Open Mind Open Heart Book Review
Open Mind, Open Heart is a book about a spiritually-oriented type of meditation called Centering Prayer. Here are some descriptions the book provides:
- “Centering Prayer as a discipline is designed to withdraw our attention from the ordinary flow of our thoughts.” (p.34).
- “It concentrates the essence of monastic practice into two periods of prayer each day.” (p.34)
- It is a “specific method of preparing for the gift of contemplation” (p.4), i.e., the gift of directly experiencing or “resting in God” (p.20) which “is beyond thinking, images, and emotions.” (p.114)
- “… it centers one’s attention on God’s presence within” (p.109)
This book was written by Thomas Keating, a retired Cistercian priest, monk, and abbot, who is a founder of the Centering Prayer Movement. He’s obviously a good writer who is intellectually talented and well qualified on the subject. After you skim the first three chapters of background materials, the book focuses on answering a long list of questions Keating has received during seminars about exactly how to do Centering Prayer and what to expect from it.
Based on my own limited Centering Prayer experience of less than a year, Open Mind, Open Heart is a good thorough explanation of Centering Prayer. However, for rank beginners I would suggest starting by watching an brief YouTube video by Thomas Keating. In this video Keating says only your intent to be open to the personal experience of God is important; don’t worry about the “how to” details. Just keep practicing Centering Prayer as he very simply describes it in this video and you will progress. After some actual practice Open Mind, Open Heart is a good next step to help answer some of the questions your intellectual mind may have about this experiential practice.
For those who already have a little Centering Prayer experience, Keating is exceptionally good at getting into the “how to” specifics of this simple but mystical subject (which is ultimately indescribable, i.e., directly experiencing God). He doesn’t skip by the hard parts and clearly admits such facts as “Christian life and growth are founded on faith …” (p.13).
Keating also talks in detail about some changes to look for. For example:
- “The only way to judge this prayer is by its long range fruits: whether in daily life you enjoy greater peace, humility and charity.” (p.114) I.e., Don’t look for specific results while doing Centering Prayer itself. Different people will have different experiences while practicing Centering Prayer ( from each other and, indeed, from themselves over time).
- Look for how “you begin to relate to others beyond the superficial aspects” (p.114) and how you begin to have “greater compassion.” (p.97).
Other comments Keating makes about potential benefits include:
- “Emotionally charged thoughts [that sometimes result from Centering Prayer] are the chief way that the unconscious has of expelling chunks of emotional junk. In this way, without your perceiving it, a great many emotional conflicts that are hidden in your unconscious and affecting your decisions more than you realize are being resolved. As a consequence, over a period of time you will feel a greater sense of well-being and inner freedom.” (p.96)
- It can also happen that external difficulties may arise in your life that have a direct connection with your spiritual growth.” (p.97)
All in all this book is an excellent aid for practitioners of Centering Prayer to intellectually understand in more depth its purpose and details. However, don’t forget that ultimately the practice and benefits of Centering Prayer are experiential and not something the human mind can actually understand.
Related Sources top
- Return to Meditation Overview
- Open Mind, Open Heart by Thomas Keating is the source of the quotes in this article.
- Free training & regular support groups are held weekly south of San Francisco in San Mateo, CA. See www.csumChurch.com/meditation. For training events throughout the U.S. see www.contemplativeoutreach.org/
- Here are more books by Thomas Keating about Centering Prayer.
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