September e-bulletin

“Deep prayer increases our trust in God so that we can acknowledge anything
and are not blown away by it.”

Thomas Keating, Intimacy with God



Unloading of the Unconscious


Q: I have practiced Centering Prayer for years now and I was wondering if you could explain the process of unloading of the unconscious. What happens when forgotten memories and feelings, past traumas, just erupt during the prayer session. Does it mean that by being brought to the surface they are healed? How to handle them during the prayer itself as they are much more difficult to let go than “ordinary” thoughts.

Mary: As Fr. Thomas taught, the Divine Therapist embraces every opportunity we provide (by faithfulness to our practices) to remove all the obstacles within us that preclude the free flow of Grace/Love in our lives. A regular practice of Centering Prayer almost guarantees the “cleaning out the basement” will begin! For most lay folks, the bulk of the “unloading of the unconscious” occurs in the midst of our daily lives though, not during the time of prayer. Relationships, careers/jobs, health issues provide a myriad of sources to begin to free us from our unconscious attachments and aversions. Yearly retreats also enhance the unloading process.

But what is most important to remember from my perspective is that while the psychological/physical content of the moment may be uncomfortable and down right dreadful, it is a true indication that the Divine Therapy ( healing process ) is fully underway. God is truly LOVING US INTO LIFE. A Radical, Invincible Trust begins to emerge in the One who brought us to the moment; that One will see us through the moment, because the only way out IS through. Often we are only aware of this in hindsight. For if we were fully aware of the unloading we think we are really in charge of it! The 12-step way of saying all of this is, “God is doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” So faithfulness to our daily practices is our way of saying yes to the invitation to be transformed and consent to Divine Union, the fourth Consent.

When really overwhelmed with emotion or pain during Centering Prayer just be. Fr. Thomas taught that in the midst of unloading the sacred word is like a buoy in a hurricane. No where to be found! But if we ride it out, so to speak, a calming begins to emerge after a while and we can “ever so gently” return to our sacred word/symbol.

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Centering Prayer Introductory Programme. Over two Second Saturdays, September 12 and October 10, 2020

Centering Prayer Introductory Programme

Presented by Contemplative Outreach Dublin

Over two Second Saturdays

September 12 and October 10, 2020

Do you seek the still, quiet voice of God? The Centering Prayer Introductory Program will help us to understand the Indwelling Presence of God within each of us and our intimate relationship with that Presence.

The method of Centering Prayer will be presented, with two conferences on each of the two Saturdays.

We will explore the benefits of Centering Prayer in ordinary life and experience two periods of Centering Prayer practice.

All are welcome to attend – those new to Centering Prayer and those re-viewing the method.

Time: 10 a.m. – 12 noon.

The program will be presented on the Zoom platform.  To register contact

Sr. Freda Kenny at Sr. Freda will then forward the Zoom number.






August E-Bulletin

August 2020

“Contemplative prayer allows the hunger and thirst for God to well up.”

Thomas Keating

Voices of the Community

Pulsing with Life by Sandy Hilger

Saints Simon and Jude Centering Prayer Meeting Huntington Beach, CA


I saw a tree in the park.
The young leaves were bright green, through and through.
“That’s nice,” I thought, “They look so young and fresh!”

But then I took time to pause, and I saw:
The older leaves were yellowed-green, only the central veins kept the same bright hue,
still spreading the life-giving energy of the tree upon which they hung.

And so, I wondered:
Do our centers show more fully as we fade?Do our central lifelines continue to pulse with the life-giving energy of the universe?

I like to think it is this pulsing energy we seek in Centering Prayer.
I seek to join my feeble pulse with the eternal loving life-energy of God.
To join God’s rhythm, in unison.

And so, I try again, and again and again,
to find His life-giving, loving pulse,
and join mine to His – if only for a second or two at a time.

Dark Night of the Soul and Clinical Depression


Q: I’d like to know more about the dark night of the soul and  how it differentiates  from clinical depression.

Joy: Thank you so much for asking this question. Many of us are going through a range of difficult feelings with so much going on in the world around us, so much suffering. Although I am a spiritual director and not a psychologist I can provide some of my initial thoughts about your question. You may also find it helpful to read Thomas Keating’s description of it in Invitation to Love.

