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Spirit Journal – October 2017


This issue alerts you that we’ve had to change one of the topics scheduled for the Sixth Annual One-Day Fall Workshop, which is coming up in less than two weeks: Saturday, November 4 in Lisle.  Unfortunately, one of the presenters had to withdraw due to illness; see below for a description of the excellent replacement session we’ve arranged.

This issue also includes an interesting reminiscence by Rabbi Rami Shapiro about the beginning of his working relationship with Fr. Thomas Keating, and a report from Alan Krema about his experiences at the 2017 Contemplative Outreach International Conference.  As usual, we also draw your attention to various upcoming activities, events, retreats, and conferences.

October Insights come from Alan Watts, Karen Armstrong, Thomas Keating, and Thomas Merton.

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

Fall Workshop Program Change: The Session on Thomas Merton Will Have a Different Speaker, Different Topic

Unfortunately, one of the presenters scheduled for the Annual Fall Workshop on November 4, David Belcastro, has had to withdraw due to illness.  Therefore, David’s session on Merton and Yoga will not be part of the workshop’s morning agenda.  With help from the Chicago chapter of the International Thomas Merton Society, we have arranged for a great replacement session, to be presented by Tony Sorgi.  Here is a description of the new session:

Awakening Sacred Heart: Merton’s Quest to Revive Catholic Contemplation

Tony Sorgi

From the moment of his conversion, Thomas Merton spent his life in relentless pursuit of his Beloved, the God deeper in us than we are ourselves.   He found the presence of his Beloved in the lean of a rake against the wall, or the sighing of the wind in the trees, but centrally in the celebration and adoration of the Eucharist.  He tracked the presence of the transcendent through the paths of other traditions, most famously Buddhism.  Where would he have taken his relationship with God if he had fulfilled his wish and become a hermit in Alaska?  Where is the intent and pursuit of his life’s passion pointing each of us?

The presenter, Tony Sorgi, has been a lifelong student of contemplative practice, under the teachings of Jesuit and Benedictine mentors and spiritual directors, as well as a student of 17 years under a Tibetan Buddhist master.  He recently completed a doctorate in clinical psychology, with a practice emphasis on mindfulness training in the treatment of trauma, and a research emphasis on the potential for contemplative practice to support wellbeing through advances in brief, online mindfulness training.

(Note: If you are signed up for Merton and Yoga, you will automatically be registered for this replacement session instead.  If you would prefer to switch to the other morning session, Sacred Breath/Sacred Chant, please send an email to and we will be happy to make the change for you.)

Read about the four other workshop sessions in the August and September issues of Spirit Journal

Register for the Fall Workshop now – it’s less than two weeks away!

Something Ineffable: Rabbi Rami on the Beginning of His Relationship with Thomas Keating More Than Three Decades Ago

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Rabbi Rami Shapiro recently published in Quest, the journal of the Theosophical Society in America, which is headquartered in Wheaton, Illinois.  We thank the Theosophical Society for permission to share it with you.

Rabbi Rami Shapiro

In 1984, Father Thomas Keating invited me to be part of the inaugural Snowmass Group, where he brought twelve contemplatives from twelve different traditions together to live with him at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado.

Our days were structured.  We followed the prayer life of the monks who were living in the monastery, but when they were working, we were meditating together and discussing different things.  Father Keating had only one rule.  He said you cannot talk for your tradition.  You can only talk from your tradition, because that’s your language. That’s what you’re steeped in.  It didn’t take very long to realize that, even though each of us was following her or his own meditative practice, something was happening, and whatever that something was seemed to be the same for all of us.

When we came back to our normal, waking state of consciousness, we’d all feel lighter, more loving, more compassionate.  We lived a more just existence, and we took our own religious traditions less and less literally, and even less and less seriously. We knew they were languages, and we weren’t going to get hung up on semantics, because ultimately we were dealing with something that was ineffable.

(Rabbi Rami Shapiro will lead a workshop session on The Perennial Wisdom at the Sixth Annual One-Day Fall Workshop on November 4.)

Transition and Continuity: A Report from the 2017 Contemplative Outreach International Conference

Alan Krema

by Alan Krema

I was very blessed to attend the Contemplative Outreach International Conference last month in Denver (September 21-24).  There were people from all over the country and the world who came together to pray, share, and discuss the future of CO.  You can see blogs and pictures from the conference on the national Contemplative Outreach website.

The present moment is a time of discernment and re-dedication for Contemplative Outreach. The organization is 33 years old and has been considering its transition to the future during the last few years.  Many of the board members and leadership team have reached the stage of life to retire from full active roles in the organization.

