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Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation

4.39  ·  Rating Details ·  522 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
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 aw ...more
Kindle Edition, 167 pages
Published (first published 2006)
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Sep 11, 2009 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: prayer
This is book on cultivating silent and contemplative prayer. Unlike some books on the topic, it is neither ethereal or abstract. Instead it offers practical advice about how to grow into your personal practice of silence.

One piece of practical advice which I found particularly helpful was what to do with distracting thoughts. Other books on contemplative prayer simply say acknowledge the thought and move on. This book argued that contemplation happened not in the absence of thought, or in our a
Ms. S...........
Don't make the mistake of thinking you are the weather ...good weather, bad weather, stormy are the mountain, God's dwelling place. Simple, yet revolutionary.
Glen Grunau
Apr 08, 2013 Glen Grunau rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book came recommended by my spiritual director. It has been waiting for me for several months . . . perhaps representing some of the ambivalence I face in the practice of contemplative prayer (or perhaps more specifically known in the Christian tradition as "centering prayer").

Laird recognizes that contemplative prayer has its variants in many different religious traditions but makes no apologies for placing this book solidly in the Christian tradition. In so doing, he quotes a significant
Mar 23, 2014 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful guide to the Christian Practice of contemplation. Accessible to Christian believers and doubters alike. If you struggle with who God is and who you are, feel separate from God, from other people and creation, this guide may help reground you; that is if you are willing to hone the practice of stillness. No final answers here, indeed it is in acknowledging our unknowing that we are able to go deeper into God in "complete incomprehension." Laird presents an ancient skill famili ...more
Elizabeth Amber
This is the book I will be referencing the most I think. He has an amazing approach to the ancient contemplative practice of contemplative prayer. It is very similar to centering prayer but just uses a little bit different language. Its not quite so specific, which is why I think it lends itself really well to us for this season. It provides some amazing tools, resources and outlook to moving into prayer, silence and the art of letting go. This is a small book but it packs a punch. I would highl ...more
Christina "6 word reviewer" Lake
Silence can--and must--be practiced.
Robert Pelfrey
Feb 11, 2015 Robert Pelfrey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books on the practice of contemplation I've yet read. It belongs alongside Keating, Merton, and the classics from which it draws so deeply and richly. At every turn Laird moves beyond instruction to a deeper pastoral treatment. His writing is like sitting under the tutelage of a wise teacher, who offers instruction and exposes us to the timeless masters, yet who also holds our hand as we continue into the vast, bottomless darkness where we find our footing in God's care.

There is
Sep 16, 2014 Heidi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books on prayer I've ever read - I often find them unreadable, actually. This one got me. A bit serious, and ends with an odd little fable about a "failed monk," but insightful, useful guidance and advice on mental or contemplative prayer. "Looking over the shoulder" of your distracting thoughts has really helped my meditation practice. He uses a lot of sources, from ancient to contemporary, and writes in a very accessible way. It's also not too long, so you feel like you're gett ...more
Christian contemplation, aka meditation, using a prayer word if necessary, to get closer to God. Prayer does not need to be words, prayers, lines of thought. Prayer can be silence. Sitting in silence, allowing the silence, ignoring the thoughts that come, now following them but just remaining in silence.