Let’s start with the dark night of the soul. When we are in the dark night of the soul our prayer life might feel dry. We can feel abandoned because it is hard to relate to God in the way we have related before, and it may seem like God is completely absent. But it’s also a time when God can reveal his/herself to us in a new way. God is actively and completely loving us, carrying us through the whole thing, even when we find that hard to feel. It’s a time when our entire image of God is being expanded, taken out of the little box in which we had it, as God loves us into a new, fuller relationship.

The dark night experience can take time, and it can be painful. We might feel lost or unsure of ourselves and even vacillate in any calling we may feel to serve God. It’s a time when our false self is being revealed to us―our emotional programs for happiness can become more obvious to us. This can include our desire to be sure of things, i.e. for security, as the ways we usually reach for God no longer seem fruitful. Our desire for affection and esteem may have led us into habits or addictions that we come to realize do not feed us the true spiritual nourishment we desire. Our desire for control may rear up as anger, for example, when we realize that we can’t make God show up, or appear to us in the way we would like. All of this can be highly frustrating, and even humiliating. But it’s not humiliating in the sense that we have been found to be bad or horribly flawed, but rather in the sense of its Latin root humus, or earth: we are becoming fertile soil where God’s love can grow and flourish in us and thorough us. As difficult as it is, this whole process of the dark night brings us to see more clearly the barriers we put up that can keep us from noticing, accepting, and receiving God’s love. It comes as a gift to us from God.

Deeply humbled by seeing more and more of the false programs and agendas that have kept us from experiencing the love of God, we may be drawn to give up, in a way. Even this is a gift, however challenging. We can’t “fix” the false self by ourselves: we need God. We can do our part, seeking whatever resources are available including therapy, and trusted relationships with people anchored in God who can gently assure us of the deep love that God has for us and also gently reflect back when are off the mark. We can engage in practices that help us to integrate our bodies, minds and hearts as we affirm our intention to grow deeper in relationship with God; including meditation such as Centering Prayer; and Welcoming Prayer, the in-your-life version of letting go to God.

We don’t come out of the dark night with a sense of accomplishment, or “Oh hey, I did it!” And we don’t necessarily find ourselves in a place of “peace and serenity” or whatever we might have imagined as some ideal spiritual state. What we find is closer to an acceptance of ourselves in any given moment, exactly as we find ourselves, with all that is going on inside us. There is a deeper faith, a deeper seeing that it all belongs to and is loved and cherished by God, in no matter what state we find ourselves. (Just to clarify, this is not the same as passively giving in to the circumstances that surround us, but rather, aligned with who we are at the core, we can choose our actions in those circumstances in alignment with our true self, with who the Beloved created us to be.)

There are some similarities between the dark night of the soul and depression. Depression can also bring pain, discouragement and disengagement. And some feelings of sadness are a normal reaction to grief, loss or other life circumstances. But when clinical symptoms including trouble concentrating, hopelessness and feelings of worthlessness, insomnia, and especially any suicidal thoughts are present they are best treated by a professional―a workup for depression will depend on a lot of factors. When at all in doubt, please consult with a professional to be sure you get the care you need.

That said, there can be a large overlap between depression and the dark night, as there can be a spiritual undercurrent to both. I am touched by Thomas Moore’s words, in his Foreword to Mirabai Starr’s translation of The Dark Night of the Soul:

While I wouldn’t equate the dark night with depression, I do think our depressive moods could be imagined spiritually rather than only psychologically. John might help us see that what we call depression is a kind of initiation rather than just an emotional problem. …We might imagine the same experience as a crossroads in our effort to make a meaningful life and to achieve a sense of union with the life coursing through us. Depression has its physical, emotional and psychological dimensions and is tied in with our background, personality, and experiences. It has its chemical and genetic base. But it is also spiritual and potentially valuable in making a meaningful life.[1]

Overall, know that whatever you may be going through, you are not alone. And when we are brought to our knees, literally or in our hearts, there can be room for God to show us more of who God is. Look for the gentle, small hints throughout the day, the joys that slip between the griefs. There may be wafts in a baby’s smile, in the gentle swish of a breeze through a tree or an ocean wave, or in our abject prayer as we pray for another who is suffering, or as we go through a deep loss. We are all so deeply loved by God, exactly as we are, beyond our circumstances and any hoped-for outcome, from the very beginning. I pray that we can learn how to let go to that, to trust.

