Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplative Prayer
Oxford University Press
Published July 1, 2006
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About Into the Silent Land
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.
If I had to name the one book that’s changed my life most this year, INTO THE SILENT LAND has to be it. More than any year before, I’ve struggled with anxiety. Sometimes I get amped up with worry or anger or fear and I can feel my body reacting– heart racing, head pounding, my breathing coming rapidly– and I feel stuck, like I can’t back myself down to a calmer state.
Which is why I looked into this book. I’ve read about and briefly practiced meditation before, but this time I wanted something that integrated with my faith beliefs and practice as well.
The book description says that the writing is fresh and direct. I’d add that it’s also a bit of a difficult read. Like, have your dictionary handy, o ye mortals. Ha. No, seriously, it’s not impossible to read, but you’re not going to skim through this text in an afternoon.
It’s so worth reading, though. I feel like this is a practice that’s made a huge amount of difference in my life. It’s been super helpful in terms of managing stress and anxiety and helping remind me that my faith is a source of comfort.
At any rate, if you’re looking for a Christian meditation practice, I highly recommend this book. It’s a bit structured, but that’s one of the things I really like about it. It feels like cutting away the frills of some religious practice and just going back to a very simple thing. I found that to be really beautiful and helpful, but as faith is a super personal experience, I’m sure it’s not going to be a good fit for everyone.
Please let me know if you’ve read this book or others on meditative prayer. (It looks like Martin Laird has two other books on the subject.) I’d love to read more or talk to someone else who’s read INTO THE SILENT LAND.
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Written by an Augustinian friar (a mendicant order of the Catholic church).
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Discusses bible and historical references to the Christian practice of meditative prayer.
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