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Spirit Journal – June 2017


This issue begins with an invitation to the eight-day Intensive and Post-Intensive Retreats coming up soon in August at the Portiuncula Center; then we offer an advance opportunity to  regisiter – with an “early bird” discount – for our sixth annual One-Day Fall Workshop on November 4.

There’s an article by Chicago Coordinator Al Krema about the activities of our volunteer “circle of service,” with an invitation for you to get involved, and news about a new AA program in Chicago that is using Centering prayer as the “11th step.”

We call your attention to a range of upcoming summer events, retreats, and conferences you may wish to attend, and suggest that you plan now if you are interested in taking part in a weeklong Wisdom School with Cynthia Bourgeault in North Carolina next March.  June Insights come from Samuel Johnson, Vladimir Nabokov, Henry David Thoreau, and Rumi.

As always, please help us 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!

This August: To Deepen Your Contemplative Practice, Take Part in an Eight-Day Intensive or Post-Intensive Retreat at “the Port”

 As many long-term practitioners have learned, 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.  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.

The Intensive Retreat features 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 offers 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 this seems like the right moment for you to renew and deepen your contemplative practice, we hope you will join us August 6-13.  For further information and registration, please visit the Contemplative Outreach – Chicago website.

Early Bird Discount: Register Now for Our 2017 One-Day Fall Workshop!

Discounted “early bird” registration is now available, online or by mail, for Contemplative Outreach – Chicago’s sixth annual One-Day Fall Workshop, which will take place Saturday November 4 at Benedictine University in Lisle.

Right now, you can sign up for the sessions that interest you most for only $50.  Later in the summer, the price will increase to $60, and then to $65 right before the event.

This year’s Fall Workshop will offer you the chance to experience an in-depth introduction to Centering Prayer, or you may choose from a range of other great topics to explore. The agenda includes sessions on the perennial wisdom, sacred chant, Taize spirituality, and Thomas Merton’s take on yoga.  Please visit our website now for full information about the sessions and the session leaders, and to register.

Leadership and Service

by Alan Krema

Over the first weekend of this month, our leadership team, which we call the Circle of Service, attended a retreat on the theme of servant leadership.  It was presented by Susan Komis, who has developed this program, as well as many other formation programs, at the national level of Contemplative Outreach.

The remarkable thing to me was the way in which the retreat shed new light on how we operate as a group as the circle of service for the Chicago chapter.  We read the book “Reinventing Organizations” by Fredrick LaRoux, which describes organizations in terms of the evolving stages of consciousness from which they operate.  In the book, the stages of consciousness are given color designations, and LaRoux uses each color to describe a distinctive communal consciousness, fostered by the corporate leadership, which acts as the filter and lens through which all parts, efforts, and individuals of the organization operate.


The 11th Step, via Centering Prayer

The 12-step AA program includes an 11th step during which participants seek “through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God….”  A recently established program in Chicago is among a growing number nation-wide that adapt Centering Prayer to this purpose.

At each meeting, silent Centering Prayer meditation is followed by a brief positive talk or reading, then by 12-step sharing in an open AA meeting format.  This creates a fellowship open to learning how the art of listening leads to developing an improved “real” relationship with a higher power and our fellows.

The group meets Fridays at 6:45pm in conference room “C” on the 7th floor of the Community First Medical Center, 5645 W. Addison Street, Chicago. Everyone is welcome to attend. (Coed, Non-Smoking.) If you have questions or would like further information, please contact Philip Lo Dolce:

More Summer Events, Retreats, and Conferences to Consider

In addition to the Eight-Day Intensive and Post Intensive Retreats described above, here’s a listing of other warm weather contemplative activities you’ll want to consider:

In June and July: A Range of Interesting Events Including Enneagram and Centering Prayer Workshops at Healing Gardens in St. Charles

Beautiful Healing Gardens at Stone Hill Farm in Saint Charles offers many opportunities to visit this summer, including an Enneagram Workshop on Saturday July 22 and an Introductory Centering Prayer Workshop on Saturday July 29.   The gardens are open to the public on Sunday July 9 and Sunday August 13 (with optional outdoor Yoga, Tai Chi, and QiGong classes both days).  There will also be an Awakening in Nature Retreat on Sunday July 16 and a Silent Saturday on August 5.

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.” (Note: Healing Gardens will also offer a “level two” Enneagram workshop on September 16.)

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.

For more information on these and other activities, please visit the Healing Gardens website.

In August: Weekend and Five-Day Retreats with Susan Komis at the Benet House Retreat Center in Rock Island, Illinois

 A weekend retreat, A Journey to Interior Freedom and Transcendence Exploring the Human Condition (August 18-20), as well as a five-day Centering Prayer Intensive/Post Intensive Retreat (August 20-25), both presented by Susan Komis, will take place at the Benet House Retreat Center in Rock Island, Illinois.  The two events can be combined into a full-week retreat.

The weekend retreat includes four presentations: (1) The Awakening, exploring the stages of prayer and faith development; (2) The Human Condition and Divine Therapy, assessing the false self value system, bearing witness to a universal illness that afflicts the entire human family; (3) The Power of Formative Thought, exploring the role that Centering Prayer has in bringing awareness of “thoughts flowing down our psychological stream of consciousness” to realization; and (4) Transformation, affirming our true self identity that is deeper than psychological awareness, and exploring how it is experienced in daily life.

The five day Intensive/Post Intensive Retreat, on the other hand, offers an opportunity for extensive periods of Centering Prayer to deepen the personal practice of contemplative prayer. This retreat focuses more on complete silence, with no educational component presented.  All meals are silent, with no conversation.  A minimum of one year practicing Centering Prayer is a prerequisite for attending the Intensive Retreat, while previous participation in an Intensive is a prerequisite for the Post Intensive Retreat.

Susan Komis is a well-known and very experienced retreat facilitator who has served Contemplative Outreach since 1990, including stints as Coordinator of the St. Louis chapter, as a member of the faculty of Contemplative Outreach, and as Director of Chapter Programs and Services, supporting the nation-wide spiritual community.

For further information and registration, please visit the Sisters of St. Benedict website, email or call 309-283-2108.

Late August through October: Contemplative Prayer Group at the Tau Center in Wheaton

Finding sacred space for spiritual refreshment can be a challenge in the midst of our busy lives.  This small group offering will provide an opportunity to quiet your mind, body, and soul as you engage in a variety of simple, yet profound contemplative prayer forms, which will include experiences with: Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina, Guided Biblical Imagery, Praying with Icons, and Presence through Sound and Silence.

An introductory session will be held on Saturday August 26, 9:00am – 1:00pm, at the Tau Center in Wheaton, followed by six two-hour Wednesday evening sessions in September and October at the same location.    Take the time to be present for God and the connection that your soul may be longing for in the midst of a listening and prayerful community.  For further information, please contact Becky Serpe at 847-533-1285 or

Plan Ahead Now for March 2018: Mega Wisdom School in North Carolina

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.

“While next March is more than eight months away, Cynthia’s Wisdom School events, including the larger-capacity “mega” retreats, always fill up quickly,” 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


People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.

– Samuel Johnson

What surprises me in life?  The marvel of consciousness – that sudden window swinging open on a sunlit landscape amidst the night of non-being.

– Vladimir Nabokov

Fair, but windy. The yellow willow catkins pushing out begin to give the trees a misty, downy appearance…the bluish band on the breast of the kingfisher leaves the pure white beneath in the form of a heart.

– H. D. Thoreau (journal entry, April 22, 1855)

Be patient where you sit in the dark.  Dawn is coming.

– Rumi

Your Turn

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