I hope this has answered your question, and I pray that you feel met by God, wherever you are.


[1] St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul. Mirabai Starr, translator. New York: Riverhead Books, translation copyright 2002.



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July e-bulletin

July 2020

“God’s activity is the work of the Holy Spirit in your particular embodiment in this world … 
We are pleading for the supreme gift of the Spirit simply
by consenting to God’s will and action.”

Thomas Keating,  Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit


Highlighted Online Retreats and Events

Welcoming Prayer Sessions on Zoom:
The last Welcoming Prayer Session on Zoom will be held August 13th. Whenever you need a Welcoming Prayer session you can view all the recordings on our YouTube channel here. Scroll through the list until you see the practice sessions.


Lectio Divina Immersion and Presenter Training Zoom Retreat
August 7, 8 2020 
This online retreat will  provide an opportunity to explore and deepen one’s individual practice of Lectio Divina as a way of praying the scriptures in an online community. Register here


The Great Reality Deep Within 
12-Step Zoom Weekend Retreat
Friday, August 14 to Sunday, August 16

This retreat is for those in 12-Step recovery who have a desire to learn a method of meditation and companion practices, as well as for experienced meditators who wish to deepen their established practices. Registration due by August 7th.
Read more and register here.


Thomas Keating’s The Secret Embrace 
with Cynthia Bourgeault
Offered by Spirituality & Practice
Monday, August 31 – Friday, September 25

This course will allow you to glimpse, through the shimmering facets of Fr. Thomas Keating’s poetry and Cynthia’s insightful exegesis, key aspects of his final journey of transfiguration – a path open to us all. The whole course will be set on the foundation of the question “How do we live in this world of pain and uncertainty with the courage and unity that come from turning toward the stillness, the transfiguration?” 
Read more and register here

You can see the full bulletin here

June E-bulletin


“… Through contemplative prayer we come under the influence of the Spirit
both in prayer and action. Then action is truly prayer.”

Thomas Keating, Mystery of Christ


Voices of the Community


Centering Prayer as a Path of Return
By Colleen Thomas

… I came to my Centering Prayer practice in my mid-20’s around the same time that I joined a 12-step program for compulsive overeating. In the years between childhood and adulthood, what began as a retreat to my imaginary creative worlds, became an escape route from all of the angst and pain of childhood wounds. And so I entered into the practice of Centering Prayer a self-professed full-fledged escape artist. Over time, I found a new shelter in my contemplative spiritual practice: It provided me the same space for stillness, silence and solitude than writing, but with a more life giving practice of “letting go” which  challenged my  habitual coping mechanism of escape. Read More>


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Our Voices United : To the global community of Contemplative Outreach:   


To the global community of Contemplative Outreach:                                                 

To be in the kingdom is to participate in God’s solidarity with the poor by sharing with them the good things that have been given to us.  In the New Testament the great sin is to be deaf to the cry of the poor whether that cry springs from emotional, material, or spiritual need.  Although we cannot help but partake in some degree in social injustice because we live in this world, we must constantly reach out in concrete and practical ways to those in need.  Divine love is not a feeling, but a choice.”
– Thomas Keating, Meditations on the Parables of Jesus

In the spirit that exclaims, “we are all created equal,” Contemplative Outreach unites its voice with those who have been oppressed, violated, discriminated against, abused, exploited, and who now are asking to be considered normal human beings! At the same time we reject the use of violence in the struggle to achieve equality. We acknowledge that those who discriminate are also human beings and in need of healing as well.

Contemplative Outreach recognizes that discrimination, being part of our cultural conditioning, can be healed by contemplative practices like Centering Prayer. We invite all of us who consciously or unconsciously recognize that we participate or have participated in acts of discrimination to open our hearts to the healing power of God, so that united with those who have been the victims of discriminatory acts, we can all be healed together.
With the hope of love and peace for our world,
Your Governing Board


Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer Retreat via Zoom

Ennismore Retreat Centre, Montenotte, Cork

5 day retreat Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer

Monday June 29 – Friday July 3, 2020

15 participants using the Zoom platform


This retreat offers an in depth introduction to the Monastic form of Lectio Divina as a contemplative process of transformation and its relationship with Centering Prayer.

