Heartfulness Contemplative Book Study for Lent

The participants in our Contemplative Advent program requested an ongoing group to learn and practice more.  Pastor Tom Kinder and Lisa and Mark Kutolowski are launching Heartfulness Contemplative Training, a program that will offer a weekly gathering for contemplative training and practice as well as opportunities for spiritual direction and deeper immersion (click here to see the first of these, scheduled for February 10th).

The ongoing group will meet Thursday afternoons from 5:45 to 6:45 PM in the United Church of Strafford Parish Hall.  We hope the time will allow for people to participate after work and before evening activities.

The group will start on Thursday, February 15th, as Lent begins.  We will spend the first six sessions (2/15 – 3/22) studying Thomas Keating’s classic introduction to Centering Prayer, Open Mind, Open Heart: the 20th Anniversary Edition.  Each session will include practice as well as discussion.

UPDATE on books:  We have discovered that we cannot get a bulk price so please order the book through your preferred bookseller.  You can find low cost options on line.  Please email us at unitedchurchofstrafford@gmail.com if you would like to borrow a loaner copy or if you have questions.

Lent is traditionally a season of spiritual opening and deepening and preparing for new life.  Centering Prayer is designed to help us do just that.  It is similar to other forms of meditation and mindfulness, but with some distinct differences.  One of the distinctions it makes is to talk about “heartfulness” in addition to “mindfulness.”

Centering Prayer began in the 1980s as a form based on traditional Christian practices and teachings that go back all the way to the first centuries after Jesus.  A large global network has formed of spiritual teachers and lay groups and individuals, and many excellent books have been written as this exciting new manifestation of the ancient Christian contemplative path has evolved.

Thomas Keating writes in his classic introductory text, Open Mind, Open Heart, that “The fundamental purpose of centering prayer and Contemplative Outreach…is to contribute to bringing the knowledge and experience of God’s love into the general consciousness of the human family.  Contemplative prayer is a process of interior transformation…leading, if we consent, to divine union.”   (page 1)

In another place, Keating writes, ““If one is truly transformed, one can walk down the street, drink a cup of tea or shake hands with somebody and be pouring divine life into the world…. The essential thing…is the transformation of one’s own consciousness.  If that happens, and in the degree that it happens, one’s ordinary actions become effective in communicating the Mystery of Christ to whoever comes into one’s life.”  (Mystery of Christ p. 275)

Centering Prayer transforms us, and we then transform the world around us–because transformed people transform people.  It is about our individual relationship with God and at the same time a foundation for a communal life of Christ-like action to make the world more like God’s realm of mercy, justice and peace.

Pastor Tom Kinder will be leading the group and book study with support from Lisa and Mark Kutolowski.  Tom has been a regular meditator for forty-five years, has founded and led church-based contemplative prayer groups for twenty years, has taught this book and others in church settings, and has been trained by Contemplative Outreach as a Centering Prayer presenter. (Contemplative Outreach was founded by Thomas Keating to hold retreats, train presenters and create a spiritual network for Centering Prayer and contemplative practices around the world.)  Lisa co-directs Metanoia of Vermont with Mark, is an experienced, trained practitioner of Centering Prayer and leads retreats on spiritual topics.  Mark has offered the popular Centering Prayer workshop we are holding on February 10th in many other churches, is a presenter for Contemplative Outreach and is a spiritual director and retreat leader.  (You can read much more about Lisa and Mark at http://www.metanoiavt.com/aboutus/)

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