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A Sunlit Absence: Silence, Awareness, and Contemplation Hardcover – July 28, 2011

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A Sunlit Absence: Silence, Awareness, and Contemplation + Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation + Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"...useful to anyone on the contemplative path, this book deals profoundly yet simply with matters treated only superficially, if at all, in many other guides to contemplation."
--Library Journal


"A Sunlit Absence, by Martin Laird, a professor of theology at Villanova University and a priest in the Order of St. Augustine, is filled with sympathy, grace and encouragement... Laird's writing is refreshingly concise, occasionally amusing and vividly memorable. Both beginning and longtime contemplatives will discover treasures in this little gem of a book."
--Todd Friesen, Christian Century


"Books that talk about 'contemplation' often seem to have been written on Jupiter. This one is a sterling exception." --John Wilson, Christianity Today


PRAISE FOR INTO THE SILENT LAND:


"This book is different. There are plenty of books on contemplation that feel rather tired--either wordy and labored or unhelpfully smooth and idealistic. But this is sharp, deep, with no cliches, no psychobabble and no short cuts. Its honesty is bracing, its vision utterly clear; it is a rare treasure."--Rowan Williams, The Archbishop of Canterbury


"Often they say 'you learn how to swim by swimming' but a good coach or swimming manual is essential. Equally, we could say 'you learn how to be contemplative by contemplating' and a good guide or mentor is necessary. Into the Silent Land is just that. I tried it and it works. Try it."--Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize


"Into the Silent Land is a beautiful and deeply consoling book, a reminder that prayer is both real and fundamentally simple. Not since Thomas Merton's Contemplative Prayer have I encountered a guide to contemplation this wise and compelling."--Douglas Burton-Christie, author of The Word in the Desert: Scripture and the Quest for Holiness in Early Christian Monasticism


"Laird's book defines how to sink back in God's ground physically with breathing, mentally with 'prayer words,' and spiritually with interior surrender. Through anecdote, Scripture, and classic wisdom, Laird illuminates a Christian path into the silent land. An able guide, he makes the trip more than worth the journey." --Christianity Today


About the Author


Martin Laird, O.S.A is Associate Professor of Theology at Villanova University. He has extensive training in contemplative disciplines and gives retreats throughout the United States and Great Britain. The author of Gregory of Nyssa and the Grasp of Faith and Into the Silent Land (both by OUP), he lives in Villanova, PA.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 28, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195378725
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195378726
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.9 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #349,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Powell on February 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this book to be an excellent follow-up to his first book on the subject of contemplation. Even though I lived as a cloistered contemplative monk for many years & have read a great deal on this topic & have given many contemplative retreats, I still found this book to be very insightful, with many quotes from teachers in this tradition as well as a very unique & beautiful way of presenting. A very clear, concise & poetic presentation. I highly recommend this book along with its companion book.

Rev. Robert J. Powell
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Tyler B. Doherty on September 13, 2011
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Readers of Laird's Into the Silent Land will be eager to get their hands on this companion volume. This book, like Laird's previous one, is destined to become a classic text. He skillfully weaves together contemporary psychological savvy with patristic and desert sources on the prayer of the heart. A true gem written by the contemplative's contemplative.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Edith Barton-Martin on July 16, 2012
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Another gem by Martin Laird, "A Sunlit Absence" presents further encouragement in the practice of contemplation, "one of the great spiritual arts." Many sources all the way from John of the Cross to Mark Twain to Holy Scripture enrich the reader's experience. Laird gives specific ways to quiet constant mind-tripping and the videos that run on and on. Describing how we are held prisoner to inner chatter, he quotes St. Hesychios. "A donkey going round and round in a mill cannot step out of the circle."

Through physical silence in prayer, as our awareness is deepened, compassion for others grows. One meets noise with stillness. Again Laird quotes St. Hesychios, "Awareness is a spiritual method which, sedulously practiced over a long period, completely frees us with God's help from compulsive thoughts."

After long practice and many failures, silent prayer allows us to receive "with awareness all that is, just as it is, as a large screened-in porch receives whatever breeze that blows."

Finally "We learn to see whatever difficulties we experience in meditation - boredom, lethargy, arrogance, depression, grief, anxiety - not as obstacles to be overcome but as opportunities to practice surrender."

If you practice Contemplative Prayer, "A Sunlit Absence" will be a welcome addition to your library.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Beth on February 23, 2012
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So great to have more from Martin Laird to encourage the practice of contemplation. I find it helpful to have on hand and read a little for inspiration before beginning my practice of silent meditation. Having been really helped over anxiety by his first book Into the Silent Land I was keen to have more to encourage me to keep at it. This book is just as wonderful as the first one.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By margaret on April 13, 2012
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This is a wonderful book if you are going to take the work of contemplative prayer seriously. If you are familiar with the work of Keating and Pennington, then this book is an excellent follow-on. It is well written, and goes into the nitty-gritty of contemplation and emphasises the difficulties and joys one experiences in this type of prayer.

It was hard work at one level. It was easy to read, and the author is a kindly man, but there was nowhere to hide. He managed to get into the corners of one's experience, and expose all one's human weakness. I used it as my Lent study, and it was ideal for that.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Adam Trambley on November 13, 2012
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This is a good companion to Martin Laird's other work, "Into the Silent Land" which focus more on the basics of how to enter into contemplative prayer. "A Sunlit Absence" looks at various aspects of the practice, especially with an eye to seeing where problems and barriers develop and how to overcome them. His examples from teaching contemplation to college students of various levels of faith development was both interesting and enlightening. A good book to take along with you for a retreat and read a chapter at a time over a couple days.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dougal Fraser on March 20, 2014
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Gently insightful, quiet in tone, thoroughly researched, this book takes readers still further into silence, awareness and contemplation than the preceding book, "Into the Silent Land". Anecdotes from modern day experience, the wisdom of desert and church fathers, saints, poetry, art and novels are all gathered in support and illustration of the book's themes. They are used in such a way that the reader wants to go back to the original texts, so I refreshed myself with Seamus Heaney's poetry, picked up the writings of Evagrius for the first time and resolved to return to St. Teresa of Avila. Contemplation informs every part of life, so it is fitting that every part of life should meet with contemplation in this book.
I was grateful that the difficulties of contemplation were investigated at some depth. Some points of practice about which I was unsure after reading "Into the Silent Land" became much clearer for me, producing shifts and growth that were palpable in my own life. "A Sunlit Absence" is best read after "Into the Silent Land" because there is a clear development and deepening from one text to the next. I shall read this book much more than once.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By christian gohl on August 29, 2013
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Martin Laird discusses the finer points of contemplation using many examples drawn from educating students and directing silent retreats. With the resurgence and increase interest in contemplative practice from the Christian viewpoints many of his terms are modern and richer such as collection of videos which run in the head. Laird draws from poets, part contemplatives, and psychology. He gives examples of some of the difficulties encountered in this practice, boredom,depression, which will lead to the self surrender and maturity. This book and 'Into the Silent Land' are worth the price of admission.
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