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Spirit Journal – November 2015


Our November issue includes a reflection on Thanksgiving, descriptions of several upcoming retreats you may want to participate in, information on regional and technical resources to support contemplative practice, and insights from Thomas Keating, James Finley, Ram Dass, and Nick Bostrum.

Please help us to continue developing Spirit Journal as a unique, thoughtful, and interesting resource.  Use the e-mail address at the end to send your ideas and feedback.

Giving Thanks



by Jack Lloyd

Unlike Christmas or Easter, this week’s holiday isn’t linked to a pivotal event in religious history.  Instead, we’re told, Thanksgiving began on an ordinary autumn day when two tribes – Native American and English – simply decided to come together to share food, drink, and a peaceful moment of pure spiritual gratitude.

In that moment, somehow, they were fully awake to the fact that our existence on this Earth is pure grace.  It’s a gift we don’t have the power to give ourselves.   Naturally, this awareness made them feel grateful, and they found a beautiful way express their thanks.  To this day, at its best, the tradition of Thanksgiving carries this deep meaning forward, and gives us a chance to feel it and express our gratitude, as well.

So, this Thursday, I hope we can keep in mind our ancestors’ wisdom and courage as they faced a difficult future together.  And I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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Spirit Journal – October 2015


This new issue includes feedback from the Annual Fall Workshop we hosted on October 3, thoughts from Thich Nhat Hanh on “why we practice,” information about our Winter Weekend Retreat (coming up in February), a link to our expanded online events calendar, insights from Mary Oliver, Thomas Merton, Pope Francis, and Richard Rohr, and a recommended link to the interesting website of the public radio program On Being.

We invite you to help us make Spirit Journal a unique, thoughtful, and interesting resource.  Please use the e-mail address at the end to send your ideas and feedback.

Fall Workshop Revisited



Were you there?

Contemplative Outreach Chicago’s fourth annual Fall Workshop took place on October 3 at St. John of the Cross in Western Springs. Participation grew to more than 130 people this year, and there was a tremendous feeling of unity and friendship as we practiced Centering Prayer together to start the day!

The workshop sessions were all well-attended and participant feedback was very positive.  Here are some sample comments participants wrote after experiencing the individual sessions:

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Spirit Journal – September 2015


This month’s issue includes thought-starters from two people who will be serving as session leaders at our Fall Workshop on October 3, a personal meditation on this September 11 anniversary, information about an upcoming weekend retreat that will focus on the teachings of Teresa of Avila, a reminder about “Silent Saturdays” at Healing Gardens, insights from Henry David Thoreau, Rowan Williams, and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and a link to the very educational and interesting website of the Center for Action and Contemplation.

We hope you’ll enjoy it and invite your participation. Please use the e-mail address at the end to send your feedback. 

Fall Workshop Thought-Starters

Martin Heiss

Photo: Martin Heiss / Wikimedia


Contemplative Outreach Chicago’s fourth annual Fall Workshop is only three weeks away! It will take place Saturday October 3, 2015 at St. John of the Cross in Western Springs, Illinois. (Full details and registration here.)

Below, Al Krema and Nancy Sylvester, two of our Fall Workshop session leaders, offer some initial thoughts on the ideas they plan to explore on October 3.

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Spirit Journal – August 2015


This month’s issue includes a personal reflection written by a participant in our eight day mid-summer retreat, thought-starters from two people who will be serving as session leaders at our Fall Workshop on October 3, information about “Silent Saturdays” at Healing Gardens and a Merton Society jazz concert, insights from Carl Sagan, Fr. Thomas Keating, Lao Tzu, and W.H. Auden, and a link to the very interesting website of a “center for contemplative activism.”

We hope you’ll enjoy it and invite your participation. Please use the e-mail address at the end to send your feedback.

Reflection: Mid-Summer Intensive and Post-Intensive Retreat

by Al Krema



(The Portiuncula, July 19-27, 2015) Have you ever wondered what a Contemplative Outreach intensive and post intensive retreat is like? Have you ever considered attending one?

