The circle gathers weekly on Thursday afternoons from 5:45 to 6:45 PM in the United Church of Strafford Parish Hall. You are invited to be part of this weekly circle anytime—come when you can. There are no prerequisites, commitments or religious affiliations required. You may arrive as late as 6:05. (If you are new to any form of meditation or mindfulness, it would be helpful to speak with Tom in advance, but beginners are more than welcome! firstname.lastname@example.org)
The format will be:
- 5:45 PM—twenty minutes of silence;
- 6:05 PM—twenty minutes of conversation about contemplative tools and practices, and our experiences, questions, struggles or insights as we explore them;
- 6:25 PM—another twenty minutes of silence;
- 6:45 PM—closing, with an optional fifteen minutes of conversation for those who would like to stay until 7:00.
The circle takes place in a generally Christian context and instruction will draw primarily on the Christian contemplative tradition, especially the abundant resources that are burgeoning now in the field of Centering Prayer.
Background: The participants in our Contemplative Advent program requested an ongoing group to learn and practice more. In response, Pastor Tom Kinder and Lisa and Mark Kutolowski have launched Heartfulness Contemplative Training, a program that is offering this weekly gathering for contemplative training and practice as well as other opportunities for spiritual direction and deeper immersion. So far Mark has led a half day workshop on Centering Prayer, and Tom has led a six-week Lenten book study of Thomas Keating’s introduction to Centering Prayer, Open Mind, Open Heart. Several of us are now reading Cynthia Bourgeault’s book Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening.
Centering Prayer is similar to other forms of meditation but with some distinct differences—in fact, it takes some unlearning of other forms in order to master this one. Other traditions are based on mindfulness or concentration, sharpening the mind’s attention, while Centering Prayer teaches a wide open receptivity and working with intention more than attention.
One of the distinctions it makes is to talk about “heartfulness” in addition to “mindfulness.” It also teaches that the fruit of the practice is not in the time spent in silence, as beneficial as that time may be. The greatest fruit is in our lives in the world as we open to let the heart and mind of Christ fill us and the work of the Holy Spirit flow through us. Centering Prayer transforms us and we then help to transform the world around us—because as Christ so clearly understood, transformed people transform people and make the world more like God’s realm of mercy, justice and peace.