Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation Hardcover – July 1, 2006
|New from||Used from|
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
"This is a beautifully written book. The language is profound, poetic, and free of worn cliches. It has obviously grown out of a life of study, erudition, and personal prayer." --Worship
"Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird is a wonderful introduction to the subject of contemplation. It has a vitality and relevance that are gripping. Contemplative books are often dry, but I found this a page-turner." --Church Times
"In a world hungering for practical spiritual direction on how to manage distractions, moods, bodily posture, breathing, suffering, illness, addiction, and dying, Laird's book stands out as a treasure to share with anyone who is seeking greater wisdom and peace. He provides us with an eminently accessible doorway into the land of God's loving silence." --Horizons
"Larid'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
"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 clichés, 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
"This is a beautifully written book. The language is profound, poetic, and free of worn clichés. It has obviously grown out of a life of study, erudition and personal prayer."--Worship
"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
"With wisdom born of a life of prayer and study, Martin Laird invites us out of distraction and into the silent land where God is waiting. Taking the realities of affliction, fear and failure seriously, Laird offers an approach to contemplative life that is within reach of us all." --Stephanie Paulsell, author of Honoring the Body: Meditations on a Christian Practice
"Martin Laird's book is a compelling introduction to contemplative prayer. He draws on insights from the Eastern Orthodox tradition of the Jesus Prayer, from the Western Carmelite tradition, from poets and novelists and from his own experience as retreat director and confessor. In the silent land, our wounds become radiant sources of compassion."--Andrew Louth, author of The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition: From Plato to Denys
"Into the Silent Land reflects a happy combination of wide learning, authentic spiritual experience, and clear jargon-free prose. This work should be of inestimable value for anyone interested in the Christian contemplative tradition of prayer."--Lawrence S. Cunningham, author of Thomas Merton and the Monastic Vision
About the Author
Martin Laird, O.S.A., is Associate Professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Villanova University. He has studied patristics in Rome, London, and Oxford, and has extensive training in contemplative disciplines and gives retreats throughout the United States and Great Britain. He is the translator or author of a host of books and articles, including Gregory of Nyssa and the Grasp of Faith: Union, Knowledge and Divine Presence (OUP, 2004).
If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle edition for only $2.99 (Save 70%). Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more.
For thousands of qualifying books, your past, present, and future print-edition purchases now lets you buy the Kindle edition for $2.99 or less. (Textbooks available for $9.99 or less.)
Top Customer Reviews
First of all, what this book is not. It is not a comprehensive guide to Christian spirituality, or even to Christian prayer. The author does not bother discussing the sacramental or liturgical life of the church, or lectio divina, or the quest for personal or collective holiness. Nor is this a manual on meditation in its classical Christian sense -- e.g., meditation as reflection on the spiritual life, such as found in the writings of Ignatius of Loyola. And while there are some superficial similarities (particularly in the emphasis on the "prayer word"), this is not about centering prayer or John Main's approach to Christian meditation. Laird anchors his approach to contemplation in the desert and eastern traditions, quoting authors such as Evagrius, John Climacus, Theophan the Recluse, Hesychios, and Gregory of Sinai. But he doesn't ignore the west: John of the Cross, Augustine, Meister Eckhart and John Ruysbroeck are frequently cited as well. If you're the kind of reader who pays attention to footnotes, you'll probably come away, as I did, with the sense that this is a book thoroughly grounded in the tradition of Christian spirituality.
Laird discusses the Jesus Prayer and the scripture-based prayer of John Cassian, but he clearly prefers -- and thus, writes about -- monologistic prayer: the prayer of gentle, unforced awareness, anchored in a synchronized attention to one's breath while repeating a single prayer word. This, of course, is the approach to contemplation advocated by one of the towering giants of mystical literature, "The Cloud of Unknowing." By praying this way, we enter into our own deeper place of always-existing silence -- what Laird calls "the silent land" -- where we do not find God so much as we allow God to find us, or, perhaps even better said, where the idea of creator and creature finding each other simply falls away as just another thought gently laid aside within the all-encompassing presence of the Divine Mystery.
This approach to prayer -- and spirituality -- is thoroughly mystical, which is to say it is predicated on the theology of God's presence within us, even "while we were yet sinners." As Laird puts it, "When Paul looks within and sees Christ, I do not suggest he sees Christ as an object of awareness. Paul speaks of something more direct and immediate, which pertains to the ground of awareness and not to the objects of awareness. The awareness itself is somehow about the presence of Christ in Paul." In other words, moving into the silent land means moving beyond some sort of subject-object duality where "I" find, see, or in some other way apprehend "God" or "Christ." When Paul said "I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me," Martin Laird takes the apostle at his word -- and invites us to do the same, affirming that it is only in the silent land that we can experience this reality for ourselves.
The entire book is a delight, but what I found particularly useful is Laird's gentle, hopeful, and practical discussion of how to deal with distractions during silent prayer. He notes that distractions are normal, indeed are simply the mind doing its work: the mind is about thinking just as the heart is about beating. The point is to gently, and over a several stage process that Laird describes as "thresholds," disengage ourselves from the normal pattern of becoming caught up in our thoughts -- and weaving elaborate stories (more thoughts) out of them. As we move deeper and deeper into the silent land, we learn to watch thoughts arise and fall, without needing to comment on them or otherwise get engaged by them. We learn to "look over the shoulders" of our thoughts at the pure, vast, depthless depth within, beneath, and beyond the chatter of the mind. Laird uses the analogy of weather patterns on Mount Zion: our thoughts are the weather, and the silence is the mountain: the mountain where true prayer may occur. "As our silence deepens we are able to meet our thoughts and feelings directly, without commentary, without telling a story to ourselves about them... Gradually we see the simplest of facts, so simple and yet we have missed it all these years: our thoughts and feelings appear in something deeper, in a great vastness. This vastness is not yet another object of awareness but the ground of awareness itself." Here we are closing in on what George Fox called "the inner light" and Thomas Merton described as "le point vierge": that place where, in the words of Meister Eckhart, "The eye with which I see God is the same with which God sees me. My eye and God's eye is one eye, and one sight, and one knowledge, and one love."
Laird recognizes that this way of thinking might frighten those who are afraid of anything that smacks of pantheism. "Some who are tediously metaphysical might worry that all this talk of union with God blurs the distinction between creator and creation. Far from blurring this distinction it sets it in sharper focus. John's Gospel says that we are the branches and Christ is the vine." But he avoids getting mired in theological debate, rather simply describing the experience of contemplation and how to best respond to the kind of mental and emotional resistance that inevitably accompanies the quest to be silent before God. The book ends with down-to-earth considerations of how contemplative practice can be beneficial for those who suffer (as in serious illness), or those who are engaged in the process of letting go of debilitating fear or temptation. Acknowledging that such deep inner work often may require the assistance of a professional therapist, Laird nevertheless makes a convincing case that contemplation is not just something we do to feel good with God -- it has holistic repercussions for anyone seeking to live a life of what the Cistercian tradition calls "joyful penitence," in other words, ongoing transformation in Christ.
This is a wonderful book. Any aspiring contemplative will, I believe, find it helpful and inspiring. And even those who have been exploring the silent land for many years now will find it useful.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The author breaks it down in a simple way that makes it attainable.
This work 'Into the Silent Land' by Martin Laird serves as a 'vade mecum' in assisting the aspirant to contemplation in...Read more