The Heart of Centering Prayer

  • by Cynthia Bourgeault
  • Narrated by Gabra Zackman
  • 5 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Centering prayer is the path to a wonderful and radical new way of seeing the world. It is not, as is sometimes thought, simply an act of devotional piety, nor is it a Christianized form of other meditation methods. Cynthia Bourgeault here cuts through the misconceptions to show that centering prayer is in fact a pioneering development within the Christian contemplative tradition. She provides a practical, complete course in the practice and then goes deeper to analyze what actually happens in centering prayer: the mind effectively switches to a new operating system that makes possible the perception of nonduality. With this understanding in place, she then takes us on a journey through one of the sources of the practice, the Christian contemplative classic The Cloud of Unknowing, revealing it to be among the earliest Christian explorations of the phenomenology of consciousness.
Cynthia Bourgeault's illumination of the centering prayer path provides compelling evidence of how important the practice has become in the half century since it first arose among American Trappist monks and of its maturation and refinement over the ensuing years of sincere study and practice. It will resonate with beginners on the centering prayer path as well as with seasoned practitioners.
Cover image: Mark Tomalty / Masterfile.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Some 5-Star Content and Some Not

I wanted to learn more about the Centering Prayer and Reverend Cynthia Bourgeault is a genuine expert and scholar. This book often shows up on my "recommended for you" list in both Audible and Kindle.

Like all "movements" there are different schools of the Centering Prayer practice and there is that underlying narrative of institutional comparison and critique which rises to the surface at places. All books are written from within a social and intellectual frame of reference and this one is no different.

The first part of the book is instructive and seems targeted for the seeker. However, in the later sections of the book, the tone decidedly changes to that of a academic apologetic. Reverend Bourgeault delves into the Cloud of Unknowing and writes a brilliant critique of various translations, as she herself translates from Middle English. While I admire the scholarship, this is not why I bought the book. It felt like two books - one for the seeker and one for the institutional practitioner/philosopher.

The second order effect of this academic excursion is that as I listened to the discussion of the translations and the literal words of the original Cloud of Unknowing author, what seemed originally to me as a call to a deeper way of prayer and worship, now feels like a rabbit trail off into something so esoteric and obscure that I am going to search elsewhere in the contemplative movement. For me, I find the work of Fathers Richard Rohr and Thomas Merton more accessible, inspiring, and while challenging, implementable.

The other critique of the book has to do with the quality of the audio recording. While Gabra Zackman is a superb reader, the audio itself has places where her voice is tinny, dragging, and mechanical sounding. It doesn't happen everywhere but it is very annoying and the first time I have had this problem on any audible book.

All in all, I don't know if I would recommend spending money on this book, especially with the poor recording quality.
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- PMRisher

Narration is difficult to listen to

I could not get past the first chapter because the narration was too fast and harsh sounding especially for a book called the heart of centering prayer
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- Laurie Lang

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-21-2017
  • Publisher: Audible Studios