Centering Prayer (CP), is practiced, I assume in good faith(!) by Catholic lay people. The damnable part is that CP is a counterfeit based on Eastern philosophy.
Thomas Merton made the mistake in 1968 when he saw value in employing Zen in meditation. In the 1970's, Fathers Basil Pennington and Thomas Keating fused elements of Transcendental Meditation (TM) with what they thought was Catholic contemplative tradition. They misinterpreted Cassian, the
author of "The Cloud of Unknowing", and Saint Teresa of Avila. In a video, Fr. Keating offered people "the invitation to become God." 1
The foundation of CP is the repetition of a personally chosen mantra. Practicing this word eventually leads to "peace" and an emptying of the mind that can lead to an altered state of consciousness (ACS). Note that Cassian advised beginners in the life of prayer to repeat a single Psalm verse, e.g. "God, come to my assistance, O Lord, make haste to help me." Teresa warns, ". . .God suspends it (the intellect). Taking it upon oneself to stop and suspend thought is what I mean should not be done; nor should we cease to work with the intellect, because otherwise we would be left like cold simpletons, and be doing neither one thing nor the other." The author of The Cloud of Unknowing directed his advice to those who had advanced to the first stages of INFUSED contemplation. He makes it clear that techniques and methods at the above stage are useless.2
Note that in the Catholic Tradition, prayer, (personal as well as liturgical), is always FOCUSED OUTWARD toward God. God is by his nature wholly other to our being, and therefore uncontainable and unencloseable within any spiritual experience.3
CP is a method that isolates consciousness within itself, leading to ACS and an opening to undesirable spirits. It is solely based a on non-Christian, Eastern philosophy/religion. Why practice a counterfeit when Catholicism has a strong, two millenia-old tradition of properly-focused prayer?
1. from "Yoga, Tai-Chi, Reiki: A Guide for Christians." Max Sculley, DLS. Published by Connor Court Publishing Pty Ltd, 2012.
3.from "Contemplative Provocations," Fr. Donald Haggerty. Ignatius Press, 2013.