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Spirit Journal – December 2017


Merry Christmas!

Our December issue of Spirit Journal announces the continuation of our Living Wisdom Program in 2018 – with all-day Saturday workshops exploring three facets of the Wisdom tradition.  It also features an in-depth reflection on the 2018 Winter Weekend Retreat, written by Alan Krema, who will serve as the retreat guide.

In addition, we inform you about several other upcoming contemplative activities and events, locally and further afield.  Christmas Insights come from Calvin Coolidge, G.K. Chesterton, Dale Evans, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Please help us make Spirit Journal an active forum for the members and friends of Contemplative Outreach – Chicago.  We invite your active participation: use the email address provided at the end to send in your responses, ideas and insights.  We love hearing from you!

New Living Wisdom Series Begins in February – Registration Open

A new series of workshops in 2018 will continue our exploration of the Wisdom Tradition, in the lineage of Cynthia Bourgeault.

Contemplative Outreach Chicago presents a new series of three full day workshops, each dedicated to a theme of wisdom in the Christian contemplative tradition.  The vision of this program is to deepen the contemplative wisdom in each participant.

The program consists of three Saturday workshops at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Mount Prospect, Illinois:

February 17:        G.I. Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way, with David Orth

March 24:             Spirituality from the Ground Up, with Jeff Ediger

April 14:               Wisdom of the Gospel of Thomas, with Alan Krema

For complete information and a chance to register, please visit the event page or download this brochure.

A Reflection on the Winter Weekend Retreat

by Alan Krema

(Note: The 2018 Winter Weekend Retreat will take place February 9-11, 2018, at the Portiuncula retreat center in Frankfort, Illinois.  The theme is From the Mind to the Heart . . . an exploration of intuitive wisdom on the spiritual journey.  Please visit the event page for further information and a chance to register.  The following reflection by Alan Krema, who will lead the retreat, is offered as a thought-starter for those who may be thinking about attending.)

Recall the words of Thomas Merton: 

When I am devoid of thought I enter into the cloud of unknowing in which mind is pure but by no means blank, passive, or inactive.  Emptiness is also a kind of fullness.  Stillness is not dead or inert.

In me, Merton’s words raise important questions: How much kenosis?  What does it mean to empty ourselves?  How do we empty but not to nothing, not to passiveness, not to blank or dead or inert?  How much ego is too much or too little? 

These are questions we all encounter in Centering Prayer practice.  How still can I be?  How quiet?  How silent?

The questions expose our cultural upbringing.   We have a need to be something, to know that we are on the right path, and to differentiate our state of being into something we know is the right way, the good vs. the bad.  We are embedded in the spiritual life of attaining a sense of something, some higher being.  The mind has thoughts, and we all create a narrative which defines our self, derived from our thoughts.

We find ourselves in a body, which is in constant motion. The body is constant energy in motion, beginning with the energy center of heart beat, blood flow, and the lungs’ exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen.    We cannot rest in this center of energy as a separate self.  We cannot divorce our inmost being from the gift of flesh and blood that we are.  We cannot be in this body without the connection to air, water, earth.  As we sit in stillness we are in union with the larger body of which we are a part.

Upcoming Events, Retreats, and Conferences

Here are some upcoming contemplative activities that may be of interest:

Ongoing Centering Prayer “11th Step” Programs in Northfield and Chicago

In AA 12-step programs, the 11th step is making a personal effort to get in touch with a Higher Power, however one understands it.  Increasingly, people in 12-Step programs are deepening their

relationships with their Higher Power using the method of Centering Prayer.

Here in the Chicago area, two new Centering Prayer-based 11th step groups have formed.  One meets on Sundays, 4:30-5:15, at 319 Waukegan Road in Northfield.  For more information, please contact Leonette Kaluzny –

Another Centering Prayer 11th step program meets on Fridays at 6:45pm in conference room “C” on the 7th floor of the Community First Medical Center, 5645 W. Addison Street, Chicago. For further information on this program, please contact Philip Lo Dolce —

Living Flame Program Offered January – November in Indianapolis

The seven-part Living Flame program will be offered at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis on seven Saturdays from January-November 2018.

Living Flame is a series of seven, full-day gatherings spread over the course of one year. Each of the seven days includes periods of prayer, and discussion, but the heart of each day’s program will be a presentation by a nationally recognized Contemplative Outreach teacher on a specific aspect of the practice of Centering Prayer. Marilyn Webb, the National Service Team Leader of the Living Flame Program describes this panel of presenters as “excellent speakers who have a history of dedication to Centering Prayer and Contemplative Outreach.”

