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Thomas Keating: The Secret Embrace, Part One
Thomas Keating: The Secret Embrace, Part One

Thomas Keating: The Secret Embrace, Part One: Weekly Summary

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Thomas Keating: The Secret Embrace, Part One

Saturday, October 24, 2020
Summary: Sunday, October 18—Friday, October 23, 2020

I believe Thomas Keating showed great courage in heeding the call of the Second Vatican Council, “opening the windows” of the monastery, and offering Centering Prayer to the world. (Sunday)

In this season of planetary upheaval, Thomas Keating’s courageous spiritual work has deep wisdom to offer us as we begin to wrap our collective hearts around what is required next. —Cynthia Bourgeault (Monday)

Silence is not absence, but presence. It is a “something,” not a nothing. It has substantiality, heft, force. You can lean into it, and it leans back. It meets you; it holds you up. —Cynthia Bourgeault (Tuesday)

God co-inheres and interpenetrates everything, the ocean-in-drop and drop-in-ocean, constantly exchanging in a dance of endless fecundity. —Cynthia Bourgeault (Wednesday)

For most of us—including for Thomas Keating—the sense of joyful, flowing oneness doesn’t just “happen.” It comes at the end of a painful season of stripping and purification that has classically been called “the dark night of the spirit.” —Cynthia Bourgeault (Thursday)

Even with great practice, most of us will only glimpse or abide in our True Self for moments at a time while we are alive, but mystics seem to finally and fully abide there, which I hope encourages us to keep going. (Friday)


Practice: Centering Prayer

Centering Prayer is simply sitting in silence, open to God’s love and our love for God. Today, CAC Living School faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault provides a brief overview of the Centering Prayer practice.

  • It is preferable to find a quiet place to sit comfortably where you will be undisturbed for the period of time you are setting aside for your centering prayer. That said, you can still proceed with your practice even if the environment and conditions are not ideal.
  • There are a variety of meditation benches, cushions and sitting accessories widely available, but sitting upright in a standard chair is perfectly fine.
  • The prescribed daily practice is a minimum of two 20-minute sits. If at all possible this amount is most recommended to start and maintain a dedicated practice. A timer or nearby clock is helpful to time the sitting period.
  • An aid to help in returning to the essence of the practice is to select and use a sacred word or short phrase that can act as a placeholder or symbol for your intention.
  • Aiming to stay relaxed but attentive, close your eyes, and start your practice period rooting in your basic intention of open availability to God.
  • Each time you notice yourself becoming absorbed in a thought, and without making a problem of your distraction, gently release your attention from the thought and inwardly say your sacred word. Your sacred word is not constantly repeated like a mantra, but only used as much as required to bring yourself back into alignment with your original intention.
  • In the context of this practice, a thought is defined as anything that brings your attention to a focal point. This could be an idea, vision, memory, emotion, or dwelling upon a physical sensation. If it captures your attention, it’s considered a thought, and by letting go you are renewing your intention and consent for “God’s presence and action within.”
  • As you continue in the prayer period and thoughts inevitably arise, use your sacred word to gently and quickly clear your mental debris, and to return to open awareness and availability.
  • When the allotted time is up, slowly open your eyes. Without rushing, take a few minutes to allow yourself to come back to your usual state of consciousness.
  • If planning longer periods of sitting, many find a very slow meditative walk after each 20 minutes or so helps to keep the body more comfortable and alert.

Cynthia Bourgeault, The Method and Practice of Centering Prayer, The Wisdom Way of Knowing at

For Further Study:
Cynthia Bourgeault, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, foreword by Thomas Keating (Cowley Publications: 2004).

Cynthia Bourgeault, The Heart of Centering Prayer: Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice (Shambhala: 2016).

Cynthia Bourgeault, Thomas Keating’s The Secret Embrace (2020), online on-demand course. Full details available from Spirituality & Practice,

Thomas Keating, Divine Therapy and Addiction: Centering Prayer and the Twelve Steps, with Tom S., interviewer (Lantern Publishing and Media: 2020, ©2009).

Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel, 20th anniversary ed. (Continuum: 2006).

Thomas Keating, The Secret Embrace, artist Charlotte M. Frieze (Temple Rock Company: 2018). A limited number of copies available at

Richard Rohr, What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2015).

Spirituality, Contemplation, and Transformation: Writings on Centering Prayer, Thomas Keating and others (Lantern Books: 2008).

Image credit: “Outside in” (detail), James Turrell at House of Lights, Tohka-machi, Niigata, Japan.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: His silence is a kiss, / His presence an embrace. —Thomas Keating, “Loneliness in the Night.”
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