Our November issue includes a reflection on Thanksgiving, descriptions of several upcoming retreats you may want to participate in, information on regional and technical resources to support contemplative practice, and insights from Thomas Keating, James Finley, Ram Dass, and Nick Bostrum.
Please help us to continue developing Spirit Journal as a unique, thoughtful, and interesting resource. Use the e-mail address at the end to send your ideas and feedback.
by Jack Lloyd
Unlike Christmas or Easter, this week’s holiday isn’t linked to a pivotal event in religious history. Instead, we’re told, Thanksgiving began on an ordinary autumn day when two tribes – Native American and English – simply decided to come together to share food, drink, and a peaceful moment of pure spiritual gratitude.
In that moment, somehow, they were fully awake to the fact that our existence on this Earth is pure grace. It’s a gift we don’t have the power to give ourselves. Naturally, this awareness made them feel grateful, and they found a beautiful way express their thanks. To this day, at its best, the tradition of Thanksgiving carries this deep meaning forward, and gives us a chance to feel it and express our gratitude, as well.
So, this Thursday, I hope we can keep in mind our ancestors’ wisdom and courage as they faced a difficult future together. And I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!
Upcoming Retreat Options for You to Consider
Advent Retreat Online Starts November 27
This e-course for Advent, offered by the national organization of Contemplative Outreach, is designed to encourage a disposition of silence and stillness during this sacred and yet busy time of the year. The course will focus on the practices of Centering Prayer and variations of Lectio Divina – quiet, receptive reflection using Scripture, art and music. The teachings of Fr. Thomas Keating and other mystical writers will also explore the great themes of this season as they inform and enrich the contemplative life. Retreat content will be shared via email, video and audio recordings, images, as well as links to musical selections.
Please click here to visit Contemplative Outreach’s national website for further information and/or to register.
Humility and Centering Prayer: Weekend Retreat in Racine December 11-13
Sponsored by Contemplative Outreach of Southeast Wisconsin, this retreat will explore the contemplative dimension of the Process of Humility as presented in the Rule of St. Benedict, and how the daily practice of Centering Prayer deepens this quality throughout our spiritual journey. Taking place at the Siena Center, located in Racine on the shores of Lake Michigan, the retreat will include four conferences, personal reflection time, group Centering Prayer sessions, and wisdom circle sharing.
Understanding and Navigating the Dark Night: February 5-7 at Portiuncula Center
Contemplative Outreach of Chicago invites you to our 2016 Winter Weekend Retreat: Understanding and Navigating the Dark Night, which will explore St. John of the Cross’ concepts of the Dark Night of the Senses and the Dark Night of the Spirit — together these have come to be known as The Dark Night of the Soul.
The retreat will be led by the Rev. Dr. Shawn Kafader at the beautiful Portiuncula Center for Prayer in St. Francis Woods, Frankfort, Illinois. This is primarily a silent communal retreat punctuated with several conferences, and offering time for optional sharing. The conference sessions will be clear and simple presentations of St. John’s thinking, with handouts and reflection questions to ponder between sessions. It is not assumed that participants will know anything about St. John or have read anything by him before attending. It is hoped that the retreat will inspire you to go out and explore (or re-explore) his writings with a good foundation to do so.
Regional Resource: Meet Karen Skalitzky
Karen Skalitzky is a nationally recognized speaker and author. A long-standing fan of centering prayer, Karen also serves as a spiritual director here in Chicago, working with people one-on-one to help them see and experience the sacred in their lives. She is the author of two books: A Recipe for Hope and the forthcoming God is Big: Expecting Miracles. Her monthly reflection, God is Big, is read across the country. Read her latest reflection, Unexpected Grace, here.
In her writing and speaking, Karen uncovers grace and wisdom in our everyday lives, often in the most unlikely places. Introduce yourself to Karen and her work at www.godisbig.us.
Tech Resource: Upgraded Centering Prayer Mobile App
The new, upgraded (and free) Contemplative Outreach app for Centering Prayer is now available for iPhones and iPads (iOS 7+) and Android phones. There is also a Spanish-language version available for iPhones and iPads.
The Centering Prayer mobile app supports your daily prayer practice commitment. Beautiful. elegant and peaceful, the app includes an adjustable timer, as well as opening and closing prayer options that may be read before and after Centering Prayer. An assortment of sounds and backgrounds allow you to choose the type of environment for the prayer time. Brief instructions for learning Centering Prayer are also included.
You can find the app in the iTunes App Store or the Google Play Store if you have an Android; search for Centering Prayer, select the one by Contemplative Outreach.
The basic disposition in the spiritual journey is the capacity to accept all of reality; God, ourselves, other people, and all creation as they are.
– Thomas Keating
Taking Merton as my teacher, it was just very natural to me that I could see in these non-Christian contemplative traditions a kind of expansive enrichment of the path of non-dual consciousness, of the realization of the mystic way. I got the impression that when we seek what is truest in our own tradition, we discover we are one with those who seek what is truest in their tradition. There is a point of convergence where we meet each other and we recognize each other as seekers of awakening. . . . And what is truest is that we are called to recognize, surrender to, and ultimately be identified with the mystery of God utterly beyond all concepts, all words, all designations whatsoever.
– James Finley
Maybe I can just let my thoughts go by without getting all caught up in them. Feel the breeze on your face or your neck? See how it’s going by? You’re not all hung up with it. You don’t have to see where each breeze goes. You don’t have to look closely to see if it hit those trees over there. It’s breezes, and they’re just going by. Make your thoughts like those breezes…those little breezes…just going by.
– Ram Dass
It seems unlikely that we will figure out some detailed blueprint for utopia. What if the great apes had asked whether they should evolve into Homo sapiens—pros and cons—and they had listed, on the pro side, ‘Oh, we could have a lot of bananas if we became human’? Well, we can have unlimited bananas now, but there is more to the human condition than that.
– Nick Bostrom
Do you want 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.