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Spirit Journal – April 2018


This April issue continues Spirit in the Wild — a story that began in last month’s Spirit Journal in which Phil Jackson describes and reflects on his solo wilderness journey in the High Sierras last year.  We also remind you to save the date this fall – November 3 – when you’ll have an opportunity to encounter the transformative wisdom teachings of Cynthia Bourgeault at our seventh annual One-Day Fall Workshop.

This issue also includes a “call for new volunteers” to help Contemplative Outreach – Chicago continue and expand its mission in support of the practice of Centering Prayer, along with information about a number of upcoming contemplative activities and events, locally and regionally.  This month’s Insights come from Chief Seattle, Rachel Carson, John Muir, and Pema Chödrön.

To all who have written in to help us make Spirit Journal an open and interactive forum – thank you so much!  We always 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!

Save the Date: November 3 – the Annual One-Day Fall Workshop with One of the Leading Spiritual Teachers of Our Time, Cynthia Bourgeault

Our seventh annual fall workshop will bring Cynthia Bourgeault to Benedictine University in Lisle to offer a full day of wisdom teachings to Chicago-area contemplatives.  Please mark your calendar now and save the date: Saturday November 3. Registration will be available in June.

About Cynthia Bourgeault:

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault is a modern-day mystic, Episcopal priest, writer, and internationally known retreat leader.  She divides her time between solitude at her hermitage in Maine and a demanding schedule traveling globally to teach and spread the recovery of the Christian contemplative and Wisdom path.

Cynthia has been a long-time advocate of the meditative practice of Centering Prayer and has worked closely with fellow teachers and colleagues including Thomas Keating, Bruno Barnhart, and Richard Rohr.  She has actively participated in numerous InterSpiritual dialogues and events with luminaires and leaders such as A.H. Almaas, Kabir Helminski, Swami Atmarupananda, and Rami Shapiro.

Cynthia’s most recent book is The Heart of Centering Prayer and she is the author of eight additional books: The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene, The Wisdom Jesus, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, Mystical Hope, The Wisdom Way of Knowing, Chanting the Psalms, and Love is Stronger than Death. She has also authored or contributed to numerous articles and courses on the Christian spiritual life.

Cynthia Bourgeault is currently one of the core faculty members at The Living School at Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation. She is a member of the GPIW (Global Peace Initiative for Women) Contemplative Council, recipient of the 2014 Contemplative Voices award from Shalem Institute, and a founding director of both The Contemplative Society and the Aspen Wisdom School. She continues to contribute to The Contemplative Society in her role as Principal Teacher and advisor. 

A Call to Volunteer

by Alan Krema

Our mission in Contemplative Outreach is transformation in Christ via the practice of Centering Prayer.  This transformation shows itself in mindful actions of compassion and mercy.  Our contemplative path bears the fruit of mercy and love for others in action.  That is why Centering Prayer is so important to our times and our social consciousness.  It’s about learning who we truly are in Union and connection with others.

I am making a call to each of you to consider joining our service team in Chicago to aid and assist the various activities we sponsor in order to further Centering Prayer and the contemplative path.

You can join in the events we currently have planned or help us create new events and activities.  We would love to have you join our service team.  You can assist one activity for a year or just come to a meeting and see how we gather and discuss our work.  If something is attractive to you, you are invited to pitch in.

If you feel that you might be interested in joining our volunteer team and you would like to learn more, please contact me at

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 — 

Transformation in Times of Uncertainty, a Weekend Retreat with Nancy Sylvester at Siena Retreat Center in Racine, May 18-20

Led by Nancy Sylvester, IHM, Transformation in Times of Uncertainty is a weekend retreat exploring the power of contemplation as a transformative practice so necessary in our world today.  The weekend will include presentations and processes rooted in individual and communal contemplation.  The retreat will be held at the beautiful Siena Retreat Center on Lake Michigan between Chicago and Milwaukee.

Nancy Sylvester is the former President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and former Vice President of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Monroe, Michigan.  Her experience also includes leadership with the national Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK and founding the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue in 2002.  She currently serves as its President and brings to this project her commitment to dialogue, collaboration, contemplation, and an understanding of transformation through the lenses of Catholic social justice teaching and the emerging universe story.

For more information, please visit the Siena Center website.

Healing Gardens 2018 Programs Include Introductory Centering Prayer Workshops and Enneagram Workshops

Healing Gardens at Stonehill Farm invites you to enjoy two acres of perennial gardens in a quiet wooded setting in St. Charles.  A growing list of contemplative activities take place at Healing Gardens, including the following:

Level Two Enneagram Workshop, Saturday July 14, 8:45am – 3:30pm

Introductory Centering Prayer Workshop, Saturday August 4, 8:45am – 3:00pm

For more information and registration, please visit the Healing Gardens website.

This Summer: Advanced/Post-Intensive Retreats, Benet Lake, Wisconsin

Contemplative Outreach of Southeast Wisconsin offers this year’s eight-day retreat July 15-22 at St. Benedict’s Abbey and Retreat Center in Benet Lake, Wisconsin.

The retreats, guided by Kathryn Ann Kobelinski, SSND and Ann Koerner, CSA, will immerse participants in the practice of Centering Prayer as taught by Contemplative Outreach, Ltd.  These Advanced/Post Intensive retreats allow participants to come together for Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina and meal times. They provide an atmosphere of silence, solitude and community.

For further information, please contact Sr. Kathryn Ann at 414-282-7310 or To register, use this mail-in form. 

 Midwest Wisdom Schools in Dubuque Iowa in August and October

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:

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

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

These Wisdom schools are 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.

Spirit in the Wild Chapter 2 – The Journey Begins

by Phil Jackson

Last year, Phil Jackson (until 2016 the coordinator of Contemplative Outreach – Chicago) went on a two-week solo backpacking trip in the High Sierras of California.  It was a spiritual journey as well as a physical challenge, and it became a surprisingly intense experience.  Phil has now documented his journey in writing.  The first chapter was published in last month’s Spirit Journal.  Here is Chapter 2; additional chapters will be published in upcoming editions of Spirit Journal.

“Life is hard . . .  most neuroses are caused by people not acknowledging this simple truth.”

– M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Travelled

“Life is hard.”

– Richard Rohr, Adam’s Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation.

I lift my backpack, the journey begins. I walk into the personal — and real — frontier following my own call, my avocation. In a beautiful blue sky, the sun shines through the thin, High Sierra Mountains — “the range of light,” as John Muir called it. The sun, that god which can comfort us one minute then hide the next, seems to enjoy showing its power today.

Sweat brings chill as I walk, sun burns my face though I have my jacket on to warm my body. It is all beautiful and life-affirming now, as I leave the trailhead. I’m as ready as I ever could be, and as confident as I want to be — confident enough to not be deterred by needless fear, but realistic enough to know that things can go wrong no matter what. For all its attraction and beauty, this is still life. A life I’m entering with the mentality of a thrilled teen, something not felt for a long time. After only a few steps I realize I’m already at Virginia Lake, a beautiful alpine lake at the foot of a mountain. A postcard/screensaver setting. As if to complete the picture, a boat with two fishermen—or maybe it’s a young couple—drift by idyllically, quietly.


Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. . . all things connect.

– Chief Seattle

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.

– Rachel Carson

Keep close to Nature’s heart . . . and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.

– John Muir

We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice.

– Pema Chödrön

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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