Distinction between Centering Prayer and Transcendental Meditation (TM)

The method of Centering Prayer is designed to prepare sincere seekers of God for contemplative prayer in the traditional sense in which spiritual writers understood that term for the first sixteen centuries of the Christian era. This tradition was summed up pat the end of the sixth century. He described contemplation as the knowledge of God that is impregnated with love. For Gregory, contemplation as the was both the fruit of reflection on the word of God in Scripture and a precious gift of God. He called it "resting in God". In this "resting" the mind and heart are not so much seeking God as beginning to experience, "to taste", what they have been seeking. This state is not the suspension of all activity, but the reduction of many acts and reflections to a single act or thought to sustain oneís consent to Godís presence and action.

The differences between Centering Prayer and Transcendental Meditation are significant. The use of the Sacred Word does not have the calming effect attributed to the TM mantra. Nor is the Sacred Word a vehicle to go to the spiritual level of oneís being as it is in TM. There is no cause-and-effect relationship between using the Sacred Word and arriving at some altered state of consciousness. The Sacred Word is merely the symbol of the willís consent to Godís presence and action within us based on faith in the doctrine of the Divine Indwelling. Thus it is a means of reaffirming our original intention to be in Godís presence and to surrender to the divine action when we are attracted to some other thought, feeling, or impression.

Throughout the process of Centering Prayer, our intention predominates the movement of our will to consent to Godís intention, which according to Christian faith, is to communicate the divine life to us. Hence, unlike TM, Centering Prayer is a personal relationship with God, not a technique.

This form of prayer has been known by different names throughout the Christian era such as the prayer of faith, the prayer of simple regard, the prayer of simplicity, and the prayer of the heart.

Centering Prayer is an effort to renew one of the most traditional forms of prayer in the Christian heritage. It is important not to confuse it with certain Eastern techniques of meditation which can produce natural states of enlightenment. Centering Prayer has nothing to do with this kind of technique. It is basically two thing at the same time: the deepening of our personal relationship with Christ developed through reflection on Scripture; and a method of freeing ourselves from the attachments that prevent the development of this relationship through contemplation and the unfolding of the theological virtues of faith, hope and love.

In human relationships, as mutual love develops, there comes a time when two friends can convey their sentiments without words. They can sit in silence sharing an experience or simply enjoying each otherís presence without saying anything. Holding hands or a single word from time to time can maintain this deep communion.

This loving relationship points to the kind of interior silence that is being developed in Centering Prayer. The goal of Centering Prayer is to prepare for the grace of contemplation by simplifying oneís activity. Psalm 46 recommends, "Be still and know that I am God". In contemplative prayer, one ceases to multiply reflections and acts of the will. A different type of knowledge rooted in love emerges in which the awareness of Godís presence supplants the preoccupations with oneís own presence and the inveterate tendency to reflect on oneself. The experience of Godís presence frees one from making oneself or oneís relationship with God the center of the universe. Oneís own reflections and acts of the will are necessary preliminaries to getting acquainted with Christ, but have to be transcended fi Christ is to share his most personal prayer to the Father which is characterized by self- surrender.

Centering Prayer reduces this tendency to over-activity in prayer and to depending excessively on concepts to go to God. Centering Prayer is a cultivation of the heart in the sense of our inmost being. The purpose of this discipline id not to induce a state of enlightenment, but to reduce the obstacles in us, chiefly selfishness, that prevents us from following the delicate inspirations of the Holy Spirit.

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