This month, Spirit Journal has a lot of news to share. We begin with informative articles created by several of the presenters who will lead sessions at this year’s Annual Fall One-Day Workshop on November 2nd. Next, Alan Krema provides a first look at Enter the Chaos, our 2020 Winter Retreat, which promises to engage the reality of human relationships from multiple viewpoints, offering a means to connect on a deeper level than the reactionary.
We recommend a wonderful new memoir by Deb Marqui and we remind you that registration is open for the seven-workshop Living Flame program, which begins in August and continues through April 2020. More than 25 people have already signed up for this outstanding program, and capacity is limited, so please don’t delay. We also call your attention to several other worthwhile contemplative events and activities coming up soon in our region.
This month’s Insights come from Wayne Teasdale, Trunga Rinpoche, Thomas Keating, and Toni Morrison.
Please give us your input about any aspect of Spirit Journal by emailing the editor, using the address provided at the end of the newsletter. We look forward to hearing from you!
Annual Fall Workshop November 2: More Information from Session-Leaders
Registration for our Eighth Annual Fall Workshop, which will take place on Saturday November 2nd in Lisle, is available now. For complete program information or to register, please visit the event page.
We’ve invited all the leaders of the various Fall Workshop sessions to create descriptions of what their workshops will be like and what they hope you will take away. (These articles supplement the session-descriptions that are already available on the event page.) We are publishing three leaders’ descriptions this month and will add more in September.
Morning Workshop 3A: Centering Prayer and Its Connection to the Twelve Steps: Two Views
Part 1: The Human Condition and Divine Therapy
by Joelle Mitchell
On November 2nd, with Richard Baugh, I will be presenting the workshop Centering Prayer and Its Connection to the 12 Steps: Two Views. My portion of the workshop will focus on the Human Condition and Divine Therapy, based on Fr. Thomas Keating’s book, “The Human Condition, Contemplation and Transformation.”
If you are wondering if this workshop is for you and you are a) a human being, b) have ever experienced yourself acting in ways that you had not meant to or c) have been in recovery for years, worked the steps, and still suffer from emotional highs and lows, then this workshop may clarify your dilemma.
It has been said that Thomas Keating’s greatest gift was his teaching on the Human Condition, in which human beings, who are fundamentally good, act in ways contrary to their nature and against their own well- being and that of others. Decades earlier, Bill Wilson had similar insights that helped clarify the causes of alcoholism and the behavior of alcoholics before and after recovery. This workshop will connect 12 Step Recovery to the Divine Therapy of Fr. Thomas Keating. The workshop will underscore the need for daily Centering Prayer as an 11th Step Practice to heal what prevents us from transformative union with God. If you are not in recovery and find you too are suffering from the ‘human condition’ come and be inspired to seek the solution.
I have been practicing Centering Prayer as an 11th Step practice since 2002 and have been a commissioned presenter since 2006. I currently serve as chairperson of the 12 Step national leadership team and am on the St. Louis 12 Step service team. I have been in recovery for 37 years and am active in the fellowship. I am committed to the daily practice of Centering Prayer and sharing it with those in 12 Step recovery who are looking to deepen their own 11th Step practice. I consider it a great privilege to carry this message.
Part 2: Centering Prayer and Steps 3, 6, And 7
by Richard Baugh
On November 2, I will be leading the second part of the workshop on Centering Prayer and Its Connection to The 12 Steps. My section will focus on Centering Prayer and Steps 3, 6, and 7 of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I have been in recovery for 27 years and have practiced Centering Prayer as an 11th Step practice since 2011. In 2015, I became a commissioned presenter of Centering Prayer and since that time have presented at several workshops. Centering prayer and its tie-in with the Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous has profoundly impacted my recovery. I am excited to present my experience, strength, and hope!
During my years in recovery, I was often perplexed and frustrated by Steps 3, 6, and 7. What is God’s will for me? Why do these character defects persist in light of continued efforts on Steps 6 and 7? And on and on. After practicing Centering Prayer for several years I began to see these steps in a different light. I realized that a disciplined effort at Centering Prayer was in fact doing the “work” of steps 3, 6, and 7 in addition to step 11.
In response to these insights and discussion with members of 12 Step Outreach in St. Louis, we prepared this presentation. This workshop centers on Thomas Keating’s work, including Divine Therapy and Addiction, The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, and my changing experience with these steps over the years. I hope you will enjoy it.
Afternoon Workshop 2B: Experiencing Sufism
by Marcia Hermansen
On November 2, I will be leading the workshop on Experiencing Sufism.
The mystical tradition of Islam, known as Sufism, or in Arabic “tasawwuf,” is most familiar to Americans through translations of Rumi’s Persian poetry.
