A silent thunder

Cynthia Bourgeault’s October 20th meditation “The Sound of Silence” describes priest and poet Thomas Keating’s wisdom about Centering Prayer:

“A theme that continues in all the poems contained in The Secret Embrace is that silence is not absence, but presence. It is a ‘something,’ not a nothing, It has substantiality, heft, force. You can lean into it, and it leans back. It meets you; it holds you up.”

Henri Nouwen’s Reaching Out came to mind, suggesting two movements: from noise to silence, and from emptiness to presence. Bourgeault says in silence we begin to reorient:

“…we gradually learn the shape of the new terrain….silence does indeed have depth, presence, shape, even sound. As we mature … the perception that the emptiness is in fact the presence becomes more and more palpable. Thomas Keating encourages us that this ‘sound of silence’ keeps right on growing. By his own later stage in the journey, it has become ‘thunderous.'”

Keating experienced the Creator in both the “thunderous” silence and “the dance of life itself.” From this “veiled embrace” between “pure silence and joyful creativity at the very heart of all creation,” says Bourgeault, “flows life in all its beauty, goodness, fluidity, and magical wonder.”

From “A Life Surrendered to Love,” excerpts from conversations with Thomas Keating (1923-2018) at Saint Benedict’s Monastery at Snowmass, Colorado (19-minute video)

Tomorrow: Thomas Merton’s contribution.

7 thoughts on “A silent thunder”

  1. Sure makes me realize that meditation is something I need to add to my spiritual discipline. I tried for years and finally gave myself a break because I didn’t feel at all satisfied with the experience of meditating.


    1. There are many ways to go about it. What’s best for one person isn’t necessarily best for someone else. I think for most of us, it’s trial and error, though I wouldn’t call any attempt at contemplation an “error.” I prefer to think of it as trial and better. Some people simply practice silence. Some folks use a rosary or various rituals. What works best for me is reading a meditation in the early morning, preferably with a cup of coffee. It helps me to keep it simple–very simple!


      1. Tell me the name of the book you use. I have a half dozen favorites because I enjoy reading so much it’s my favorite time of the day to read those. Do you follow your reading with an attempt at centering prayer?


  2. I’ve used various resources over time, such as the Guide to Prayer books that have been published by the Upper Room. When we moved back to the Birmingham area in 2010, I rejoined an Emmaus reunion group that I had been part of from the early 90s through 2005. Joe Elmore (mentioned in several posts) suggested that the group would be strengthened if we used a common resource. Joe had found Richard Rohr’s daily meditations to be very helpful, so we agreed to read those as the basis for our weekly conversation. For the past decade, the daily meditations from the Center for Action and Contemplation have been my first read of the day. They may lead me to some other sources. My October 21 and 22 posts are excellent examples of what sometimes happens. I will flesh out an idea sparked by the CAC meditation, and it will blossom into a blog post. Sometimes they germinate for a week or two and I’ll return to it in a post. In this case, my October 21 post was my reflection on the CAC’s October 20 meditation, and the October 22 post was my reflection on the CAC’s October 21 post. Cynthia Bourgeault’s writing is particularly meaningful for me. She has a way of unleashing a stream of consciousness in me. It’s like I’m having coffee with her, Rohr, Keating, Merton and/or Nouwen.


    1. I read Richard’s blog every morning first thing also. I just discovered it this year. But my question still is, have you been able to quiet your mind and do some kind of meditation practice?


      1. I spend a few minutes with a breath prayer, “Jesus, keep me simple.” I use it to return to silence when my mind wanders. The places I wander become moments of prayer, saying a simple blessing or offering a simple prayer for whoever or whatever has interrupted the silence. Long periods of silence are rare, but it happens. Many years ago I read Parker Palmer’s The Active Life. I learned that I’m not alone in my preference for action over contemplation. Rohr has the same preference. Sometimes it feels like trying to plug a raging water hose. For me, it’s as much channeling my bountiful mental energy into something constructive as it is spending extended time in silence. My best silence comes, often unexpectedly, in brief moments during the day.


      2. Thank you for this thorough answer Ted. I am certainly in the active group. I like contemplating the half dozen entries in my favorite spiritual books every morning. That always makes my day one with a positive attitude and good energy.


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