The Spiritual Journey Program
The Spiritual Journey Series was designed to support formation in contemplative living. The series is the foundation of the teaching legacy of Fr. Thomas Keating (1923-2018), who was one of the principal architects of the Centering Prayer movement. This program is shared as a freewill offering to anyone who wishes to gain wisdom and understanding of the Christian contemplative path of transformation into Christ.
"The main reason we put together this whole course in Centering Prayer and its conceptual background was to help us realize that Centering Prayer is a life to be lived, not just a method” (Thomas Keating, December 18, 2017).
The topics and practices offered in this series also engage an openness to the wisdom of other spiritual traditions, and to the discoveries of the contemporary sciences, especially psychology. The various wisdom traditions understand and value the oneness of human nature, the interconnectedness and interdependence of all creation, which can be experienced in matter as well as in the deepest spiritual capacities of the human soul.
Keating explained the purpose of the Spiritual Journey series as follows: “My motivation was first to realize that the Christian religion has a very deep and very rich tradition of spirituality and contemplative prayer. It’s not merely a moralistic religion or a set of rituals to express our relationship with God. … It’s something that goes very deep, indeed into our psychic awareness and into our unconscious. So, having realized that the Christian tradition offers insights into the human condition, what we’ve tried to add is developmental psychology and the discoveries in the whole area of the human psyche and psychology that are being revealed as important accompaniments of the mystical wisdom of the ages. What the mystics have always envisioned is now available in many areas as a kind of ‘Contemplation 101” (Thomas Keating, December 2017).
The intention is to provide a globally accessible program for education and formation.
The Program Map
The instructional videos featuring Thomas Keating are at the heart of this offering. They are supplemented by Scripture, narrative commentaries, sometimes the wisdom of other contemplative voices, and suggested practices. Each narrative is meant to be read and experienced in silence and stillness and to be an occasion for reflection, study, engagement, and embodiment.
“Although this program seeks to establish a dialogue between the insights of contemporary psychology and the classic Christian spiritual masters, its primary goal is practical: to provide a solid conceptual background for the practice of contemplative prayer and the spiritual journey for our time. We are called to this journey not just for our own personal growth, but also for the sake of the whole human community” (Keating, Invitation to Love).
The program is offered in five parts:
- Introduction to the Centering Prayer Method
- Models of the Human Condition
- Paradigms of the Spiritual Journey
- Contemplation and The Divine Therapy
- Divine Love: The Heart of the Christian Spiritual Journey
A Note on Language
We are limited in language by convention and by context. To use the word “God” is our conventional reference to what some call the Ultimate Mystery, That Which Is, the Infinite, the Creator, the Atman, the Source, the Unknowable, the Divine.
Often, God is referred to as “he.” We realize the limitations imposed by this gender-specific language. Further, the terms “Father,” “Son” and “Holy Spirit” are conventions of language to express the inexpressible trinitarian relationships. Recognizing the limitations of gender, please feel free to use whatever words are helpful to you.
Modern languages are marked by the patriarchalism of both the past and the present. The Latin word homo signifies neither male nor female but the totality of Man where there are polarities but no divisions or hierarchies. It is in this context that we will be using “he” when referring to Man, male and female.
We are sensitive to language, and yet limited by it, with no biases intended.
Resources for Further Study and Practice
Throughout this program will be drawing from books by Thomas Keating and others. Three foundational works by Keating which you may wish to incorporate in your library are:
Note: Contemplative Outreach offers a free Centering Prayer mobile app timer and resourcefor both iOS and Android platforms. Search your app store using “Centering Prayer.” You may choose to download it to structure and time your prayer periods. The app is also available in Spanish, French and soon, Portuguese.
As You Begin
May you set out on this journey with the yearning that neither fatigue, nor distance, nor fear, nor doubt will deter. Truly, a thousand secret longings of the spirit and the heart have paved the way for us. This is an embodied life rooted in silence, deep listening, receptivity, and daily practice, all the while attending to the ordinary round of responsibilities and relationships in our lives. You are companioned by the thousands that have gone before you and those accompanying you now, unknown though they may be.