Awakening: Kenosis; Contemplative and Centering Prayer

A Weekly publication of The Awakening Institute for Spiritual Formation,

Spiritual Direction and Soul Care

Hi Everyone, I pray that you, at this very moment, are experiencing the presence of God in your day. Now is a good time to be still and let God speak to your heart.

This week we continue to look at spiritual practices that can enhance of Lenten journey. This week we consider how Kenosis of Contemplative Prayer, Centering Prayer may enter into our Lenten experience.

Kenosis; Contemplative and Centering Prayer 1

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited (grasped or held onto), 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. NRS Philippians 2:1-11

At the heart of contemplative prayer is the concept of kenosis (self-emptying). A non-clinging, non-grasping, letting go. In this vein we must ask ourselves to what we are clinging, grasping for, or hanging on to. This letting go, stands at the center of the teachings of Jesus. To follow Jesus means to let go, and deny self (Matthew 16:24-26). Let go of your hate, your violence, your anger. Be reconciled, become one, with God, self, others, and all creation. Let go of the focus on worldly treasures, fame and power. Let go of your need to be right (Matthew 10:5-15). The Lord Jesus came to set the captives free (Luke 4:18-19). Stop hanging on to that which holds you back from being who Christ has called you to be. The Lord’s yoke is easy because at its core in involves letting go of, not hanging on to, all that keeps us from a full awareness of who we are created to be; the image of God. It’s hard to cling, to grasp things, but it is freeing, burden lifting, and spiritually opening to let go and trust God.

Centering prayer at its core is a spiritual practice that can form within us a habitual kenotic gesture of letting go in the moment; no freezing, clinging, or hanging on; no negativity or constriction. Centering prayer conditions our minds, bodies and heart to respond with spaciousness, non-constriction, and open non-reactivity. The practice helps us to stay present by letting go, releasing, that which would draw us away. The practice of centering prayer can actually imprint the kenotic gesture upon us neurologic- ally. The kenotic gesture then becomes a usual default response to our perceived reality of clinging and holding onto the things that draw our attention away from the presence of God with an ability to respond to true Reality, God’s Reality in our midst. This movement is not one of renouncing, or pushing away; that would be the wrong gesture. The correct gesture is to simply let go of the thought or emotion that blocks our ability to simply “be” in God’s presence. The movement is in the releasing. Moving from subject/object awareness to an awareness that allows for the capacity to hold its shape as that of an objectless awareness; perceiving from oneness. By letting go of all that holds us back, all that we are clinging to, this self-emptying, kenotic gesture allows our mind to be one with our heart. We then perceive with holographic resonance with no need to divide because every part is represents the whole.

Finally the concept of kenosis takes on a further im-portance as we consider the question; “Where does that which is being emptied go?” For Christ the kenotic gesture was an emptying of love and wisdom, which spills over into us. For us, the kenotic gesture is first a gesture of emptying ourselves of all that would separate us from an awareness of God’s presence. Secondly it is a self-emptying gesture of all that God places in us into the world around us. God gives us the ability to self-empty all that interferes with God’s filling. When we make this kenotic gesture, by way of repentance, this allows us to become aware of, and positively responsive to God’s light, love and wisdom, which then fills our spirit and strengthen our soul, which empowers us to continue the kenotic gesture and release God’s love and wisdom into the world, knowing that we are privileged to be kenotic vessels for God who have now has become part of a perpetual cycle of the filling and emptying of God’s love and wisdom.

“To experience Centering Prayer as kenosis, or personal self-emptying, is always part of a greater perichoresis, one self-emptying spilling into another in the great water fall of love, through which God shows us his innermost nature and bestows this vital energy upon the world in a cascade of divine creativity.”

Cynthia Bourgeault,

Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, p. 153

Mystical Theology brings the concept of kenosis into Trinitarian thought kenosis can be understood as a description the internal life of the Trinity, as it speaks of the self-emptying love of the Father spilling into the Son, the Son into the Spirit and the Spirt into the Father. This is also known as perichoresis.

“If you embrace a path that begins in kenosis, you will wind up in perichoresis; that’s the wager. That’s the wager. That’s also the Church—its vision and its path in a nutshell.”

Cynthia Bourgeault,

Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, p. 155

An Exercise

What are you holding onto? To what are you clinging? What is holding you captive? From what do you want the Lord to release you? Of what do you have to let go? What needs to be emptied in your life for the glory of God? Take 15-20 minutes to ponder these questions. Take time to journal your responses.

Draw a picture, write a poem, a song, or another creative way, of your choosing, to depict what it may look like to be set free from that which you are holding onto. You may want to creatively depict the kenotic gesture of releasing and letting go that your heart desires.

1 Excerpted from The Awakening Institutes Seminar on Centering Prayer. If these and/or other spiritual concepts that you read of in The Awakening pique your interest, please contact us for details about further learning opportunities.