You may remember  that Thomas Keating sent an audio greeting to the Chicago annual fall workshop last year, in which he described how he was working with a team to review and revise CO’s guiding principles.  In the June 2017 national newsletter, Fr. Keating published these revised guidelines; I encourage you to have a look at them here.

Some Upcoming Events, Retreats, and Conferences for You to Consider

We hope we can look forward to seeing you at the Annual Fall Workshop on Saturday November 4.  Here are some other upcoming activities that may be of interest:

Two Upcoming Events at Healing Gardens in St. Charles

Lovely Healing Gardens at Stone Hill Farm in Saint Charles offers two events: the final “Silent Saturday of 2017 on October 28 and an Introductory Centering Prayer Workshop on Sunday November 19 (call 630-740-2597 for information and to register.)

New Centering Prayer “11th Step” Program in Northfield

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, another new Centering Prayer-based 11th step group has formed, meeting on Sundays, 4:30-5:15, at 319 Waukegan Road in Northfield.  For more information, please contact Leonette Kaluzny –

(Note: A similar 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 —

Welcoming Prayer Workshop – November 4 in Middleton Wisconsin

Contemplative Outreach of Madison is offering a one-day workshop on the Welcoming Prayer on Saturday November 4 at the Holy Wisdom Monastery in Middleton, Wisconsin.

The Welcoming Prayer is a method of consenting to God’s presence and action in our physical and emotional reactions to events and situations in daily life. The purpose of the Welcoming Prayer is to deepen our relationship with God through consenting in ordinary activities. The Welcoming Prayer helps to dismantle the emotional programs of the false-self system and to heal the wounds of a lifetime by addressing them where they are stored—in the body. It contributes to the process of transformation in Christ initiated in Centering Prayer.

Mary Dwyer, from Bay Harbor, Florida, a longtime presenter of Centering Prayer and the Welcoming Prayer Practices and a member of the Recovering Community, will present the Welcoming Prayer workshop.  Mary will also be presenting a weekend retreat focusing on “The Forgiveness Prayer” in Racine, Wisconsin December 10-12 (see below).  For more information on the Welcoming Prayer workshop, or to register, click here.

Merton Society’s Series of Sunday Afternoon Programs Continues, the Next on November 5

All of these 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.

November 5: Tony Sorgi on Dag Hammarskjöld

November 19: Paul Pearson on Merton & Humor

December 10: Kate Hennessy & Rosalie Riegle on Dorothy Day (Kate’s grandmother)

January 21, 2018: Jon Sweeney on “A Course in Christian Mysticism”

No special reading or background is required for any of these Merton Society talks, 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.

Forgiveness Prayer Weekend Retreat – December 10-12 in Racine Wisconsin

Mary Dwyer, a well-known retreat guide and long-time student of Fr. Thomas Keating, will present a weekend retreat focusing on “The Forgiveness Prayer” at the beautiful Siena Retreat Center on the shores of Lake Michigan in Racine, Wisconsin December 10-12.

To be a Christian mandates a willingness to forgive, but as the adage goes, “to err is human, to forgive is Divine.” Forgiveness is central to Jesus’s message calling us to forgive “from the heart,” yet in today’s world how does one forgive?  The retreat will explore these questions and share both the Process of Forgiveness and specific practices to forgive (including the Forgiveness Prayer as articulated by Mary Mrozowski).  For more information or to register, click here. This event is sponsored by Contemplative Outreach of Southeast Wisconsin.

Act Now to Secure Your Place at Next Spring’s 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 five 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


Institutional Christianity has hardly contemplated the possibility that the consciousness of Jesus might be the consciousness of the Christian, that the whole point of the Gospel is that everyone may experience union with God in the same way as Jesus himself.

– Alan Watts

Basically, I don’t think we need any great figure to come along. We know what to do. The golden rule, that’s all it is. All the traditions teach the same. Instead of waiting for some lead, just go on, just start practicing. And perhaps start demanding it from our politicians and religious leaders, too.

– Karen Armstrong

Whatever the circumstances, there is a Christian way of responding to them. Nowadays, when there are vast social problems which need Christian solutions, the signs of the times have to include not only our own immediate environment, but the broader world: the neighborhood, city, or nation, in which we live — indeed the whole world and the future of the human race. Relying on the Holy Spirit, we must choose how to respond to the signs of the time out of our Christian tradition.

– Thomas Keating

Instead of hating the people you think are war-makers, hate the appetites and disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed – but hate these things in yourself, not in another.

– Thomas Merton

Your Turn

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