• This issue begins with a reflection from Alan Krema on the pandemic and its spiritual meaning.
• We offer further suggestions that may help deepen your contemplative practice while we need to stay safely at home.
• Refunds are on the way for everyone who signed up for two upcoming events we’ve had to postpone.
• April Insights come from Pir Elias Amidon, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Jack Kornfield, and Thomas Keating.
It would be wonderful to hear from you. Please give us your thoughts on Spirit Journal – and start your side of the conversation – by emailing the editor at the address provided at the end of the newsletter. We look forward to hearing from you!
Uncertainty, Anxiety, and the Gift of Contemplation
by Alan Krema
We are now in the middle of our fifth week of stay-at-home due to the Covid-19 global pandemic. I have heard this referred to as the “Great Pause.” That captures a lot. This event in our country has shown us a great deal about stratification and levels of facility with living day to day.
Some of us are blessed to be able to stay at home with family and without excessive worry over our financial condition. Some of us have financial worry, some have to go to work in healthcare and many other “front line” jobs. Some of us do not have the means to isolate, either by virtue of living conditions, or by requirement of taking public transportation, or by the nature of our work. For those of us who live in the financial short term, the stress is great indeed.
What will happen to us is uncertain. What will happen to our society is uncertain. How the pandemic will progress is uncertain. We are not in control, and this leads us into the first step of a relationship with our spiritual nature.
The unknowns are like a weight on us, causing us to worry and be anxious about our future. This creates a tremendous pull on our psyche even as we spend more time in Centering Prayer and contemplative practice. Combined with isolation, we can spiral into a heavier mode of being rather than the lightness of being that comes from letting go of our false self with its demands for security, control, and esteem.
We need to fall back on what we know about our True nature and the teachers we have in our lives to guide us into contemplative living, being, and knowing. We need to have hope. I enjoyed Richard Rohr’s recent daily meditation where he related Cynthia Bourgeault’s teaching on mystical hope. Here is an excerpt:
“Mystical hope is not tied to a good outcome, to the future. It lives a life of its own, seemingly without reference to external circumstances and conditions. It has something to do with presence—not a future good outcome, but the immediate experience of being met, held in communion, by something intimately at hand. It bears fruit within us at the psychological level in the sensations of strength, joy, and satisfaction: an “unbearable lightness of being.” But mysteriously, rather than deriving these gifts from outward expectations being met, it seems to produce them from within. . .”
The link to the full meditation is here:
We all have access to this presence and we engage it when we release our thoughts from dominating our energy and open ourselves to our divine indwelling.
I have been very grateful for our Chicago Contemplative Outreach team who have been finding and communicating ways for us to gather and connect with others in this time of virtual gatherings. In addition to Centering Prayer groups meeting online, there have been many online contemplative experiences that we have been relating to you. Over the past several weeks, we have discovered and forwarded to you several opportunities for contemplative experiences with online groups. These suggestions, along with a few new ones, are summarized in the next section of this newsletter.
Some of you may remember that we offered an online guide to the Wisdom Way of Knowing introductory ecourse in 2018. The producer of that course, who is also the creator of the Wisdom Way of Knowing website, Robbin Brent, is part of the team offering a 28-day guide to contemplative experience through the Living Compass group. You are invited to join this private Facebook group, as outlined below.
I deeply wish that you may stay healthy and safe during these difficult times. I will hold you and our entire community in my prayerful awareness and presence each day as we discover our path forward.
Meaningful Gatherings, Events, and Activities – Mostly Virtual
Last month’s Spirit Journal offered a list of recommended online resources we hoped would help you find ways to maintain a sense of contemplative connection, until we can be together again. Please click here if you would like to review those suggestions. Here are a few more:
Participate in Centering Prayer Groups via Zoom
How fortunate we are to have three invitations to gather in Centering Prayer via Zoom! Listed below are the groups, times, and contact information.
• St. Clement’s Centering Prayer Group every Saturday 9:30-10:30am. Contact Bill Epperly at email@example.com
• St. Katharine Drexel Church every Tuesday 8:30-9:30am. Contact Lori Dressel at firstname.lastname@example.org
• The Healing Gardens second Friday of each month, 10:30am-12:30pm. Contact Deb Marquis at email@example.com
Bill Epperly has also invited everyone to Interspiritual Sundays which gathers Sunday from 9:00-10:00am and Mindfullness Mondays from 7:30-9:00pm. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and he’ll be happy to share more information with you.
(Other Centering Prayer groups may also wish to consider meeting online for now. If you need help in setting up, please contact Sandy Janowski: email@example.com)
New Offerings in the Contemplative Outreach Meditation Chapel
The national website of our parent organization features an Online Meditation Chapel that is very easy to use and provides the opportunity to see, hear and join in silent prayer with others from all over the world. Recent additions to the Meditation Chapel include:
• Centering Prayer half day retreat this Saturday – April 25, 8am – 1pm Central Time, facilitated by Corey Krupowicz in the Wisdom Chapel. Please email Corey firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about the schedule.
