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Spirit Journal – April 2017


This month, we begin by providing further information on the Intensive and Post-Intensive Retreats planned for August; then we share one participant’s reflections on the four completed workshops of the Living Wisdom program.

We alert you to upcoming events that focus on Christian Meditation, the Tree of Life, the Enneagram, and Centering Prayer.  There is an item about a new Thomas Keating video series and Insights from Neem Karoli Baba, Thomas Keating, Mahatma Ghandi, and David Richo.

You can help in make Spirit Journal a valuable interactive forum for the members and friends of Contemplative Outreach – Chicago.  Just use the email address provided at the end to send in your responses, ideas and insights.  We look forward to hearing from you!  

Consider Deepening Your Contemplative Practice by Taking Part in an Eight-Day Intensive or Post-Intensive Retreat This Summer

This summer, Contemplative Outreach – Chicago is offering Eight-Day Intensive and Post-Intensive Retreats at the beautiful Portiuncula Center in Frankfort Illinois, Sunday August 6 through Sunday August 13.

An extended retreat is an opportunity to deepen the practices of Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina (praying sacred scriptures) in an atmosphere of profound silence and community support.

In the Intensive Retreat, there are up to six 30-minute Centering Prayer periods daily, supported with viewing a selection of the Spiritual Journey video series by Fr. Thomas Keating.  Private interviews with the retreat guides can be scheduled.

The Post-Intensive Retreat has up to seven 30-minute periods of Centering Prayer daily.  Participants observe Sacred Silence for four days during the retreat.  (Previous participation in an eight- or ten-day Intensive Retreat is a prerequisite for the Post-Intensive.)

The retreat guides are Alan Krema and Julianne Buenting.  Alan Krema has served the Contemplative Outreach Chicago chapter in many roles, most recently as the chapter coordinator, and is a long time practitioner of centering prayer. He is a graduate of the Center for Action and Contemplation Living School as well as a Wisdom facilitator in the lineage of Cynthia Bourgeault.  The Rev. Dr. Julianne Buenting is an Episcopal priest and Interim Rector of the Church of the Transfiguration in Palos Park, Illinois. She has practiced centering prayer for more than 20 years and teaches ethics and spirituality in Healthcare education.  She has an affinity for Carmelite Spirituality and the medieval woman mystics.

If the time seems right for you to renew and deepen your contemplative practice, we hope you will join us this August.  For further information and registration, please visit the Contemplative Outreach – Chicago website.

“Living Wisdom” – An Appreciation

by Jack Lloyd

As you may know, Contemplative Outreach – Chicago recently launched a new program known as Living Wisdom, to give interested members an opportunity to explore “the wisdom tradition.”  So far, the program has offered four all-day Saturday workshops, one per month, January through April.  After participating in the four workshops, I am starting to form an idea of what the wisdom tradition has to offer, and I have a strong interest in learning more.

How would you describe wisdom?  Many people might give a definition similar to the following, which comes from the crowd-sourced online Urban Dictionary:  “Wisdom is knowing the secrets of the world and knowing how to deal with everything in it.  Knowing the cause and effect of living a certain way in this world.  You can’t get wisdom by being on the honor roll or reading numerous books, it comes with age and experience.”

Maybe so.  On the other hand, Cynthia Bourgeault has written that wisdom “describes a lineage of spiritual knowledge and practice that is principally concerned with transformation. It is not about knowing more, but about knowing more deeply, and can be recognized by an alert, present-moment awareness and a compassionate intelligence.  Wisdom teaching builds on a strong foundation of traditional Christian mystical teaching and contemplative practice, approaching them through the contemporary lenses of mindfulness, nondual awakening, and interspiritual dialogue.”

The latter definition, with its strong spiritual focus, aligns closely with the work we’ve been doing in the Living Wisdom program.  But, ultimately, I’ve come to feel that finding out what wisdom means is a gradual process.  Each workshop in the series has added a new piece of the puzzle, another layer of awareness.

Lawrence Freeman: “Going Deeper” with Christian Meditation, June 8 in Western Springs

Father Laurence Freeman will offer day and evening programs under the title Going Deeper – Christian Identity and the Contemplative Experience on June 8 at St. John of the Cross in Western Springs.  Fr. Freeman is Director and spiritual teacher of the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM), the organization sponsoring his visit.  As a mantra-based practice, “Christian Meditation” is a bit different from Centering Prayer yet has similar goals – facilitating spiritual awareness and growth through silent prayer and contemplation.

