A Seamless Whole
Friday, February 17, 2017
Guest writer Cynthia Bourgeault continues exploring the contemplative practice of Centering Prayer.
The fruits of Centering Prayer are found in daily life. Do not look for signs that this prayer is working for you in your subjective experiences during the prayer period. The place to look for results is in what happens after you get up from your meditation cushion.
Perhaps the subtlest fruit of the practice of Centering Prayer (and the most delicious!) is a gradually deepening capacity to abide in the state of “attention of the heart,” as it’s known in the Christianity of the East. You might describe this as a stable state of mindfulness or “witnessing presence,” but emanating from the heart, not the head, and thus free of intrusion from that heavy-handed mental “inner observer” who seems to separate us from the immediacy of our lives. Once you get the hang of it, attention of the heart allows you to be fully present to God, and at the same time fully present to the situation at hand, giving and taking from the spontaneity of your own authentic, surrendered presence.
As this capacity grows in you, it gradually takes shape as a felt center of gravity within you, the place where the pendulum of your being naturally comes to rest. It’s not so much a place you pay attention to as a place you pay attention from.
As I see it, the purpose of Centering Prayer is to deepen your relationship with God (and at the same time with your own deepest self) in that bandwidth of formless, objectless awareness that is the foundation of nondual consciousness. There you discover that you, God, and the world “out there” are not separate entities, but flow together seamlessly in an unbreakable dynamism of self-giving love, which is the true nature of reality and the ground of everything. In that space you discover the meaning of Thomas Keating’s famous statement: “The notion that God is absent is the fundamental illusion of the human condition.”
Contemplative prayer is no longer a luxury; it is an absolute necessity. Up to now, many have thought of contemplation as a devotional, wellness, or personal transformation practice. We’re not just doing our meditation to chill out and get right with the world. We are trying to bring to bear a structure of perception, a system of consciousness, that allows us to empathize and relate to each other without fear, judgment, demonization, or division.
Contemplation is a nonnegotiable. If we want our world to come to oneness, each one of us must take on the responsibility of bringing the mind into the heart so we can become contemplatives not in lifestyle only, but in a complete revisioning and cleansing of the lens of perception. People at the nondual level are much more useful, flexible, versatile, attuned cosmic servants.
Gateway to Silence:
Return to God.
Adapted from Cynthia Bourgeault, The Heart of Centering Prayer: Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice (Shambhala: 2016), 36, 38-39; and
“Christian Nonduality—Seriously?” an unpublished webcast (CAC: 2017).