• Two new Welcoming Prayer live sessions – These are 30-minute practice experiences of the Welcoming Prayer. Experienced Welcoming Prayer facilitators will guide you in this practice of consenting to God’s presence and action manifesting in what you are experiencing in your bodies in this moment. As the body is the warehouse of the unconscious, this practice supports each of us in embracing what we are experiencing and letting it go. No prior experience is needed. The sessions are offered every Thursday 7-7:30pm Central Time, facilitated by Therese Saulnier and every Tuesday 9-9:30am Central Time, facilitated by Mary Dwyer in the Peace Chapel. Please go to the Meditation Chapel to register and receive links to these sessions.
• Healing Together: A Gathering of Consciousness – In silence we focus on an intention for peace and healing in 2020. The format is an opening prayer, a short reading, two 25-minute sessions of silent prayer with a short break in-between and closing prayer. These sessions are scheduled every Thursday from 11:00am to 12:00pm Central Time (US & Ca) in the Thomas Keating Chapel with Mary Lapham. You can contact Mary at email@example.com.
The Wisdom Way of Knowing for Such a Time As This – now through July 30
Using the book The Wisdom Way of Knowing by Cynthia Bourgeault, this eight-session class will gather via Zoom to explore the text experientially – offering up the possibility for spiritual transformation at this time of unfolding on the planet.
Working with the practices of meditation, lectio divina, and contemplative dialogue on the front end, the class will delve into the rich depths of this extraordinary work. The approach will include large group spiritual practice, Wisdom teachings, and time for integration and engagement with other class members in small group breakout rooms.
The first meeting took place on April 23, but the class is still accepting new participants. It will meet every other Thursday until July 30, led by Beth O’Brien, the founder of Contemplative Presence, a Benedictine oblate, spiritual director, and teacher of Centering Prayer meditation. A long time Centering Prayer practitioner, Beth led a workshop during the first year of Contemplative Outreach Chicago’s Living Wisdom program in 2016. She is a direct student of Cynthia Bourgeault.
For more information or to register, please visit the Contemplative Presence website.
A Video Conference with Cynthia Bourgeault
Offered in partnership with Contemplative Outreach of South Africa, this Zoom video conference will be held from April 30th to May 2nd starting at about 2:30pm South Africa Time/7:30am Central Time each day. It will include Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina, teachings from Cynthia, and the opportunity to submit questions via the Zoom chat feature.
Cynthia will unpack Thomas Keating’s emerging final vision of Oneness: a state of consciousness/selfhood, oneness among the religions and oneness in our fragile and embattled world. (Paul calls this becoming a “New Creation.”) Each daily session will be about two hours long and participants are free to come and go as need be. The conference will also be recorded and made available to all at a later date.
For additional information and registration, please visit the Contemplative Outreach national website.
Contemplative Practices and Well-Being – A 28-Day Retreat on Facebook
Living Compass will host this 28-day eRetreat May 4 through May 31. Some of you may remember that we offered an online guide to the Wisdom Way of Knowing introductory ecourse in 2018. The producer of that course as well as the creator of the Wisdom Way of Knowing website, Robbin Brent, is part of the Living Compass team offering this 28-day guide to contemplative experience.
The retreat will function as a private Facebook group, which you can join simply by saying that you learned about it from Contemplative Outreach Chicago. Participants will be accepted starting May 1. To learn more, click here.
Workshops on Centering Prayer and the Enneagram at Healing Gardens
Note: For now, these two workshops are planned as in-person events, although plans may have to change depending on the public health situation this summer.
• Introductory Centering Prayer Workshop on June 13 – This one-day course covers the essentials of the method and conceptual background of Centering Prayer. The presenter, Deb Marquis, is specially trained and commissioned by Contemplative Outreach. After the first workshop, the program continues with optional gatherings to pray, view and discuss video presentations by Fr. Thomas Keating and to support an emerging daily practice of Centering Prayer.
• Level 1 Enneagram Workshop on July 11 – This workshop will help you gain a greater understanding of yourself and others using the Enneagram – a powerful, spiritual tool for transformation that will help you overcome inner barriers and realize your unique gifts. The presenter will be Enneagram expert JoAnne McElroy, life coach/spiritual director. Attendance is capped at 14 participants, so you are encouraged to register early.
For further information and registration for these and other events, please visit the Healing Gardens website.
Please let us know about any additional resources you are finding to be especially helpful at this time, so that we can share the links with the Contemplative Outreach Chicago community. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Servant-Leader Retreat and Howard Thurman Workshop Postponed – Refund Process Underway
As previously announced, we regretfully had to postpone these two events, which had been scheduled for late May and early June. While we intend to reschedule both, right now we cannot be certain when we’ll be able to hold them. Therefore, if you registered for one of these events and have not yet received a refund, you can expect to be contacted by the registrar in the next week to explain the refund process. Thank you for your patience; if you have questions, please write to email@example.com.
If for some reason you can’t praise God, praise how the early spring wakes the winter ground.
– Pir Elias Amidon
Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.
– Nathaniel Hawthorne
Epidemics are a part of the cycle of life on this planet. The choice is how we respond. With greed and hatred and fear and ignorance? Or with generosity, clarity, steadiness and love?
– Jack Kornfield
To live in the presence of God on a continuous basis can become a kind of fourth dimension to our three-dimensional world, forming an invisible but real background to everything that we do or that happens in our lives.
– Thomas Keating
Please write in to comment on or add to any of the items in Spirit Journal. 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 can contribute by emailing the newsletter editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.