The following poem is a good example:
Listen to the story told by the reed, of being separated.
“Since I was cut from the reedbed, I have made this crying sound.
Anyone apart from someone he loves understands what I say.
Anyone pulled from a source longs to go back”
These words begin Rumi’s most famous work, the Mathnawi. It reflects the Sufi understanding that we humans are on a path of return and that this life provides a precious opportunity to realize and express the majesty and beauty of our origin, even as we long and suffer in apparent separation. One of the most important concepts and practices of Sufism is “dhikr,” a form of embodied remembrance of the divine that activates and inspires the soul to reconnect with its source.
Sufism flourished in many regions of the Muslim World, opening up possibilities of experiencing the divine in this life. The Islamic profession of faith “There is no God, but God”, for the Sufis means “There is only God”, who is closer to human beings than our jugular vein and with us wherever we are.
The Chishti Sufi tradition of India welcomes devotees of all faiths and backgrounds to experience the ultimate in the here and now through contemplation and embodied practices such as repetition/remembrance (dhikr) using breath, sound, and the divine names.
This workshop will introduce participants to Sufism. An experiential component will consist of a dhikr session of remembrance where the group joins in gentle movement, chant, and breathing interspersed with individual contemplative focus and visualization.
I was introduced to Sufism as a Western spiritual seeker fascinated by Eastern traditions. I went on to live and study in the Middle East and South Asia, being blessed by encounters with a number of illuminated beings as I immersed myself in diverse regional and cultural traditions. The Sufis speak of “tasting” reality, beyond hearsay or intellectual knowledge. That taste is the aspiration of this encounter.
Enter the Chaos – the 2020 Winter Weekend Retreat
by Alan Krema
Our next Winter Retreat will be held on February 20-23, 2020. This retreat, entitled Enter the Chaos, is an exploration of ourselves in relation to the many others who are engaged with reality – our reality – from many perspectives of human development. From primitive fear to highly cognitive drives for security, everyone shares in these attachments.
The retreat will engage the reality of relationships from multiple viewpoints and offer a means to connect on a deeper level than the reactionary. I was privileged to attend an Enter the Chaos retreat a few months ago in Michigan, and I was very moved by the power of the retreat to transform my being into a being of connection and unity with other people from widely diverse backgrounds. I felt a deep connection to others and found a new place from which to converse with them. I experienced a new intention to embody and engage with values of sharing and working with others with a diversity of thoughts and opinions.
Thomas Keating, in his book, “Meditations on the Parables of Jesus,” says: “The reign of God involves a social dimension, not just the sifting of our own motivation.” It is very important for us to find roots in community and to engage socially in our lives. At times a practice of contemplative prayer and living may leave us isolated and wondering how to connect. Christian meditation is a fairly uncommon practice. Our lives of Christian transformation move us progressively from charity toward others, who are different and distinct from us, toward a centering of our personal reality on an interior core where we let go of our attachments and identifications enough so that we begin to love our fellow human beings as our Self.
This opening creates energy for us to want to know the other as much as we need to know our selves, including our darkest selves. It is no longer acceptable in this place to justify our cringing and tightening of the gut when we relate to certain people. This knowing of our Self by unknowing our attachments and identifications moves us to act to engage with others in a meaningful way. It becomes a drive and a deep desire to process relationships authentically.
We are preparing to open registration for the Winter Retreat very soon and we invite you to consider participating. If you have questions about either the Annual Fall Workshop or the Winter Retreat, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An added note on violence, given recent events:
Our nation is yet again wracked by violence this week. We are all shocked at the cold hate that causes someone to kill others human beings with gunfire. We can even feel numb by the number of guns in our society and by the amount of fellow human companions who have been killed by this terror of gun violence.
We feel emotionally pulled to the victims and their families. Lives ended so brutally and the families’ lives marked forever with the loss of their beloved ones. We feel rage at the violent criminal, the system which foments their hatred, and dread at the society we have become.
All of these emotions can close us in and shut us down. Our role in promoting transformation in Christ with centering prayer means that we must continue each day to use the practice to open ourselves to the greater human reality. Our desires and emotions which result from our mind reacting to the violence must be allowed to transform into a way of being in love.
We open ourselves to connect with the victims and their families as we see the vigils and prayer gatherings on the news. We also open to those of our fellow companions who are wracked by violent fervor and fantasy. They are closed in and in great need of healing and wholeness. We open also to those who perpetrate a violent system and division in many aspects of our society. Those who profit from violence and rationalize it away.
We open our minds and allow our thoughts to move into our open hearts, where they can know how we are all connected to our Source of a divinity we know as God.
Please consider looking at our Enter the Chaos retreat, which is designed to open our minds and hearts for healing in our current world.
