David Frenette is a leader and senior teacher in the Centering Prayer movement, and a friend and advisor of Father Thomas Keating for 30 years. He co-created and co-led a contemplative retreat community and is spiritual director at the Center for Contemplative Living in Denver, Colorado. For more information you can visit their website: www.incarnationalcontemplation.com
Frenette calls this book "a complete handbook to Christian contemplation and the practice of Centering Prayer." This means that it takes within its warm embrace new and longtime practitioners of centering prayer and reaches out to seekers of all types looking for a rich, deep, and meaningful devotional life.
The 2000-year-old Christian contemplative tradition offers plenty of insights into praying in silence. In Open Mind, Open Heart (2006) and other books, Father Thomas Keating has written about centering prayer as a form of Christian meditation, and hundreds of thousands of readers have taken up the practice.
In the first section of this book, Frenette presents four ways to deepen your centering prayer practice, beginning with use of the sacred word. He explains how to apply eight active contemplative attitudes with the sacred word. The same attitudes can be beneficial as you work with the other sacred symbols — the sacred breath, the sacred glance, and the sacred nothingness. The last practice is by far the most difficult. Frenette describes it in the following way:
"Trust in your deepening experience of God. Self-empty in love. Let your prayer be found in God. . . . Practicing centering prayer with the sacred nothingness lets God's presence and action find you."
In Part II, Frenette expands on his discussion of Christian contemplation. It all begins, he writes, with saying "Yes":
"You cannot do anything to produce an experience of God in you, but you can say yes to receiving divine love, to awakening to this sacred gift. You can say yes to letting it come into your consciousness and transform the pain of your own contraction, separation, unconscious resistance, and self-isolating behavior. You can be transformed in God's own image, awakening to the sun rising in you."
In these chapters, Frenette revisits the contemplative attitudes, providing "Reflective Exercises" for each one:
• Consent and Giving God Consent to Act in You
• Opening and Recognizing
• Simplicity and Awakening in God
• Gentleness and Effortlesesness
• Letting Go and Letting Be
• Resting and Being
• Embracing and Being Embraced
• Integrating in Life and Emerging in God
Frenette's enthusiasm for centering prayer, his use of illustrative material from his own life and mystical experiences, and his flair for creativity give this handbook a vibrancy that carries the reader along. We were especially taken with his comparisons of contemplation with dancing and with floating on water.