This book is a nice, short book on the subject, with helpful hints, some repetition of the ideas, and a nice short story about a monk at the end to make it all make sense.
Faith Riley
Jun 02, 2015 Faith Riley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For our Western society that tends to define ourselves by our thoughts and feelings, this book offers a view of personhood and identity that is much needed. The perspectives offered here constantly encouraged and convicted me so much. For example, he encourages the reader to view every temptation as an invitation to prayer. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Mar 30, 2012 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book from 'Nova professor Martin Laird. A great way to clear your mind and learn the difficult art of contemplative prayer, which is much different than intercessory prayer. It's a quick read, but packed with great skills.
Lawrence  Weber
Jan 02, 2014 Lawrence Weber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Into The Silent Land, by Martin Laird, was a very complex book on praying and how to truly enter into contemplative prayer. Many parts of the book were beautifully written, inspirational,and helpful, but there were also parts of the book that were very abstract, repetitive, and could be considered frustrating for someone who is a novice in their prayer life. Prayer is a great mystery, and Laird suggests that silence before God (and immersion into the silence of God) represents the pinnacle of pr ...more
Aug 11, 2014 Dionysus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christianity
An elegantly-written guide to the contemplative life in a Christian context. Self-awareness begins with coming to grips with the fact that we are not our thoughts. The core of our personalities is a solid bedrock onto which our minds project our thoughts, feelings, fears, etc. We are not the weather above Mt. Zion. We are Mt. Zion. Through the practice of silence, we can see through the various forms of chatter the mind lays over our innermost selves - the "videos", as Laird often refers to them ...more
Jun 06, 2015 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are numerous intelligently thorough reviews for this little gem on here. I don't think I have really anything new to add. I homeschool three children, I have two young dogs, and a chatty husband. So I know I need more silence. From my limited experience, it's in the silence that I nourish my relationship with God. Contemplative prayer is just one way a Christian can find that silence. The wonderful news is there are many ways to grow your relationship with God: vocal prayer, mental prayer, ...more
Noel Walker
Mar 16, 2014 Noel Walker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school
A very practical and articulate discussion of the Christian practice of contemplation. Laird first convinces the reader that God is not someone you go looking for; God is the ground of our very being. We have defined ourselves seperately from God using false scripts (Laird calls them videos) that we use to comment on our experience. Our separation from God is a learned helplessness that contemplation can help to address. Liard describes the posture of breath prayers and then describes how the pr ...more
D.j. Lang
Nov 12, 2015 D.j. Lang rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Let's get out the way first who probably won't like the book: those who have no interest in following Christ, and those who do believe in Christ but might think some of the language sounds mystical. I'm not going to argue whether it is or it is not: I just know some of my friends will not like the idea of contemplation. For the rest of us, I'd say the book blurbs are well-chosen and accurately describe the book. "Laird offers an approach to contemplative life that is within reach of us all." The ...more
Scott Hopkins
Beginning this book that I am reading with my new Centering Prayer and Meditation group I meet with every FRIDAY morning at 9:30. They have welcomed me with open arms and deep hospitality. I am very excited to be a part of another meditation community. They have been together for years. PAX MYSTERIUM
Elizabeth Gentry
Absolutely phenomenal book on Christian contemplation! I loved Laird's poetic writing style and the images he used to describe our lives. Definitely a book I will add to my "read once a year" list.
Jul 28, 2012 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spirituality
a fabulous treasure. a thoroughly practical guide to contemplation.
Mar 31, 2015 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: church
most helpful book I've ever read. I feel like franny, nothing will be the same.
Jed Butler
Jan 15, 2017 Jed Butler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A slow read, if you do it right. I generally read (well, listened actually) for a paragraph or two, then paused to digest. The first half of the book deals in the the underpinnings of contemplative prayer, which is unfortunately necessary for evangelicals like me, who view any how-to on prayer with great suspicion. The second half deals with case studies of people who progressed or were healed through meditation. Mostly Catholic examples, and it's a very Catholic book overall. A good example of ...more
Jan 01, 2016 Edward rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Laird's guide to contemplative practices concentrates on Christian ones, but interestingly there is considerable overlap, I thought with sound psychological advice. And unintentionally, the book raises questions about human consciousness. Is the brain a loosely bundled series of impressions linked together only by memory, or is there a coordinating inner self apart from the impressions? Laird suggests that there is a mental reality apart from our impressions, and that through contemplation a men ...more
Bryce Doty
Feb 22, 2017 Bryce Doty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The most helpful introduction to contemplative prayer I have been exposed to to date.
Jesse Smith
Jan 18, 2016 Jesse Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: january-2016
Fr Alypius said, "You say you seek God, but a ray of light doesn't seek the sun; it's coming from the sun. You are a branch on the vine of God. A branch doesn't seek the vine; it's already part of the vine. A wave doesn't look for the ocean; it's already full of ocean. Because you don't know that who you are is one with God, you believe all these labels about yourself: I'm a wretch, I'm a sinner, I'm a saint, I'm a worm, I'm a monk, I'm a nurse.... These are all labels, clothing. They serve a pu ...more
Ben Smitthimedhin
"If the doors of perception were cleansed / Everything would appear to man as it is, infinite."

So begins Laird's book about the Christian practice of contemplation. Laird suggests that the feeling of separation from God is caused by the endless chatterbox in our heads. To rid ourselves of these noises, we must look inside of ourselves and realize the truth of our connectedness with God - "I am the Vine, you are the branches..." (John 15:5a), that we are "one" with God. Laird defends his position
Aug 02, 2011 Royce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This short book is about contemplative prayer, which is Christianity's Zen Buddhism. While maybe Christians might have a problem with my saying this (the Buddhists, of course, don't care), there are sections where all one needs to do is replace "Mt. Zion" with "Mt. Fuji" to have a book about Zen teachings.

That said, Christianity does have a vibrant contemplative tradition. I'm afraid this author doesn't give a very good sense of that, though. Almost everything in the book is said at least twice
Scott Schlotfelt
Looking over my other book rankings, I probably tend to rank books a little too highly. With this one, I honestly can't rank it highly enough. For anyone with an interest in Christian silent prayer and contemplation, this book reveals Three Doorways of the Present Moment to help you move into a practical routine of being in God's presence. That's only from one chapter though. The most important part of this book is its general theme of relating to day to day life. It is totally reorienting in a ...more
Sujit Thomas
Dec 09, 2015 Sujit Thomas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Into the Silent Land is a poetic introduction to the Christian practice of contemplation. I was drawn to this book when I was reading Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. When I got to the chapter on contemplation I wanted to read more about that discipline. Martin Laird incorporates both Easter Christian and Western Christian thought together with contemporary writers and philosophers on the practice of contemplation. One particular facet of this book which I found intriguing is how he ...more
Elizabeth Andrew
Jun 22, 2016 Elizabeth Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spirituality
Laird provides us with careful, detailed support for advancing Christian contemplative prayer. I appreciate how he grounds the practice in the teachings of the Patrician fathers and early mystics, and for the most part steers clear of contemporary psychological language. I will return to this and SUNLIT ABSENCE over time.

If we are going to speak of what a human being is, we have not said enough until we speak of God.
--Martin Laird, Into the Silent Land
Sheila Pritchard
This is the second time I've read this book. It is worth reading once a year! It is probably the best book on contemplative prayer - and life - I have read. Chapter headings like: The Wild Hawk of the Mind, The Riddles of Distraction, From Victim to Witness: Practicing with Affliction, The Liturgy of Our Wounds , should give an idea. And the foundation of it all is expressed in the first chapter: The Illusion of Separation from God.
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“God in Christ has taken into Himself the brokenness of the human condition. Hence, human woundedness, brokenness, death itself are transformed from dead ends to doorways into Life. In the divinizing humanity of Christ, bruises become balm.” 9 likes
“But gradually we learn something very precious under the tutelage of these wounds. We learn a compassion for others that replaces judging, self-loathing, and the compulsion to find someone to blame. We learn a reverent joy before our wounds that replaces the condemnation of and comparison of ourselves with others that used to fuel our anxiety. We learn that the consummation of self-esteem is self-forgetful abandonment to the Silence of God that gives birth to loving service of all who struggle.” 4 likes
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