Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplationby Martin Laird
Pub. Date: 07/01/2006
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Sitting in stillness, the practice of meditation, and the cultivation of awareness are commonly thought to be the preserves of Hindus and Buddhists. Martin Laird shows that the Christian tradition of contemplation has its own refined teachings on using a prayer word to focus the mind, working with the breath to cultivate stillness, and the practice of inner… See more details below
Sitting in stillness, the practice of meditation, and the cultivation of awareness are commonly thought to be the preserves of Hindus and Buddhists. Martin Laird shows that the Christian tradition of contemplation has its own refined teachings on using a prayer word to focus the mind, working with the breath to cultivate stillness, and the practice of inner vigilance or awareness. But this book is not a mere historical survey of these teachings. In Into the Silent Land, we see the ancient wisdom of both the Christian East and West brought sharply to bear on the modern-day longing for radical openness to God in the depths of the heart.
Laird's book is not like the many presentations for beginners. While useful for those just starting out, this book serves especially as a guide for those who desire to journey yet deeper into the silence of God. The heart of the book focuses on negotiating key moments of struggle on the contemplative path, when the whirlwind of distractions or the brick wall of boredom makes it difficult to continue. Laird shows that these inner struggles, even wounds, that any person of prayer must face, are like riddles, trying to draw out of us our own inner silence. Ultimately Laird shows how the wounds we loathe become vehicles of the healing silence we seek, beyond technique and achievement.
Throughout the language is fresh, direct, and focused on real-life examples of people whose lives are incomparably enriched by the practice of contemplation.
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Table of Contents
|Introduction : God our homeland||1|
|1||Parting the veil : the illusion of separation from God||7|
|2||The wild hawk of the mind||19|
|3||The body's call to prayer||31|
|4||The three doorways of the present moment : the way of the prayer word||47|
|5||The riddles of distraction||75|
|6||From victim to witness : practicing with affliction||95|
|7||The liturgy of our wounds : temptation, humility, and failure||117|
|Epilogue : who am I? : a tale of monastic failure||133|
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While I loved this book, I'm sure it's not for everyone. I've slowly moved my spiritual life in a more contemplative direction for the past seven or eight years and I mostly find that the Buddhist texts I read have more practical advice for the contemplative life than most of the Judeo-Christian work I've read. Then, the minister at the contemplative service I attend suggested this book. It was just what I needed. Martin Laird speaks to desire for practical exercises and concrete suggestions for deepening my contemplative spirituality, and does so by drawing on some of the oldest Christian practices. But, not only does he present them in very accessible, modern language, he also brings them into the modern world where we live now. I would say that if you like Thomas Merton's writing, you would like Martin Laird. I find him just as accessible and just as important to my spiritual life. I'm sure this is a book I'll return to again and again.
If you give this book the chance, it can change your life. Essentially, it is a guide to enriching prayer and using it as a tool for mental breakthrough from impulsive behavior, and allowing one to delve into the "depth-less depth" that is silence, and see unhindered what connects us to God, and how to harness our minds. It will challenge your intellect - Martin Laird is incredibly smart and has a large vocabulary, but don't be turned off by it. The content is so rich with wisdom, it isn't possible to follow through with its teachings without having it impact your life.