The programme will support newcomers to Lectio Divina as well as those who wish to revisit this ancient practise. Input will be given for two hours each morning and participants are invited to progress through these days in silence and solitude as their own sacred space permits.

In exploring the monastic form of Lectio Divina we will relate to the four Senses of Scripture, incorporate periods of practise and make the connection of Lectio Divina to our daily lives.

This retreat will be presented by Fionnuala Quinn O.P. and Lesley O’ Connor Contemplative Outreach Dublin.

Please register by sending an email to

The zoom link will be forwarded to participants

May E-Bulletin

May 2020

“Silence is not just silence or emptiness or nothingness but … the best preparation there is because then there’s no obstacle. And God’s love – since it’s so pervasive – just comes in, like the weather, and like it fills any empty space.”

Thomas Keating, God is Love,The Heart of All Creation


  A Borderless Practice:
  The Interspiritual Invitation of Centering Prayer

  By Keith Kristich




 In the weekly Centering group I have led for the last seven years, it has been my joy to find conservatives and progressives,   Evangelicals,  Catholics, Episcopalians, and fundamentalists gathered in union to open to the mystery of God. It has also been my joy to    welcome practitioners of Buddhism, spiritual seekers, and in particular, two close friends of the Jewish faith.
But how does such a diverse group of people come together in union when there are so many distinctions and differences of thought and mind? Because Centering Prayer is “non-conceptual”, during our twenty minute silent sit, we don’t cling to our cherished concepts and beliefs about God, but rather sink into the naked and immediate heart of God as the Ultimate Mystery, always just outside the reach of the mind’s grasp. Read more>



Lectio Divina in Moments of Crisis
with Leslee Terpay

Q: How can Lectio Divina help us during this time of Covid-19?

Read Leslee’s response here.


More resources:


Have questions? Submit your questions about your Centering Prayer practice, the spiritual journey and the contemplative life to any of our contributors by emailing

An archive of all Q&A’s may be found here.


See the complete e-bulletin here


E-bulletin from Contemplative Outreach April 2020

April 2020
“God is totally committed to the transformation of each of us into Godself.”

Thomas Keating, From the Mind to the Heart

“Oneness: The Secret Embrace”
Zoom Video Conference with
Cynthia Bourgeault

April 30 – May 2, 2020 
Free and open to all
(suggested donation of $35 USD)Offered in partnership with Contemplative Outreach of South Africa, this Zoom-video conference will be held from April 30th to May 2nd from about 12:30pm GMT/2:30pm South Africa Time/ 8:30am Eastern  (New York) Time each day and will include Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina, teachings from Cynthia, and the opportunity to submit questions via the Zoom chat feature. Each day will be about two hours long and participants are free to come and go as need be. The conference will be recorded and made available to all at a later date. 

Cynthia will unpack Thomas Keating’s emerging final vision of Oneness: a state of consciousness/selfhood, oneness among the religions and oneness in our fragile and embattled world. Paul calls this becoming a “New Creation”.

“For Christians, it is to be a kind of fifth Gospel:
to become the word of God and to manifest God … empty of self and full of God”
– Thomas Keating, The Human Condition


Register here

The Welcoming Prayer in Moments of Crisis
With Mary DwyerQ: How can the Welcoming Prayer help us during this time of Covid-19?

  • Read Mary’s response here.
  • Watch a live Welcoming Prayer experiential session with Mary in the Meditation Chapel here.

More resources:

  • 30-minute experiential Welcoming Prayer practice twice a week in the Meditation Chapel. Find more information in the “New in the Meditation Chapel” section below.
  • Contemplative Life Program (CLP) booklet on the Welcoming Prayer available through the Contemplative Outreach Bookstore.
  • Welcoming Prayer Playlist on our YouTube channel.
  • Live Welcoming Prayer online course will be offered this Fall through Spirituality and Practice.     

By Rashani Read

There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken,
a shatteredness
out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow
beyond all grief which leads to joy
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength.
There is a hollow space too vast for words
through which we pass with each loss,
out of whose darkness we are sanctioned into being.
There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open
to the place inside which is unbreakable
and whole
while learning to sing.

Read the full e-bulletin here