Living Flame participants will learn more about the background needed to support and enrich a faithful practice of Centering Prayer. They will develop a better understanding of the purification process and the benefits of divine therapy. They will have the opportunity to both give and receive spiritual companionship. They will also learn how to discern when psychological skills can be useful tools.

For further information, download the brochure or contact Linda Farley  or 317-430-3822.  Attendance at the Living Flame is limited. If you would like to participate in this program, please submit the mail-in registration form as soon as possible.

Merton Society’s Series of Sunday Afternoon Programs Continues in January

All of the Merton Society presentations are held Sundays at 2 p.m. in the Rectory Assembly of Immaculate Conception Parish, 7211 W. Talcott, Chicago. Signs with arrows indicating “Merton Lecture” will be posted.

On January 21, 2018, the Merton Society will be showing the film In Pursuit of Silence, a meditative exploration of our relationship with silence, sound and the impact of noise on our lives. No special reading or background is required for any of these Merton Society events, which are open to the public. Admission is a freewill offering. Refreshments will be served. For more information, call Mike Brennan at 773-447-3989. RSVPs to are welcome, but not required.

The Seven Mansions of the Interior Castle – February 2-4 at the Marianist Retreat Center Near St. Louis

Susan Komis

Interior Castle is one of the most celebrated books on mystical theology in existence.  Join Susan Komis for a special retreat weekend, offering sacred space and time to explore the Seven Mansions of Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle.  Teresa is one of Christianity’s great mystics and teachers.  The Seven Mansions of the Interior Castle is her final work and one of the most profound literary works on contemplation and experiential mysticism.

Prayer stood at the center of Teresa’s teaching.  Her fidelity to prayer was a means of deepening her intimate relationship with God.  She considered a life of prayer in terms of love. This retreat will reflect on the light of Teresa’s timeless insights into the human soul, its journey towards God, and how Teresa’s teaching is relevant to our personal contemporary spiritual journey today.

Susan Komis is the former Director of Chapter Programs and Services of Contemplative Outreach and continues to serve as a commissioned presenter and retreat director.  She is a Pastoral Minister and has been active in adult faith development, spiritual direction and inter-spiritual dialogue.

Click here for more complete information and a chance to register.

Three Midwest Wisdom Schools in Dubuque Iowa, the First in February

If you are longing to go deeper in your Centering Prayer practice, and perhaps yearning for a community of like-hearted seekers, you are invited to participate in one or more Wisdom Schools being offered next year at the Shalom Spirituality Center in Dubuque:

February 5-8, 2018 – Mary Magdalene as Unitive Wisdom 

August 6-9, 2018 – Surrendering Into Presence (Centering Prayer and Non-duality)

Oct 15-18, 2018 – Placing Our Mind in Our Heart (Introductory Level Wisdom School, Part A)

All of these Wisdom Schools will be led by Beth O’Brien, Benedictine oblate and Founder of Contemplative Presence.  A long-time Centering Prayer practitioner, Beth has been a direct student of Cynthia Bourgeault.  In 2014, she received Cynthia’s blessing to teach and carry forth the Wisdom lineage.  Beth led a one-day workshop on Mary Magdalene that was part of Contemplative Outreach – Chicago’s Living Wisdom Series earlier in 2017.  For more information & registration, please visit the Contemplative Presence website.

Secure Your Place at Next Spring’s Mega Wisdom School in North Carolina

Cynthia Borgeault

The next “Mega” Wisdom School with Cynthia Bourgeault will take place Sunday, March 11 – Friday, March 16, 2018 at Kanuga Conference Center in North Carolina.

Entitled Introductory Wisdom School Part B: The Divine Exchange, the retreat will cover the Wisdom metaphysical map, the Divine Exchange, Vertical Exchange, Reciprocal Feeding, the Jesus teachings based in exchange, an introduction to Trinitarian metaphysics and selections from the Gospel of Thomas.  For complete information, visit the Wisdom Way of Knowing website.

“Cynthia’s Wisdom School events, including the larger-capacity “mega” retreats, always fill up,” says Alan Krema, Contemplative Outreach Chicago Coordinator, who will be assisting as a facilitator at the retreat. “It isn’t necessary to have experienced the Wisdom School Part A to participate in and benefit from Part B, but it is suggested that participants have an established Centering Prayer or meditation practice.”

If you are interested in attending or have any questions about the Wisdom School, please email Alan at


Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. If we think on these things, there will be born in us a Savior and over us will shine a star sending its gleam of hope to the world. 

– Calvin Coolidge

Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.

– G.K. Chesterton

Christmas, my child, is love in action.

– Dale Evans

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.

– Laura Ingalls Wilder

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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