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Spirit Journal – May 2018


In this issue, Alan Krema provides a first look at the important themes Cynthia Bourgeault will be exploring during our seventh annual One-Day Fall Workshop in November.

We also provide information about a number of other upcoming events and retreats in the region and renew our “call for new volunteers” to help build on the Contemplative Outreach – Chicago mission, which is to support the teaching and practice of Centering Prayer.  This month’s Insights come from C.G. Jung, Lao Tzu, Martin Laird, and Thomas Keating.

This issue also includes Chapter 3 of Phil Jackson’s Spirit in the Wild – a ongoing personal reflection in which Phil describes his solo wilderness journey in the High Sierras last year.  In addition, there’s a poem Pat Benson was inspired to write during a recent retreat day at Healing Gardens and a thank you note from Fr. Keating to those who recently reached out to thank him and wish him well.

We are now marking the start of our online newsletter’s fourth year of publication.  In May 2015, the first issue of Spirit Journal said we planned to “attempt to create a supportive online community for Chicago-area contemplatives. We hope to be able to point readers like you toward activities, resources, information and inspiration that will support your spiritual journey. At the same time, we hope that you will share your knowledge and thoughts with us and with other readers.”

These objectives remain the same, and we sincerely hope each of you will find something of value in this issue.  Please let us know what you think – 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!

How Wisdom Work Can Help Extend and Deepen Our Transformation in Centering Prayer

Notes on our Annual One-Day Fall Workshop, November 3 with Cynthia Bourgeault

by Alan Krema

(Our seventh annual fall workshop will bring renowned author and teacher Cynthia Bourgeault to Benedictine University in Lisle to offer a full day of wisdom teachings.  Please mark your calendar now and save the date: Saturday November 3.  Registration will be available starting in June.)

Cynthia Borgeault

The 2018 annual fall workshop hosted by the Chicago chapter of Contemplative Outreach will present a day-long conference with the Reverend Doctor Cynthia Bourgeault.  We will explore Christian Wisdom as Prophecy: An ongoing conversation between Centering Prayer and Wisdom tradition.

The Wisdom tradition as taught by Cynthia references practices learned and developed over many centuries that include recognition and utilization of our entire being and not simply rational thought.  Wisdom teaches that perception and awareness are unitive experiences and not simply thought processes.

Centering Prayer is a core element of the Wisdom tradition — it teaches us to release the thinking mind’s dominance over us.  Thought will grip on to fear and cling to imagined desiring.  The Wisdom tradition offers effective means to help us release our thoughts, so that we can simply rest in the presence of the divine nature dwelling in each of us.  Wisdom practices cultivate an openness to presence, gradually enabling deeper levels of contemplation in centering prayer.

The Wisdom tradition also helps develop deeper awareness and higher levels of being outside of meditation time.  During daily activity we engage practices to continually return to the awareness of our whole being, again releasing the dominance of the rational mind.  These practices help develop a more constant contemplative approach to life when one isn’t meditating.

This is the Wisdom tradition’s link to the Welcoming Prayer.  We will explore wisdom work as a training program that helps a person achieve and maintain the attitude Thomas Keating calls “welcoming receptivity,” which invites God to proceed with the process of transformation.

Looking ahead in a prophetic way, following our experiences with our whole being, we look to engage our oneness with all of humanity.  Wisdom can help us move from an individual experience of the divine nature within, to an experience that we are all in union with each other and can communally experience our common divine nature embedded within us.

Upcoming Events, Retreats, and Conferences

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

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 —

Healing Gardens Summer Programs Include Introductory Centering Prayer Workshops and Enneagram Workshops 

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:

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

Introductory Centering Prayer Workshop, Saturday August 4, 8:45am – 3:00pm

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.

Midwest Wisdom Schools in Dubuque Iowa in August and October

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:

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

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

These Wisdom schools are 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.

A Call to Volunteer

by Alan Krema

Our mission in Contemplative Outreach is transformation in Christ via the practice of Centering Prayer.  This transformation shows itself in mindful actions of compassion and mercy.  Our contemplative path bears the fruit of mercy and love for others in action.  That is why Centering Prayer is so important to our times and our social consciousness.  It’s about learning who we truly are in Union and connection with others.

I am making a call to each of you to consider joining our service team in Chicago to aid and assist the various activities we sponsor in order to further Centering Prayer and the contemplative path.

