If you want to learn the Centering Prayer method of silently consenting to God’s presence and action in your life, explore the psychology and theology of such prayer, learn about related practices such as lectio divina, and find a community of like-minded persons who can support you in establishing and maintaining a daily silent prayer practice, then Contemplative Outreach is for you.
Centering Prayer, a method of spiritual practice, was developed by several Trappist monks in the 1970s, drawing from ancient Christian teachings from sources like the Desert Mothers and Fathers, John Cassian, Evagrius Ponticus, and the 14th-century author of The Cloud of Unknowing. The three monks most closely identified with the practice — Thomas Keating, William Meninger, and M. Basil Pennington — have all published books about the practice, and each has become renowned as a teacher and interpreter of the Centering Prayer method. In addition, Keating worked most closely with an early group of Centering Prayer practitioners to establish Contemplative Outreach as an international ministry to support to teaching and practice of Centering Prayer. The organization was established in 1983 and today has over ninety active chapters in thirty-nine countries, supporting over 800 Centering Prayer groups and serving upwards of forty thousand practitioners worldwide. Since Keating’s death in 2018, Contemplative Outreach continues to promote his work and teachings, making videos, audio recordings, and written materials of his available both freely online and for sale through their store.
The best way to get involved in Contemplative Outreach is through your local chapter — for example, I’m part of Contemplative Outreach of Atlanta and North Georgia. By visiting the website of your local chapter, you can learn of upcoming workshops where you can learn the method of Centering Prayer and meet other practitioners in your area. Your local chapter should also maintain a list of active Centering Prayer groups, many of which meet at local churches or other settings. Groups typically welcome new members. Most meet weekly or biweekly and typically combine opportunities to learn more about Centering Prayer or contemplative spirituality with the practice of Centering Prayer with the group. I’ve found that regular participation in a Centering Prayer group helps me to be more stable with my daily practice of silent prayer — simply because it is so inspirational to form friendships with others who share a similar interest in contemplative spirituality.
Contemplative Outreach chapters often also over “Intensive” and “Post-Intensive” Retreats — gatherings at monasteries or retreat centers where you are given further instruction into the practice, along with the opportunity to engage in Centering Prayer for extended periods during the retreat.
If you cannot find information about a local chapter of Contemplative Outreach, contact the international organization to see if they can point you to a nearby chapter. More and more, opportunities to participate in workshops and even groups is available online.
Click this link to visit the Contemplative Outreach International website: www.contemplativeoutreach.org. On that site you can find a list of contacts and chapters, both in the United States and in other parts of the world.