing). The first was one of Thomas Keating's (Centering Prayer's guru grand-daddy). This was a while ago and my introduction to the concept. I didn't find it all that exciting. Then I read David Frenette's The Path of Centering Prayer. More helpful (meaning I was in a more receptive place) but almost entering cribbed from Keating. Bourgeault's text is my favorite, though I don't really get what she (or anyone else) means when they invoke the concept of nonduality.

The book is divided into three parts. Part one describes the 'how' of Centering Prayer, describing the method of centering prayer and rooting it in the Kenotic pattern of Christ. Part two is more abstract. Here Bourgeault discusses nonduality, the prayer of the heart (drawn from the Orthodox Mysticism St. Symeon the New Theologian) and insights from the neurosciences. Part three gives a partial commentary on The Cloud of Unknowning and what it has to teach us about Centering Prayer (and Christian, apophatic mysticism in general).

I think Part 1 is the best short intro to Centering Prayer I've read, though I am more of a dabbler in the practice than a regular practitioner. Part two has got some ideas worth pondering and part three makes me want to read The Cloud again. On the whole, I love that Bourgeault locates Centering Prayer firmly within the Christian tradition (even though she borrows terms like nonduality from the East and Integral Spirituality). She offers a thoughtful and engaged analysis of the Christian mystical tradition and the ways that it paved the way for the flowering of Centering Prayer. I still have questions about it (as I tend to like a more explicitly Christocentric approach) but found her a good conversation partner. ( )
  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
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"Centering Prayer is the path to a wonderful and radical new way of seeing the world. It is not, as is sometimes thought, simply an act of devotional piety, nor is it simply a Christianized form of other meditation methods. Cynthia Bourgeault here cuts through the misconceptions to show that Centering Prayer is in fact a pioneering development within the Christian contemplative tradition. She provides a practical, complete course in the practice and then goes deeper to analyze what actually happens in Centering Prayer: the mind effectively switches to a new operating system that makes possible the perception of nonduality. With this understanding in place, she then takes us on a journey through one of the sources of the practice, the Christian contemplative classic The Cloud of Unknowing, revealing it to be among the earliest Christian explorations of the phenomenology of consciousness. Cynthia Bourgeault's illumination of the Centering Prayer path provides compelling evidence of how important the practice has become in the half-century since it first arose among American Trappist monks, and of its maturation and refinement over the ensuing years of sincere study and practice. It will resonate with beginners on the Centering Prayer path as well as with seasoned practitioners" --Back cover.… (more)

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