Deepening the Practice of Centering Prayer by Cynthia Bourgeault

Notes #10 from Cynthia Bourgeault: Olympic Park Inst. Centering Prayer Retreat – Sept. 1-5, 2003

This post was originally published in Christopher Page’s blog, In A Spacious Place (#8 and #9).

Thursday afternoon

Problem of apparent dichotomy between contemplation and action.  How do we narrow the gap?

There is something in you that should be able to flow out in all directions so that life is not an interruption of your silence but a chance to practice it in a different art form more and more deeply.

Silence is not an external state but an internal state.  And it is possible to hold very deeply an interior state of silence in the midst of activity.  You are not dependent upon an external state of silence.

You say “yes those are the conditions, yes I embrace them.”  So you are no longer fighting against the conditions.  The conditions are as they are.  What I can do is choose to place myself within them = attitude which allows us to go back into life.

In life we spend most of our time bracing and fighting with the conditions, pushing them off, resisting.  This creates a state of inner turmoil where there cannot possibly be an inner silence.  So you start complaining and lose the opportunity to rise to the occasion by embracing it from a deeper place.  You can use the conditions of your life to practice your prayer.

This is an internal accepting having to do with what’s going on in the moment.  It doesn’t have to do with what you’re going to do for the rest of your life.  It doesn’t have to do with rolling over and playing dead.

Confronted with any situation in life, anything that hits you in the external world, you have a choice in the moment.  You can harden and resist or you can soften and yield.  If you harden and resist, if you brace against it, you will be thrown out of peace and back into ego.  If you yield, soften and consciously embrace this now regardless of its psychological content, you will stay connected with your practice and then you can choose what to do.

The contemplative stance says that intelligent conscious choice can only be made from a place of inner embracing first.  As long as you’re fighting, as long as you’re running from it, you won’t be able to choose from other than your small self.

If you show up, you have a responsibility to be present.

If you show up but are not present, you are diminishing your own being.

This moment can always be endured.  Where we get into trouble is that we borrow trouble from the future.

Embrace exactly what’s here now without resisting it.  You will find that life will flow through it and it can actually energize you.  Turn and meet it with consciousness.  Things will flow into you and out of you.  Be present to the possibilities that are always there in a moment when you put yourself fully in it.

It doesn’t have to be pleasant.  Your ability to survive and flourish in it is not dependent on your first making it pleasant.  You don’t have to lie to yourself and pretend a situation is not what it is.  You can work with the conditions as they are.

“Take a position; leave a position.”  When a position is over, you leave it and take a new position without nostalgia, without looking back.  Every moment has a different demand and requires different energy.  Every situation is fresh.  States come and go.  Being remains.  There is a vein of continuity that connects them and makes them into one unbroken action.

You can do this prayer in any state because it is an act of being.  It is a gift of being.

A river does run through your life and it is God.  We must learn to trust the river.

Every position in life is a sacred gesture of the altar and you need to meet them with the right energy.

No comparison – let every moment be fresh = beginner’s mind.

Thursday Evening Q & A

Attention brings us to that place of “I am” presence.  It increases your connection to your “I amness.”  You need to learn to put your mind at one point, keeping it there and being able to give attention when things are not interesting.  Attention is a sacred substance.  What you pay attention to grows.  Attention practice tends towards the acquisitive.  So surrender is needed to learn to flow out into life.  They are parallel tracks.  We have to learn both.

Human beings are three centered: 1.  mind  2.  emotional = nervous system  3.  body = moving centre.  All three need to be engaged and in balance.  Each centre has its particular wisdom to give.  Skills need to do the spiritual centre are embedded in the body.

Trying to learn faith with the head is crazy.  Everybody needs to have some kind of physical spiritual practice which allows you to be more fully present to being.

Your major purpose in this prayer is preparing you soul to be a tabernacle for God.


Full teaching available at: “Deepening The Practice of Centering Prayer”

1 reply
  1. power of prayer
    power of prayer says:

    King David clarified that the privilege to be heard in prayer is enjoyed only by those whom God has chosen to be His own: “But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself [and given distinction to] him who is godly [the man of loving-kindness]. The Lord listens and heeds when I call to Him” (Ps.4:3, Amplified Bible).

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