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" Then the inner talking begins in earnest, and you ask yourself, "How can this be prayer? "Since centering prayer is a discipline of intentional silence, dealing with this internal resistance is an inevitable part of developing a practice.How can God give me my imagination, reason, and feelings and then expect me not to use them? In fact, I've often said to participants at centering prayer introductory workshops that 90 percent of the trick in successfully establishing a practice lies in wanting to do it in the first place. The Art of Awakening Perhaps the most powerful argument is the one from authority. Whether it be the meditation of the yogic and Buddhist traditions, the zikr of the Sufis, the devkut of mystical Judaism, or the contemplative prayer of the Christians, there is a universal affirmation that this form of spiritual practice is essential to spiritual awakening.

But there is another kind of silence as well, far less familiar to most Christians.

In this other kind of silence, the drill is exactly the opposite.

In free silence, you encourage your mind to float where it will; in this other, sometimes called "intentional silence"-or to use the generic description, meditation-a deliberate effort is made to restrain the wandering of the mind, either by slowing down the thought process itself or by developing a means of detaching oneself from it. It doesn't come naturally to most people, and there is in fact considerable resistance raised from the mind itself: "You mean I just sit there and make my mind a blank?

Excerpted from "Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening" by Cynthia Bourgeault.

Reprinted with permission from Cowley Publications. Deeper Silence, Deeper Self"Silence is God's first language," wrote the 16th-century mystic John of the Cross.

And silence is the normal context in which contemplative prayer takes place. There is an outer silence, an outer stopping of the words and busy-ness, but there is also a much more challenging interior silence, where the inner talking stops as well.Most of us are familiar with this first kind of silence, although we don't get enough of it in our spiritual nurture.It's the kind of silence we normally practice in retreat times and quiet days; sometimes you'll hear it described as "free silence." With a break from the usual hurly-burly of your life, you have time to draw inward and allow your mind to meander.You may pore over a scriptural verse and let your imagination and feelings carry you more deeply into it.Or you may simply put the books away and go for a walk in the woods, allowing the tranquility of the setting and the relative quieting of external pressures bring you more deeply in touch with yourself.You listen carefully to how you're feeling, what you're wishing.