You can join in the events we currently have planned or help us create new events and activities.  We would love to have you join our service team.  You can assist one activity for a year or just come to a meeting and see how we gather and discuss our work.  If something is attractive to you, you are invited to pitch in.

If you feel that you might be interested in joining our volunteer team and you would like to learn more, please contact me at coordinator@centeringprayerchicago.og.

A Garden Poem

by Pat Benson

On Saturday, May 5, our volunteer group, the Circle of Service, spent a contemplative and fulfilling retreat day at Healing Gardens in St. Charles. Led by Deb Marqui, participants practiced Centering Prayer, ambled in the garden and woods, shared experiences, and renewed themselves in the contemplative way of living.

Spending this day in nature inspired me to connect with one of my favorite poems by e. e. cummings, “maggie and milly and molly and may,” about four girls’ day at the beach. I adapted this poem to reflect our time in Deb’s beautiful garden:

jack and john and jordan and jane

went down to the garden (to play one day)


and jack discovered a bluebell that smelled

so sweet he couldn’t remember his troubles,


and John befriended a shooting star

whose petals five delicate fingers were;


and Jordan was chased by a horrible thing

which buzzed haphazardly over the lawn: and


jane came home with a moss-covered stone

as small as a world and as large as alone.


for whatever we lose (like a you, me or Jordan)

it’s always ourselves we find in the garden.

Spirit in the Wild Chapter 3 – In the Wilderness

by Phil Jackson

(Last year, Phil Jackson (until 2016 the coordinator of Contemplative Outreach – Chicago) went on a two-week solo backpacking trip in the High Sierras of California.  It was a spiritual journey as well as a physical challenge, and it became a surprisingly intense experience.  Phil has now documented his journey in writing.  The first two chapters were published in the March and April issues of Spirit Journal.  Here is Chapter 3.)

“What else is nature but God?”

– Seneca the Younger (ca 31 AD), Roman philosopher and statesman

“Life is not about you.”

– Richard Rohr, Adam’s Return; the five promises of Male Initiation

It is an hour before sunrise and the birds begin their soft morning reveille. I lie on my thin pad, quilt partly over me, heart beating into the earth, one ear on the ground, my eyes open. Varied mosses form a tiny forest inches in front of my nose.  My fingers grasp the loose dirt. Lying in mother earth’s firm hand, my chest expands into that earth. It’s the same earth those on the other side of the planet walk on. Their day, down under, is ending as mine starts. Metaque ah sene, “We are all related,” say the Lakota tribes of North Dakota. I turn over in calm bliss. No roof, no walls, the world is my home, earth my bed. I am literally grounded.

With the dawn, the colors return.  Arms locked behind my head, the soft breath of a breeze caresses my face, then fills my nostrils as I draw this life-force (elan vital) down into my happy lungs. Various hues appear out of the grey night. The greens and yellow of trees, rusty sienna and violet of mountains. The black sky wakes by changing first to a deep indigo and then, where the sun will rise, a pale blue emerges. The light calls me kindly to the east, where the adventures of my new day will occur.


The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.

– C. G. Jung

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.

– Lao Tzu

Union with God is not something that needs to be acquired but realized.

– Martin Laird

Consent is not an effort.  Surrender is not an effort.  And transformation is something only God can do.  From that perspective, it should be easy.  So, my heartfelt prayer for each of you is: Keep going!  And, have invincible confidence that this is God’s work in you, and do not be afraid to ask that what he has begun in you might be completed.

– Thomas Keating

A Thank You from Father Thomas

As you may be aware, Father Thomas Keating, founder of Contemplative Outreach and one of the originators of Centering Prayer, has moved from his long-time home in Colorado to St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts, where he is receiving excellent 24-hour care.  According to a recent message from Contemplative Outreach headquarters, “Father Thomas is in less pain, eating well and gaining strength.  Your continued prayers are appreciated.”

Because Thomas Keating has helped so many of us on our spiritual journeys, earlier this month we invited you to send him a message of love and appreciation.  Many of you responded with heartfelt messages and we have recently received a thank you note from Father Thomas in which he expressed his thanks for all the many email messages he received and also sent his prayers and love to all.

Thank you for helping to express our support and caring for Father Thomas.

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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