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  • Lectio Divina (3 hour seminar and practice) April 29th from 9:00am-12:00noon

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  • Centering Prayer (3 hour seminar and practice) June 24th form 9:00am to 12:00noon

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Coming in the Fall of 2017

Introduction to the Enneagram Eleven Week Course

This is an Eleven week (27.5 hour) course into the fantastic world

of the Enneagram.

This class will include an in-depth look into all nine spaces as well as their subtypes, wings, triads and Holy ideas, with emphasis on its usefulness within the context of spiritual direction and self-care.

Syllabus is now available;

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Christian Mysticism in Today’s World

Course Description: This is an 12 week course, (2 1/2 hours per session), designed to help the student discover the most important dynamics of Christian Mysticism, both in its historical context as well as the many ways it has, and continues to develop today. We will use a three-fold approach, which includes 1) Defining mysticism historically and what it means for disciples today. 2) Answering the question, “Who is a mystic?” and 3) the way of the mystic.

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Community Bible Experience

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The Gospel of John

Some recommendations for excellent spiritual guidance…

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Knowing as We Are Known

A five seek study in inner stillness

As taught by the author

Eugene T. Yotka

August 4, 11, 18, 25 and September1


at Epworth UMC,

7651 Johnson Street, Hollywood, Florida

Email for tuition costs, further details and to reserve your space

Something to Ponder

“The one essential quality of contemplation that all the mystics affirm, and that must come as sheer gift, is love.

Gerald May,

The Dark Night of the Soul, 111

“Knowing as We Are Known: An Exercise in Inner Stillness”, by Eugene T. Yotka,

Imagine Seeing Yourself as God See’s You; The True You.

Imagine Living in Full Awareness of The Lord’s Presence in Your Life

Imagine Having a Deeper Sense of Being One of God’s Beloved Children

Imagine Hearing God’s Still Small Voice in a More Profound Manner

We all long to live from the center of an authentic self. Gene Yotka has provided an important resource for helping us identify and express a spiritual life from that center. His book is a gift. – Dr. Steve Harper, Professor of Spiritual Formation, Asbury Theological Seminary

Gene has demystified contemplative prayer and made it accessible to the average believer. – Dr. Stephen Seamands, Professor of Christian Doctrine, Asbury Theological Seminary

From Gene’s book I learned a lot about how to truly pray. -- Salvatore Buttaci, Author and Poet

Eugene Yotka's book changed my life. I have struggled with years of feeling lonely even though I had people in my life that I felt connected with and having been saved since I was 3 years old and felt I had a relationship with the Lord. But this book and practicing inner stillness brought me to a place of knowing God like I have never known Him before. I no longer feel alone and feel empowered to practice inner stillness daily to continue this awesome relationship with God. --Wanda, Amazon review

“Knowing as We Are Known: An Exercise in Inner Stillness”, by Eugene T. Yotka, offers a way to experience the true self where God speaks to our spirits telling us we are God’s children. We are created to live in the Presence of God, here and now, and to know inward stillness, peace, and tranquility as a way of life.

Available for $12.00 from The Awakening Institute for Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Direction and Soul Care

Immerse yourself in that still place within, in which God speaks to the true self that you have been created to be. This book is more than simply information about inner stillness; it is a guide into the experience of inner stillness itself. This is the author’s journey to that place where God speaks to our spirits and calls us children. This is a call not so much to do something as much as it is a call to be who God created us to be.

A Gathering of Spiritual Directors

This coming spring The Awakening Institute will host a gathering of spiritual directors. The reason for the gathering is to come together in prayer and to seek discernment regarding ways we can, together, raise awareness within the church of how spiritual direction can be a vehicle by which God’s presence and voice can be more deeply felt and more clearly heard, at both individual and congregational levels. If you are a spiritual director and would like to join in this conversation please contact Gene Yotka at 321-298-8801 or email for additional details.

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Recommended Reading

(Additional to our daily Scripture reading)

  • Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, by David-Steindl Rast

  • I Am A Follower, by Leonard Sweet

  • Becoming Human, By Jean Vanier

  • Knowing As We Are Known, by Eugene T. Yotka

  • Let Your Life Speak, by Parker Palmer

  • Desiring God’s Will, by David Benner

  • Walking In The Light, by Steve Harper

  • Thoughts in Solitude, by Thomas Merton

  • Incarnation: The Surprising Overlap of Heaven & Earth, by Will Willimon

  • The Mystic Way of Evangelism, by Elaine A. Heath

  • A Hidden Wholeness, by Parker Palmer

  • The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Henri Nouwen

  • Way of Love: Recovering the Heart of Christianity, by Norman Wirzba

  • Falling Upward, by Richard Rohr

  • Between the Dark and the Daylight, by Joan Chittister

  • New Seeds of Contemplation, by Thomas Merton

  • Love Henri, by Henri Nouwen

  • New! The Divine Dance, by Richard Rohr

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