If you are familiar with centering prayer and have read the book Open Mind, Open Heart by Thomas Keating, you have some idea of Keating’s contribution to the 2000-year tradition of Christian mysticism, and how he applies the understanding of modern psychology to the traditional description of the transformation process that takes place during the journey of the mystical path.

Our Chicago chapter of Contemplative Outreach recently sponsored an eight-day intensive and post intensive retreat at the Portiuncula retreat center in Frankfort, IL. I attended this retreat along with 19 others and found it to be a source of growth and transformation, true to the promise of faithful practice in centering prayer.   Initially, I had felt that the event seemed a bit daunting — requiring a full week off and spending that week in silence. I hesitated for some time before making the commitment to attend, and did so because it was so conveniently located in the Chicago area, at a facility that I knew was a wonderful place to be.

Let me give you an idea of what the week is like:

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Spirit Journal – July 2015


This month’s issue offers a profile of St. Benedict’s Abbey and its Benet Lake Retreat Center, a personal reflection on the transformative impact of Centering Prayer, a reminder about the upcoming Annual Fall Workshop in Western Springs, insights from Huston Smith, Carl Jung, the Rig Veda, and Alec Wilkinson, and a guest column reflecting on the topic of death and duty.

We hope you’ll enjoy this issue. Please use the link at the end to send your feedback.

Regional Resource: St. Benedict’s Abbey/Benet Lake Retreat Center

Flower Bowl

Photo: Jack Lloyd



Saint Benedict’s Abbey is a community of Benedictine monks in a beautiful, peaceful location on Benet Lake, near the state border of Wisconsin and Illinois. The abbey serves both the Milwaukee and Chicago areas. The monks of St. Benedict’s focus on a ministry of prayer, with the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours and daily Mass. They gather six times a day to sing and offer praise to God.

Another important and major focus of the Abbey is its welcoming Benet Lake Retreat Center. Retreats at the Abbey provide an opportunity for a time of quiet and spiritual reflection. The abbey has been the site for many individuals and groups to find a path closer to God. Continue Reading →

Spirit Journal – June 2015


This month’s issue includes information on local and national resources, upcoming workshops and retreats, a website recommendation, and insights from Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr – all to help support your contemplative practice.

We hope you’ll enjoy it, and invite your feedback.

The Center for Action and Contemplation’s “Living School” Program

by Al Krema

The Living School is a two-year study of the Christian contemplative tradition and its integration into modern daily life. The Living School is presented by the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque NM, the institute founded by Franciscan Richard Rohr.

The program is an in-depth study of Christian mystics such as Bonaventure, St. John of the Cross, Theresa of Avila, and many more. In addition to reading and studying the works of these saints, much emphasis is given to interpreting and living these teachings in daily life. Students are asked to form a method and practice that provides both individual contemplative development as well as engaging in contemplative action in our community. Continue Reading →

Spirit Journal – May 2015


Contemplative Outreach, Chicago, is launching this online publication – Spirit Journal – in an attempt to create a supportive online community for Chicago-area contemplatives. We hope to be able to point readers like you toward activities, resources, information and inspiration that will support your spiritual journey. At the same time, we hope that you will share your knowledge and thoughts with us and with other readers.

Please let us know what you think of this issue and to start your side of the conversation by emailing the newsletter editor at We look forward to hearing from you.


Midsummer Retreats at the Port: Intensive and Post-Intensive

The Port for Prayer, Franklin, IL

The Practice of the Presence of God

by Ted Curtis

At one of the national meetings of Contemplative Outreach held in Chicago over the past two decades Thomas Keating stood up, after some 800 people had prayed in silence for 20 minutes, and said he was going to tell us what each of us could do for Contemplative Outreach.  I reached for my pen, smoothed out the paper on my lap, and prepared to take notes. Continue Reading →

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