Deepening the Practice of Centering Prayer by Cynthia Bourgeault

Notes #5 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.


Tuesday afternoon

It is only the power of your intention that is going to call you back.

Emptiness is not the goal.  Emptiness is not within your capacity anyway.  However, emptying is.

Kenosis = core principle of Christian theology.  Phps. 2:5-11 – Christ’s operational mode is down.

Self-emptying = self-giving

Most spiritual practice is based on the model of “anabasis,” elevation, raising, of concentrating the energy, raising its intensity, collecting it, keeping it from being squandered on low level psychological reactions.  Most of us run around in a deplorable state of non-presence, lost in the smog of our “I need,” “I want,” “I have to have.”  We live in a state of “not really here.”  It is possible to gather the scattered energies of your being to be more here, more present, to be able to say “I am.”   In a state of concentrated presence it is much more possible to believe in the action of grace.

There is another way of arriving at the core spiritual sense, not by storing it up but by pouring it out.  You reach union through the act of giving it away = how God created the world in the first place, an act of prodigal self-giving = katabasis (“tantra” = arriving at union through complete self-emptying).

John the Baptist = the archetype of store it all up asceticism

Jesus = the archetype of pour it all out self-squandering

Perichoresis describes how Trinity moves by complete emptying of the Father into the Son, the Son into the Spirit, the Spirit into the Father, the Father into the Son.  It’s like a water wheel, continuous circular emptying from one bucket into another which creates movement.

Self-emptying is the whole of the path.  Being is infinite and flows to us from an infinite and unstinting source if we just don’t get in the way.  You don’t have to run around worrying about preserving yourself.  You don’t have to end your life as a miser hanging on to your last few drops of being-energy before you get snuffed out.  Don’t worry about being depleted.   Only the ego gets depleted.  There is replenishment of being constantly.

CP is pure self-emptying.

Most meditative practices belong to the store it up school.  We want to be quiet so we can store up more quiet, more calm, more stability, more inner awareness so that we can ascend to higher states.  We want to hang on to our presence.

With CP there is absolutely no resistance.  We’re practicing exactly the path that Jesus walked.  If something has got you thrown out of the kingdom into your own orbit of fear, you can always recover your connection with source by simply letting go of anything you are clinging to, and at that moment of letting go the union with the unstinting source of being is restored in you.  The only thing that makes it hard is because we only do it partially.  Surrender is the easiest thing in the world.  It’s partial surrender which is difficult.

You don’t need to go around protecting yourself all the time.  What you need will be given to you.

You don’t give to get.  It doesn’t matter if you are filled.  There is a sublime freedom beyond the give to get.

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Full teaching available at: www.contemplative.org/audio.html “Deepening The Practice of Centering Prayer”

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