Introducing Centering Prayer
James A Van Slyke
 Born 1923 in New York
 Trappist Monk and Priest
 One of the primary leaders in
centering/contemplative prayer
 Prayer practice started in the 1970s
among a group of Trappist Monks
 Led to a program of training in prayer
Open Heart, Open
Thomas Keating
for both laypersons and ministers from
many different denominations
What Centering
Prayer is Not
1) Not a Relaxation Exercise
2) Not a Charismatic Gift
3) Not a parapsychological
(i.e. Out of body experience)
4) Not a “mystical” Experience
(i.e. Visions or Magic)
 Centering Prayer: Definition
Prayer of the Heart
Prayer of Simplicity
 Prayer focused on reducing the
obstacles to experiencing God
 Facilitating responses and
habits, which bring about the
inspirations of the Holy Spirit
Method of Centering
Attempt to Turn off the
Ordinary Flow of Thoughts
To slow down the Flow, start by
focusing on one thought
One or Two syllable Word
Could be a word from Scripture
 As thoughts drift to different places,
continue to focus on the word or phrase
 Not about repetition, but refocus
 Thoughts are often clustered together
and distracting
 Prayer creates space between the
 Attempt to direct attention away from
Method of
the stream of thoughts, to the
Story of Mary and
Luke 10:38-42
Martha is busy doing work about the
house (Our thoughts can become
She chastises Mary for not helping her
with the chores and sitting at the feet of
Jesus says that Mary has “chosen what is
 Random thoughts from the imagination
Plans; agendas, etc.
Just accept them and move on
 Thoughts with an attraction to them
Something draws your attention
Hearing a sound on the street
 Insights; psychological breakthroughs
Types of
Can be helpful, but should not distract
from the connection to God
Clearing the mind to allow room for the
Holy Spirit
 Self-Reflection
Reflect on what is happening
Once again, helpful but distracting
Can take one out of the experience
 Interior Purification
Types of
Through silence inner psychological
content may arise
A type of therapeutic experience
As these attachments are released the
false self leaves and the true self
 Psychological content sets up defenses
(False self)
 Letting go of these defenses allows for
the emergence of the true self
Open Heart,
Open Mind
(page 14)
Not the absence of thought, but
detachment from them
Opening of the Mind and Heart, our
entire being to God, who is beyond words
thoughts, and emotions
Beyond the psychological content of the
present moment