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Spirit Journal – January 2018


This first 2018 issue of Spirit Journal features new information and reflections on our two upcoming events: the Winter Weekend Retreat and the Living Wisdom Program.

We also inform you about several other interesting contemplative activities and events, locally and regionally, and include a reflection on the midwinter gifts of nature and Centering Prayer, written by our friend Deb Marqui of Healing Gardens.  January Insights focus on miracles; they come from Wayne Dyer, Paulo Coelho, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Albert Einstein.

Thank you to those who have written in to help us make Spirit Journal an active forum for the members and friends of Contemplative Outreach – Chicago.  We invite all readers’ active participation: please use the email address provided at the end to send in your responses, ideas and insights.  We love hearing from you!

Coming Up in February – The Winter Weekend Retreat and the First of Three New Living Wisdom Workshops

(Note: The 2018 Winter Weekend Retreat will take place February 9-11 at the Portiuncula retreat center in Frankfort, Illinois.  The theme is From the Mind to the Heart . . . an exploration of intuitive wisdom on the spiritual journey.  Separately, our new series of Living Wisdom workshops kicks off on February 17 and continues through April.  Please visit our website for further information and a chance to register for these events.)

The Winter Weekend Retreat

by this year’s retreat guide, Alan Krema

Often at weekend retreats, we look for an experience of oneness.  Here are some reflections on our upcoming winter retreat which will explore the difference between an experience of oneness and an unboundaried awareness of wholeness:

We are a jumble of random thoughts – all in reaction and response to our environment.  From the time we began to leave the pure sense of oneness with our mother, we began to sense our self as unique, separate, boundaried in space and time.  We are encapsulated in the universe by our physical reality and our bodily sensation.

We become intensely aware of our self and are driven toward self-preservation, self-satisfaction – control, affection, and security.  We learn to manipulate our thoughts and our responses to have an effect on others and our environment.  We learn even to take for granted those items that are so basic to self-preservation that we can’t help ourselves.  Things like eating, sleeping, warming, sexuality.   We spend great energy pursuing these things – without thought.  This is self-preservation and not something we would normally think of as love.

Three Living Wisdom Workshops 

by Alan Krema

The 2018 Living Wisdom program consists of three all-day Saturday workshops, each based on a particular topic of the Wisdom tradition.

February 17:        G.I. Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way, with David Orth

March 24:             Spirituality from the Ground Up, with Jeff Ediger

April 14:               Wisdom of the Gospel of Thomas, with Alan Krema

These workshops will be held at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Mount Prospect, Illinois.

I am particularly pleased that we are able to bring these wisdom topics to our local chapter.  Each is a unique look at wisdom from a perspective that is generally not taken, or even a bit unconventional.

Looking at the February workshop on Gurdjieff, we will explore what is known as “the fourth way” – a path of contemplative practice based on everyday living and working within a field of knowing or remembering our true Self.  This brings one directly to the challenge of self-realization and a life of work that is practically aligned with the admonition of St Paul to “pray always.”

David Orth is a long time practitioner of the Gurdjieff work and will bring us into the light of the practice.  We will also look at some of Cynthia Bourgeault’s teachings about how the Gurdjieff work is applied to the Christian contemplative wisdom path.  We will use some material from Cynthia’s newly released ecourse an “Introductory Wisdom School,” and we will offer our attendees special discounted access to this course.

Upcoming Events, Retreats, and Conferences

Here are some upcoming contemplative activities that may be of interest to you:

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 —

The Seven Mansions of the Interior Castle – February 2-4 at the Marianist Retreat Center Near St. Louis

Interior Castle is one of the most celebrated books on mystical theology in existence.  Join Susan Komis for a special retreat weekend, offering sacred space and time to explore the Seven Mansions of Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle.  Teresa is one of Christianity’s great mystics and teachers.  The Seven Mansions of the Interior Castle is her final work and one of the most profound literary works on contemplation and experiential mysticism.

Prayer stood at the center of Teresa’s teaching.  Her fidelity to prayer was a means of deepening her intimate relationship with God.  She considered a life of prayer in terms of love. This retreat will reflect on the light of Teresa’s timeless insights into the human soul, its journey towards God, and how Teresa’s teaching is relevant to our personal contemporary spiritual journey today.

Susan Komis is the former Director of Chapter Programs and Services of Contemplative Outreach and continues to serve as a commissioned presenter and retreat director.  She is a Pastoral Minister and has been active in adult faith development, spiritual direction and inter-spiritual dialogue.

Click here for more complete information and a chance to register.

Three Midwest Wisdom Schools in Dubuque Iowa, the First in February

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:

February 5-8, 2018           Mary Magdalene as Unitive Wisdom 

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

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

All of the schools will be 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.

Last Chance: Register Now for Cynthia Bourgeault’s Mega Wisdom School in North Carolina in March

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.

If you are interested in attending or have any questions about the Wisdom School, please email Alan at

Healing Gardens Announces 2018 Programs 

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 scheduled so far for 2018:

Silent Saturday, March 17, 9:00am-noon (additional Silent Saturdays are scheduled throughout the spring, summer, and fall)

Introductory Centering Prayer Workshop, Saturday March 24, 8:45am – 3:00pm (another Introductory Workshop is scheduled for July 28)

Level One Enneagram Workshop, Saturday April 7, 8:45am – 3:30pm

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

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.

Winter Red

By Deborah Marqui

In the Japanese Sun Pear tree outside my window, amidst the tangle of small bare branches and limbs, sits a bright red cardinal. With his feathers puffed out to stay warm, he preens himself – perhaps waiting for his lifetime mate.

As I stare at this welcome, colorful, picturesque sight, I see my own soul in this lovely little bird. I am a bright, vibrant being in the midst of my own negative tangled thoughts that twist the truth of who I am. It amazes me that the human being that I am shines through the tangled mess of destructive beliefs. Perhaps, the light and beauty shine through because of the tangled web of hurts and negative messages . . . another holy paradox.

Winter Red – One Week Later: He is here again. He comes almost every morning to the tree outside my window sitting in the middle of the tangled, twisted branches – a stunning display of color that takes my breath away.  Often, his mate joins him as they fly easily in and out of the twisted, leafless branches.

I reflect again on my friend the cardinal, as a metaphor for my soul. Like the red bird, I am able to rest in the midst of my own dark and troubled thoughts. At times, I can even fly away from them with a deep knowing that they do not have the power to name who I am. This is a blessed gift from the daily practice of Centering Prayer, a silent meditation practice, where I allow God to heal me from the inside out.

“It is as if God says to me: Your radiance cannot be hidden by your mistakes or by any external situation you may be experiencing. Your life is hidden with me…. My love changes everything.”  – Peter Traben Hass


I am realistic – I expect miracles.

– Wayne Dyer

You have to take risks.  We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.

– Paulo Coelho

The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

– Albert Einstein

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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