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

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  775 ratings  ·  95 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
Hardcover, 154 pages
Published July 1st 2006 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2006)
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4.37  · 
Rating details
 ·  775 ratings  ·  95 reviews

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Sep 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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...........
Oct 17, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Elizabeth Amber
Feb 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Glen Grunau
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Christina "6 word reviewer" Lake
Silence can--and must--be practiced.
Robert Pelfrey
Feb 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 Potter
Jun 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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.
Jillian Armstrong
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most spiritually enriching books I’ve ever read. I didn’t know very much about the practice of contemplation before reading Into the Silent Land and am now enthralled with the beauty and freedom of the concept. I will keep this book on my coffee table so that I’m reminded to come back to its truths and practices: it’s a combination of poetic explanation and practical implementation. The epilogue had me in tears, so powerful!
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, church
“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 sinner, I’m a saint, I’m a wretch, I’m a worm and no man, I’m a monk, I’m a nurse. These are all labels, clothing. They serve a purpose, bu ...more
Lawrence  Weber
Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Alanna Truong
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book started off well for me, and I was excited about much of his advice (though looking back in my note book, most of what I wrote were quotations of St. John of the Cross, St Teresa of Avila and St. Augustine). The book is very quote heavy. I liked alot of what he said about silence, the importance of posture, and the attachment we have to the "idea" of ourselves and the trivial things we base our identity on (though this didn't go as in depth as I was hoping for). The book seemed to have ...more
Scriptor Ignotus
Aug 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirituality
a fabulous treasure. a thoroughly practical guide to contemplation.
Mar 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: church
most helpful book I've ever read. I feel like franny, nothing will be the same.
Cynthia Vogel
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Having read "The Cloud of Unknowing" and the Philokalia , as well as The Interior Castle and many other classic books by early church fathers and mothers, I was somewhat prepared to read this work by Martin Laird....And I have to confess that there was much that I did not understand in the "Cloud of Unknowing" and the finer points of "The Interior Castle" but nonetheless I plunged in and now having read "Into the Silent Land" which really laid the foundations for an early practice of contemplati ...more
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
After burning out at my old job, I’ve recently stepped into a new one that will hopefully allow me to prioritize the things I care about most in life – God, loved ones, and catching up on fun tv. Part of creating Halbs 3.0 has involved reconnecting to things I used to love doing, especially physical exercise and spiritual practices focused on being still and silent. Into the Silent Land was recommended to me by a colleague, and after reading it I could see why. While Laird’s prose isn’t exactly ...more
Nick Richtsmeier
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There is so much material out there about the business of contemplation in Christian experience. So much so that even the word contemplation is starting to irritate me to a level demanding the serenity that only contemplation can provide.

But I digress...

Were it not for Richard Rohr, I suspect, we would all be so wound up about winding down, and if I hadn't had just enough experiences where it all seemed a little true, I probably would have given up on it by now. But it's all seemed a little for
Anne Hamilton
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christian
So while God made you without you, He doesn't justify you without you. Augustine of Hippo

The doorway into the silent land is a wound. p 117

The grace of salvation, the grace of Christian wholeness that flowers in silence, dispels this illusion of separation. For when the mind is brought to stillness and all the strategies of acquisition have dropped, a deeper truth presents itself: we are and have always been one with God and we are all one in God. (Jn 17:21) The marvelous world of thoughts, sens
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Drawing on some of the eastern church teachers, St. John of the Cross and The Cloud of Unknowing, Laird presents the mysteries of letting go of knowing and certainty and the mysteries of being with a God we can't fully grasp of contemplative prayer. The chapter “The Liturgy of Our Wounds: Temptation, Humility and Failure” provides counsel for getting beyond ourselves and failings (losing ourselves) to gain God. For me, the chapter I keep coming back to which I first encountered in a retreat on f ...more
AJ Fritzke
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
This is powerful book about finding God in the thing that every human struggles with. Silence and centering prayer have helped draw closer to God in ways that other prayers have not. It lets you journey into yourself and find the living God. This was my experience and I cannot promise what you will experience. It teaches you how to pray but what will come up during pray is up to the Deity. It could be a powerful experience or just simply peace and quiet. I had trouble getting through the book be ...more
Tyler Martin
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Mystical magic for me! As a newbie to contemplative prayer, this book was fresh and formative in the ways it supplied me with breathtaking language to describe the inner realities of my journey down the contemplative path. I decided to couple my daily reading with 10-15 minutes of silent prayer with Martin Laird and saints across the ages as my guide, and I can certainly say that prayer will likely never be the same! God is closer, and I've become far more empathetic towards myself and my swirli ...more
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Martin Laird, an Augustinian priest at Villanova University, teaches the ancient Christian practice of contemplation.
“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.” 8 likes
“This is why most people do not stick with a contemplative discipline for very long; we have heard all sorts of talk about contemplation delivering inner peace but when we turn within to seek this peace, we meet inner chaos instead of peace. But at this point it is precisely the meeting of chaos that is salutary, not snorting lines of euphoric peace. The peace will indeed come, but it will be the fruit, not of pushing away distractions, but of meeting thoughts and feelings with stillness instead of commentary. This is the skill we must learn.

The struggle with distractions is not characterized only by afflictive thoughts. Many sincerely devout people never enter the silent land because their attention is so riveted to devotions and words. If there is not a wordy stream of talking to God and asking God for this and that, they feel they are not praying. Obviously this characterizes any relationship to a certain extent. When we are first getting to know someone, the relationship is nurtured by talking. Only with time does the relationship mature in such a way that we can be silent with someone, that silence comes to be seen to be the deeper mode of communion. And so it is with God; our words give way to silence.”
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