Merry Christmas! Our December issue features:
- A reflection on Advent as a time for contemplation and consent
- Dates and details for three Enter the Chaos online retreats being offered January-March by the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue
- A suggestion that you save the dates in mid-June for our 2021 Intensive and Post-Intensive Retreats
- Our monthly listing of additional online and in-person contemplative events
- Insights – this month devoted to a Christmas poem by Howard Thurman
We love to hear from you! Please give us your thoughts on Spirit Journal by emailing the editor at the address provided at the end of the newsletter.
Advent: A Time to Open Ourselves to the Divine Nature of the Action to Which We’re Called
by Alan Krema
The year 2020 has been such an uncertain time for all of us. The covid virus and our social-political situation have left all of us with many uncertainties and many new ways of acting, being, and behaving.
This is relevant to our contemplative practice and our engagement with Centering Prayer. We are called to new ways of interacting in our relationships, and also called to let go of the fear that so many things cause in us. We realize so clearly that we are not in control and yet we are drawn to do whatever we can to help. In the words of Thomas Keating:
“God … is total activity and total rest at the same time. He is in relationship to everything that exists, and hence knows all of reality through and through.”
“God is not only calling every individual into direct union with himself, but also into communion with everyone else who is being called to the same thing, and to experience in some degree that fact that we belong to God and to one another.”
“As we let go of our concerns, centering prayer becomes an exercise of just being. Resting in God is the classical term given for it. Resting may suggest doing nothing. However it is not actually doing nothing; it is letting go of our thoughts and desires in order to allow the divine action to work freely in us.”
“Consent to God as God Is”, pg 78-83.
As we let go of the reactive needs of our instinctual energy centers in centering prayer, so we are called to let go of them in our actions. We are invited to give up some measure of control and allow ourselves to be open to the divine nature of the action that we find ourselves called to.
Perhaps there is a path of holding, or bearing, a conscious love wherein we allow our unconscious thoughts to arise and not grip us when we are engaged with our activities. We keep an awareness of love of our neighbor while working to simply see both our thoughts and our longing for love.
One way to do this is to observe what is going on in our body. What is the body telling us at this moment? Is there contraction or relaxation? Being aware of our body while simultaneously witnessing our thoughts. As we become driven by a thought, we simply return to what our body is telling us and let go of the instinctual desires for affection, control, and security.
I feel this like a bearing of love, a holding of our source within us, all while we work.
I am moved again this Advent by how we are called to bear Christ within us. This has a sense of opening and expansion for me which shows itself in all of my relationships. I have seen so many commentaries recently about this and perhaps many of us are taking part in this Advent awareness.
In 2012 I came home from a wisdom school and Advent was approaching. The words of a chant came bursting forth from within me and I began to realize how Advent really is a birthing process within each of us. I sent the words to Darlene Franz who created the wonderful chant, “Inner Life of Being” .
Contemplative Outreach Chicago will be offering a Three-day Online Centering Prayer Immersion Retreat this February in place of our traditional in-person winter retreat. This weekend retreat will begin Friday, February 12, ending at noon on Sunday, February 14, 2021.
I will be facilitating the retreat, and I think of it as an “immersion” because we will be engaged with Centering Prayer immersed in our lives, as well as with our lives immersed in Centering Prayer. We will be at home, preparing our own meals, perhaps with simple tasks to be done between sessions. In this way, we will be invited to carry the awareness in our hearts into our activities of the day.
Look for a more detailed description of this online retreat very soon, along with an opportunity to register. I hope you will want to be part of this contemplative experience.
Merry Christmas to you, and may we all find healing and peace in the coming year!
Three Online “Enter the Chaos” Programs from ICCD in January, February or March
The Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue is offering three online opportunities to take part in Enter the Chaos: Engage the Differences To Make A Difference. This is a very meaningful three-day program that was the basis for our 2020 Winter Retreat last February.
If you have wondered, “what can I do?” to better participate in our polarized societal discourse, or if you have felt the urgency for a new approach in communicating with friends or family members whose views are different from your own, please consider taking part in this very special program, which combines:
- the transformative power of contemplation
- conscious intent of the values we want to embody
- capacity to exercise contemplative power
- understanding our role in the evolutionary process
- willingness to welcome our own ongoing personal transformation
The combination is designed to grow the power of personal engagement with your life’s relationships in a dramatic opening of boundaries, using the mind to serve the heart.
The program is available online January 8-10, February 7-9 or March 19-21. For more information and a chance to register, please visit the ICCD website.
Save the Dates: 2021 Intensive and Post Intensive Retreats June 13-19 at the Siena Retreat Center, Racine Wisconsin
An Intensive Retreat is an opportunity to deepen the practice of Centering Prayer in an atmosphere of profound silence and community support. There are 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 also be scheduled.
The Post-Intensive Retreat is offered for those who have previously taken part in an Intensive Retreat. It provides an opportunity to deepen the practice of Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina. There are up to seven 30-minute periods of Centering Prayer daily. Participants observe Sacred Silence four days during the retreat.
Next summer’s retreats are offered June 13-19 at the lovely Siena Retreat Center in Racine, 83 miles north of Chicago on the Lake Michigan shore. The retreat guides are Ann Koerner, CSA and Sandy Janowski. Ann is a Sister of St. Agnes and holds a Masters in Christian Spirituality from Creighton University in Omaha NE. Since 1986 she has been a spiritual companion and retreat director. Sandy is a retired Social Worker, Addiction Counselor and Community College Adjunct Instructor. In 2009 she was commissioned by the Institute of Spiritual Companionship and has been a practitioner of Centering Prayer since 2001.
Click here to download more complete information about the retreats and a chance to register.
Highlighted Events and Resources
You may wish to participate in some of these additional local, regional, and online events:
POSTPONED: Contemplative Outreach of Wisconsin’s Three-Day Advent Retreat
This onsite Advent retreat at the Siena Retreat Center, originally scheduled for this month, has been postponed until December 9-12, 2021, due to the pandemic. For further information, please visit the Contemplative Outreach of Wisconsin website.
Centering Prayer Groups via Zoom
Here are four invitations to gather with Chicago-area Centering Prayer groups 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
- St. Katharine Drexel Church every Tuesday 8:30-9:30am. Contact Lori Dressel at email@example.com
- The Healing Gardens second Friday of each month, 10:30am-12:30pm. Also, Centering Prayer with Lectio Divina, last Friday of each month, 10:30am-11:30pm. Contact Deb Marqui at firstname.lastname@example.org or text/call 630-740-259.
- Permanent Zoom group (not associated with an in-person group) Tuesday 6:00 – 7:00pm. Contact Rose Magiera for link and phone number – email@example.com
Bill Epperly has also invited everyone to Interspiritual Sundays which gathers Sunday from 9:00-10:00am. You may contact Bill 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)
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. You must first register to attend the meetings in the Chapel. You can do that by using the calendar link. Once you know what chapel your desired meeting is in, use the chapel link.
Meditation Groups – Groups meet via Zoom at all hours of the day and night and are open to anyone. There is no cost/fee to attend, charging is prohibited. A friend writes: “I have been attending meditation in the virtual Keating Chapel and had a lovely experience. The facilitator was very good!” For further information, visit the calendar or chapel listing.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please let us know about any additional events and resources you’re aware of. Write to: email@example.com
The Work of Christmas
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.
– Howard Thurman
Please write in to contribute your ideas or to comment on 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.