The author of several books on Christian Meditation and Spirituality, Lawrence Freeman is a Benedictine monk of the Monastery of Christ Our Saviour, Turvey, England. Inspired by his mentor, the late Benedictine Fr. John Main, he works to recover Christianity’s own contemplative wisdom tradition. He also stresses the unique role of meditation as a spiritual discipline among all world religions, and thus, a common ground for interfaith dialogue and the pursuit of social justice.

For further information on this program, please visit the St. John of the Cross website or contact Mary at 708 246 5108, email:, or Betsy at 708 246 8315, email:

Rebirth in Christ on the Tree of Life – St. Louis, June 26-30

In St. Louis, June 26-30 will bring the five-day retreat Rebirth of Christ on the Tree of Life: a Process of Inner Transformation at the Marianist CenterBoth “old wine” and “new wine,” Kess Frey introduces a Christian contemplative interpretation of the Qabalistic Tree of Life.  This living allegorical Tree is said to predate the birth of Jesus and to have its earthly roots in ancient Hebrew mysticism.

According to Father Carl Arico:

Kess Frey is part of a new generation of thinkers and meditators dealing with and pondering the wealth of contemplative prayer in relation to various spiritual traditions, as in Jewish Mysticism and Christian Qabalah.             

The retreat will include presentations, periods of Centering Prayer, silence and small group process. For more information, contact Susan Komis – or 314-750-5100; to register, download the registration form.

In July: Enneagram and Centering Prayer Workshops at Healing Gardens in St. Charles

Healing Gardens at Stone Hill Farm in Saint Charles will be hosting an Enneagram Workshop on Saturday July 22 and an Introductory Centering Prayer Workshop on Saturday July 29.

The day-long Enneagram Workshop on July 22 will introduce and explain a powerful tool for personal insight and collective transformation. Acting as a “mirror of the soul,” the Enneagram presents nine ways of experiencing ourselves, others and the Divine.  Each of the nine Enneagram “types” has a different pattern of thinking, feeling and acting.

“Through the exploration of the Enneagram we discover who we believe we are, what is underneath those beliefs, and what moves us toward or away from Divine Essence,” says JoAnne McElroy, who will facilitate the workshop. “By identifying our primary type, we are able to appreciate our unique gifts while moving to overcome our inner barriers.”

The all-day Introductory Centering Prayer Workshop on July 29 offers an opportunity to learn the method of Centering Prayer or, for those already practicing, an opportunity to deepen the practice.  The presenters are specially trained and commissioned in teaching this short course which covers the essentials of the method and conceptual background of Centering Prayer. After the initial workshop, there will be optional follow up sessions that assist in strengthening the Centering Prayer practice.

Other summer activities at Healing Gardens include “Silent Saturdays” (the next one is on June 24), outdoor yoga classes, and the “SPA Sisters Awakening Retreat for Women.”  For more information, please visit the Healing Gardens website.

New Thomas Keating Video Series: God Is Love – The Heart of All Creation

The national organization of Contemplative Outreach recently introduced a new video series that continues and builds upon the works of Thomas Keating over the past three decades and more. God Is Love – The Heart of Creation offers a vision of hope and a view of reality that integrates the sciences, religion and humankind’s place in the cosmos as divine in origin, unifying in purpose, unfolding in its grandeur.

As Fr. Keating puts it: “Everything in the universe – everything our senses observe and technology uncovers at the highest level of infinitude and the deepest levels of the infinitesimal – is prophetic witness of the Divine.” 

The 13 videos are available as DVDs or digital downloads.  For further information or to order the programs, please visit the national Contemplative Outreach website.


Just love everybody.

– Neem Karoli Baba 

For all practical purposes, how we treat other people is what we are doing to ourselves.

– Thomas Keating

Where there is fear, we lose the way of our spirit.

– Mahatma Ghandi 

In reality, our fear of and struggle against the givens are the real sources of our troubles.  Once we learn to accept and embrace these fundamental down-to-earth facts, we come to realize that they are exactly what we need to gain courage, compassion and wisdom – in short, to find real happiness.

– David Richo

Your Turn

Please write in to comment on or add to any of the items in this month’s newsletter.  Let us know if you are aware of an upcoming event you think others should know about, or send us an inspirational quote you’d like to share, or information about a book, website, podcast, or video you recommend.  You are invited to contribute by emailing the newsletter editor at

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