Introduction to Centering Prayer

I. The Centering Prayer Introductory Workshop

II. Weekly sessions - an essential element of the Introduction

III. Centering Prayer Groups

IV. Finances    

IV. Schedule of upcoming workshops. 

Ideally, Contemplative Outreach teaches Centering Prayer and its conceptual background over six weeks as participants develop a daily practice of prayer.

The components are:

  • a 6 hour Centering Prayer Introductory Workshop;
  • five weekly sessions of 90 minutes each

I. The Centering Prayer Introductory Workshop.

A six hour introductory workshop, conducted by a commissioned Presenter, trained by Contemplative Outreach, is typically held on a Saturday. Though it can be split into two sessions, it is not advisable to spread the workshop over more than a two-day period.

The goal of the workshop is to teach the method of Centering Prayer and encourage a daily prayer practice. The workshop consists of four conferences, which include two periods of practicing Centering Prayer. Topics covered are:

  1. Prayer as a relationship with God. Centering Prayer and the Christian contemplative heritage.
  1. The method of Centering Prayer, taught and practiced for 20 minutes.  Questions and answers after the prayer period.
  1. The use of the Sacred Word in Centering Prayer as a means of dealing with thoughts.
  1. The fruits of Centering Prayer and extending the benefits into daily life.  Questions and answers.

II. Weekly sessions - an essential element of the Introduction

Through five weekly sessions, Contemplative Outreach supports participants during the weeks after the Introductory Workshop, as they are establishing a daily commitment to a practice of Centering Prayer. The weekly sessions, conducted by a Facilitator trained by Contemplative Outreach, generally consist of:

  • A twenty minute period of Centering Prayer.
  • Viewing a video tape by Fr. Thomas Keating which provides both a conceptual background for Centering Prayer and consideration of the Christian Contemplative Heritage.
  • A twenty-minute period of questions and sharing related to the videotapes and the experience of Centering Prayer .

Centering Prayer in a group can be very supportive and encouraging to those establishing a daily prayer practice. The sharing and discussion period guided by the Facilitator can prove helpful to integrating Centering Prayer with more familiar forms of prayer. A videotape series by Fr. Thomas Keating offers a deeper understanding of the method of Centering Prayer and its conceptual background. It touches on the place of Centering Prayer in our Christian Contemplative Heritage.

III. Centering Prayer Groups

After the Introduction to Centering Prayer, participants usually wish to meet weekly. We recommend the formation of a Centering Prayer Group to support one's growth in this prayer practice. The meeting consists of experience, education and sharing: a) a 20 minute period of Centering Prayer; b) ongoing education in the conceptual background to Centering Prayer and the Christian contemplative heritage; and c) an experience-based sharing on the prayer experience and its effects in daily life.

A Centering Prayer Group generally remains open to new members as participants bring interested friends. If the Group has a trained Facilitator, newcomers can be taught the Method of Centering Prayer, one-on-one, encouraging the newcomer to attend the next Centering Prayer workshop.  

Group leaders receive ongoing support and assistance in leading groups from Contemplative Outreach.  We publish a list of Centering Prayer groups throughout Northern California.  

IV. Finances.

There is no financial obligation for the sponsoring organization whatsoever.  Whatever incidental expenses may be associated with the workshops -- coffee, edibles, copying -- are reimbursed from the workshop proceeds.  We generally charge attendees a total of $35 for the workshop and follow-up.  All without exception are welcome to any events and are welcome to make what donation is within your means without worrying about the donation that is beyond your ability.
We ask only of the sponsoring organization that you be willing to:
  1. use all available means of communication to promote the workshop within your community;
  2. distribute fliers and brochures which we will provide
  3. provide volunteers on the day of the workshop to staff a welcoming table, to provide appropriate refreshments like coffee, tea, and bagels and to staff a book table.   Generally, a total of two - four volunteers will be quite enough. 
  4. provide space for the follow-up and an ongoing Centering Prayer workshop if people wish to meet for ongoing Centering Prayer.  

V. Schedule of upcoming workshops. 

Upcoming workshops are listed in the current newsletter. We are happy to have recently introduced parishioners in Catholic, Episcopalian, and Lutheran churches.  We have also introduced men and woman at several northern California prisons to the practice of Centering Prayer and do our best to support these inmates through visits from volunteers in their area.

To sponsor a Centering Prayer workshop, contact Mary English, the introductory committee chair.

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