Finding Your Breath
An Introduction to Centering Prayer with Kara Lassen Oliver
Do you find yourself out of breath these days? Are you feeling anxious or unsettled? Or do you simply long for a more grounding awareness of God’s presence in your ordinary days? The practices of Lectio Divina (sacred reading) and Centering Prayer are designed to calm our busy minds and bodies and focus our attention on the presence of God.
Centering Prayer is a way of praying developed in the 1970s by Trappist monks William Meninger, M. Basil Pennington, and Thomas Keating. This more contemporary version of Centering Prayer was adapted from the prayer practices of the desert mothers and fathers, described in The Cloud of Unknowing and in the writings of Teresa of Ávila, John of the Cross, and other Christian mystics. The practice invites us to slow our minds and to focus our attention on the loving presence of God.
Lectio Divina, or sacred reading, is a particular way of encountering God in scripture that is different from a more studious approach. Rather than the text being an object of the mind seeking understanding, in Lectio Divina the text is an icon of God that acts upon the heart. The intent is a transforming experience of the presence of God.
These practices are rich and spiritually rewarding, but engaging in a regular practice of any kind can be a challenge. In our eCourse, we’ll use the daily readings from J. David Muyskens’s Sacred Breath: Forty Days of Centering Prayer and encouragement from a community of people practicing together to inspire one another to engage in regular practice. Each day’s practice includes a devotional reading, 20 minutes of Centering Prayer, and a guided Lectio Divina exercise. Seasoned practitioners of Centering Prayer are invited to engage in the full practices, about 45 minutes per day. Those new to the practice are invited to try it a small step at a time and work toward the full practice. Live sessions and the eCourse offer encouragement to grow into the practice free from pressure to do it all.
Finding Your Breath includes:
- All essential content from J. David Muyskens’s Sacred Breath: Forty Days of Centering Prayer.
- Video instruction in Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina.
- 40 days of guided prayer practices, including daily exercises in devotional reading, Centering Prayer, and Lectio Divina.
Join the eCourse alone or with a group. Group rates (for groups of 5 or more) are available. Private breakout rooms for live sessions and private eCourse classrooms are available. For information on group access, email [email protected].
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Kara Lassen Oliver is executive director of The Upper Room Center for Christian Spiritual Formation. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Oliver and her family (husband, Jeff, and children, Claire Marin and Carter) spent two years in Malawi, Africa, as Volunteers in Mission.
Oliver is the author of Passing It On: How to Nurture Your Child’s Faith Season by Season and the compiler of Stepping Out on Your Own: Devotions for High School Graduates and Meeting the Messiah: Scriptures for the Advent Season.
Oliver has served Discipleship Resources International, part of Discipleship Ministries, as director of publishing initiatives in the Central Conferences. She spent several years as a freelance editor and writer and was youth minister at Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville from 2003–2006. She holds a Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt Divinity School and a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies from Butler University.
Rev. Amy E. Steele, Ph.D. is assistant dean for student affairs and community life at Vanderbilt Divinity School. She is an administrator and womanist social ethicist who has deep commitments to understand faith, preaching, and social justice. Her research interests also include 20th century Black religious thought, especially the works of Howard Thurman. She lives in the Nashville area with her son, a rising senior in high school, and her niece and nephew.
Steele is the author of several book chapters and book reviews. She was ordained by the National Baptist Convention, USA in 2001, with United Methodist affiliation in 2010. She has served Cornerstone United Methodist Church as associate pastor and as Project Director for the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence program at American Baptist College, a program funded by Lilly Endowment, Inc. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Religion (Ethics and Society) and Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt Divinity School, respectively. She holds the Bachelor of Science in Secondary English Education from the University of TN at Chattanooga.