Book Recommendation: From the Fire into the Garden
Deb Marqui has written and published an intimate memoir that takes you along on her journey from the ‘fire’ and suffering of cancer and into the creation of Healing Gardens, the inspirational healing space she has created in St. Charles, open to all.
The book began as journal entries in which Deb tried to make sense of the sudden shocking reality of a terminal diagnosis, but she has turned it into a powerful account of her transformative journey – physical and spiritual. Casting cancer as her ‘teacher’ and Nature as her ultimate ‘healer,’ Deb offers a crash course in how to integrate body, mind and spirit into health and wholeness.
From the Fire into the Garden is available through Amazon for $15 or can be purchased on the days when the Healing Gardens are open to the public for $12.
The Living Flame Program Starts October 12
Registration is now open for the Living Flame Program. This long-established program of in-depth spiritual study has been updated and re-designed by Father Thomas Keating and the national circle of service in recent years. It includes seven full-day Saturday workshops presented over a seven-month period by commissioned presenters from the various Contemplative Outreach Service Teams.
Designed to teach the vital conceptual background needed to support a faithful practice of Centering Prayer, the program also offers encouragement and support in a small community setting, heightens the awareness of the purification process, helps discern when psychological skills can be helpful tools, and provides the opportunity to give and receive spiritual companionship.
Advance registration for the Living Flame Program, which will be held at Mary Seat of Wisdom Church in Park Ridge, is now available for $235. More than 25 people have already signed up for the program, and capacity is limited, so don’t delay. A few weeks before the program begins, the price will increase to $260 if there are still spaces available. Please consider signing up early to assure that you can participate and take advantage of the savings.
For full information and an opportunity to register, please visit the event page.
Other Upcoming Events, Retreats, and Conferences
Here are several other contemplative activities that may be of interest to you:
Healing Gardens Programs Include Silent Saturdays, A Buddhist Meditation Hour, and an Enneagram Workshop
Many contemplative activities take place at Healing Gardens at Stonehill Farm in St. Charles. You are invited to enjoy two acres of perennial gardens in a quiet wooded setting, including the following:
Silent Saturdays, August 31 and October 19, 9:00am – noon
Meditation Hour with Buddhist monk Bhante Bhaddiya, including a Dhamma talk, Sunday September 8, 1:00-2:00pm
Level 2 Enneagram Workshop, Saturday October 12, 8:45am-3:30pm
For more information and registration, please visit the Healing Gardens website.
Connecting Christian Mysticism to the Practice of Contemplative Prayer – September 7 in Western Springs
An autumn morning of meditation is offered with scholar and world-renowned expert on mysticism Bernard McGinn, Professor Emeritus in the Divinity School of the University of Chicago.
Professor McGinn will discuss Connecting Christian Mysticism to the Practice of Contemplative Prayer, and the morning will include periods of meditation. It will take place Saturday, September 7, 9:30am-12:00pm (hospitality at 9:00am) at St. John of the Cross Parish Center, 5005 Wolf Road, Western Springs.
The event is sponsored by the SJC Christian Meditation groups. Free will offering appreciated. Reservations requested but not required; contact Betsy – 708-246-8315 or email@example.com
A Dreamers Workshop – September 28 in Old Town
Have you wondered what the images and stories in your dreams mean? Dreams are mentioned throughout the Bible, and have been a spiritual practice that appears throughout the ancient world. It is believed that dreams come to us for our health and wholeness, but what if we don’t understand what they are saying to us?
You are invited to explore the dream world in A Dreamers Workshop, September 28, 10:00am-12:30pm, St. Michael’s Parish Center Library,1711 N. Cleveland Avenue, Chicago. The workshop will be facilitated by Susan Cass and Jeff Ediger, who have both spent years studying and learning about dreams and co-facilitate a bi-weekly dream group at St. Michael’s.
A Dreamers Workshop will explore the symbolic language of dreams, discover how to dream more and recall your dreams, as well as work a dream or two in an interactive group process. Please come with a recent dream written down. The maximum number of participants is limited, and pre-registration is required ($15 suggested donation).
For questions or to register, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Ongoing Centering Prayer “11th Step” Program – 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, an ongoing Centering Prayer-based 11th step group 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 — email@example.com.)
Each great religion has a similar origin: the spiritual awakening of its founders to God, the divine, the absolute, the spirit, Tao, boundless awareness.
– Wayne Teasdale
The idea is not to regard the spiritual path as something very luxurious and pleasurable but to see it as just facing the facts of life.
– Trunga Rinpoche
Only when we can accept God as he is can we give up the desire for spiritual experiences that we can feel.
– Thomas Keating
At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.
– Toni Morrison
As always, you are invited to 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.