Happy Easter! This new issue will update you on the outcomes of our March 5 “Discernment Day,” explain an important decision we’ve reached about offering future programs (based partly on what we learned from the recent online program survey), and provide information about a range of retreats and other events available in Illinois and nearby states this spring and summer. It also presents Part 4 of Alan Krema’s ongoing Wisdom School series, along with Insights from Beck, Susan Salzberg, Shunryu Suzuki, and Thomas Merton.
Please help us make Spirit Journal an open interactive forum for Chicago-area contemplatives. Use the e-mail address at the end to send your ideas, contributions and feedback.
Discernment Day Outcomes: Continuity and Change
Our Day of Discernment took place at Mary Seat of Wisdom church in Park Ridge on March 5. About twenty members of Contemplative Outreach – Chicago were present for the day-long meeting, including members of the current “circle of service” (our volunteer servant-leader group) as well as people who were getting directly involved for the first time. The group process was facilitated by Susan Komis, a skilled and experienced facilitator who has worked closely with Thomas Keating for decades as a leader of Contemplative Outreach at the national level. It was a reflective and very productive day, and we sincerely thank Susan Komis and all who participated.
Together, we worked to assess our needs as a developing contemplative community, reaffirming our fundamental mission: to teach the method of Centering Prayer and to support those whose spiritual journey includes a practice of this prayer. We also discussed related priorities and objectives, such as offering more and better programs and services to a larger and more diverse region-wide community. The process of refining and building on these ideas will continue, and you will begin to see the results emerge as we move forward this year.
One key decision on which a clear consensus was reached was the selection of a new Coordinator for Contemplative Outreach – Chicago. Phil Jackson’s five year term as Coordinator – our top servant-leader role – is coming to an end, and several people were nominated to fill the post: Alan Krema, Patricia Benson, and Mary Anne Jackson.
After discussion, the group unanimously invited Alan to be our next coordinator, and he agreed. “I accept your invitation, and I really consider it an honor as well as a challenge,” Alan said. “The challenge part will be much easier to manage thanks to the wonderful job Phil has done in leading us to this point, along with the great work put in by our growing core group of volunteers.”
Please join us in thanking Phil Jackson for his efforts during the past five years and in wishing Alan Krema the best of luck. The leadership transition will be implemented gradually over the next several months.
Survey Responses Help Shape Plans for New Programs
Our online survey proved to be of great value as we considered which of two in-depth spiritual development programs to offer: Living Flame or Living Wisdom. As the survey explained, the programs are different in content but similar in design, with each consisting of a series of Saturday workshops that would take place over several months.
The survey results showed that both programs have great appeal for members, and that interest in the Living Wisdom program is currently somewhat stronger. Based on these findings, we’ve decided to offer both programs, but not simultaneously. The plan is to offer Living Wisdom at the start of 2017, with Living Flame following later next year, after the first program wraps up.
More than 60 members took the time to complete the survey, and we thank you all very much for the important help!
The Wisdom School – Part 4: Emptiness and Ego
by Alan Krema
Here is a great question on the contemplative life that was posed in a recent Living School student question forum:
“Reading Merton, consider the quote: ‘When I am devoid of thought I enter into the cloud of unknowing in which mind is pure but by no means blank, passive, or inactive. Emptiness is also a kind of fullness. Stillness is not dead or inert.’
How much kenosis? What does it mean to empty ourselves? We empty but not to nothing, not to passiveness, not to blank or dead or inert? How much ego is too much or too little?”
This is a question we all encounter in Centering Prayer practice. How still can I be? How quiet? How silent?
The question exposes our cultural upbringing. We have a need to be something, to know that we are on the right path, and to differentiate our state of being into something we know as the right way or the good way vs. the bad. We are embedded in a conception of the spiritual life that is based on a need to attain a sense of something, some higher being.
Spring and Summer Offer Many Opportunities to Deepen Your Practice Throughout the Midwest Region
Easter Week reflections, hopes, and expectations often lead us to thoughts of renewal and growth. You may wish to consider taking advantage of one or more of the spiritual/contemplative events coming up during the next five months in Illinois and nearby states:
Lectio Divina Retreat – April 22-24 – Newton Iowa
Contemplative Outreach of Central Iowa offers a weekend of silence, solitude and opportunities to practice Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina with others. Lectio Divina is a way of listening to the word of God in Scripture, a traditional way of cultivating friendship with God. For more information, visit the Contemplative Outreach of Central Iowa website.
Seeing as the Mystics See: St. Thérèse of Lisieux – June 3-5 – Eureka Missouri
Contemplative Outreach of St. Louis invites us to discover why St. Thérèse of Lisieux is, in the words of one Pope, the “greatest saint of modern times.” Thérèse’s Little Way provides us with a powerful model of simplicity and commitment to God. The retreat will explore the wisdom that she shares with anyone who seeks to lead a more deeply spiritual, committed, and contemplative life. More information and registration at the Contemplative Outreach of St. Louis website.
Introductory Wisdom School – June 22-25 – Middleton Wisconsin
Following the Benedictine rhythm of ora et labora (prayer and work), this four-day retreat will offer an introductory immersion into Wisdom Work. Silence, small group teachings, instruction in spiritual practices, and group meditation will provide the framework to introduce retreatants to the Christian contemplative tradition. Offered by Contemplative Presence, “a ministry of spiritual transformation and evolutionary promise,” at the Holy Wisdom Monastery. Visit the Contemplative Presence website for more information.
Introductory Centering Prayer Workshop – July 16 – St. Charles Illinois
An introductory workshop is a great way to begin or solidify a regular practice of Centering Prayer. The presenters are specially trained and commissioned in teaching this short course, which covers the essentials and conceptual background of the method. After the first six-hour workshop, the program continues for 5-6 weeks with 90-minute gatherings to pray, view and discuss a video presentation by Fr. Thomas Keating and to support an emerging daily practice of Centering Prayer. For more information, visit the Healing Gardens website.
Advanced/Post Intensive Retreats – August 12-18 – Benet Lake Wisconsin
Sponsored by Contemplative Outreach of Southeast Wisconsin, the Advanced/Post Intensive retreats will take place at St. Benedict’s Abbey and Retreat Center. These retreats will immerse participants in the practice of Centering Prayer. Participants will come together for prayer, liturgy and meal times, and the retreat will provide an atmosphere of silence, solitude and community. (The prerequisite for attending an Advanced/Post Intensive Retreat is previous attendance at an Intensive Retreat.) To find out more or to register, download this summer retreat flyer.
Download this Midwest Area Calendar if you would like information on even more upcoming events.
Your heart is a drum, keeping time with everyone.
By engaging in a delusive quest for happiness, we bring only suffering upon ourselves. In our frantic search for something to quench our thirst, we overlook the water all around us and drive ourselves into exile from our own lives.
– Susan Saltzberg
When we hear the sound of the pine trees on a windy day, perhaps the wind is just blowing, and the pine tree is just standing in the wind. That is all they are doing. But the people who listen to the wind in the tree will write a poem, or will feel something unusual. That is, I think, the way everything is.
– Shunryu Suzuki
When you are disposed to being alone with God, you are…no matter where you are: in the monastery, in the city, in the woods, in the streets. At the precise moment it would seem you may be in the middle of your journey, you have actually arrived at your destination already.”
– Thomas Merton
We’d love for you to comment on or add to any of the items in this month’s newsletter. Are you aware of an upcoming event you think other contemplatives should know about? An inspirational quote you’d like to share? A book, website, podcast, or video to recommend? If so, please contribute by emailing the newsletter editor at email@example.com.