November’s Spirit Journal provides new information about Enter the Chaos, a special Winter Retreat we are offering in February in association with the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue.
This issue also takes a look back at the Annual Fall Workshop that took place earlier this month, including some survey findings that reflect participants’ impressions of the event. We offer a fall poem contributed by Deb Marqui of Healing Gardens, information about several additional contemplative activities that are coming up soon around our region, along with Insights from John of the Cross, Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, and Cynthia Bourgeault.
Please let us know what you think about Spirit Journal – 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!
Winter Retreat February 20-23: An Invitation to “Enter the Chaos”
by Alan Krema
Contemplative Outreach Chicago is offering a special winter retreat this year. We are partnering with the Institute for Contemplation and Communal Dialogue with an offer of a newly designed retreat which combines extensive Centering Prayer with intentional consideration of current social issues of our time.
Centering Prayer helps us remove the obstacles to our awareness of the divine presence and action within each of us. Often today, our minds are full of gripping thoughts of polarizing social issues, injustice, arguing, and lack of civility.
In addition to our periods of Centering Prayer, we will look at social issues with a perspective of the psychological developmental stages of the Integral theory of Spiral Dynamics. We will consider the evolutionary development of human consciousness and explore skillful means to engage in transformative change in our lives and our community.
Thank You to All Who Took Part in the Eighth Annual One-Day Fall Workshop!
This year’s Fall Workshop, which took place on November 2 at Benedictine University, brought together well over 100 people interested in Centering Prayer, contemplation, and spiritual topics generally. It’s always inspiring and fun to attend such a gathering, which gives us chance to get to know one another better while gaining new knowledge and wisdom from the presenters.
According to the survey feedback we’ve received so far, 97% of attendees agree that the Fall Workshop “was a high quality event overall,” and 94% agree that “the teachings had meaning for me personally.” While these positive evaluations are wonderful, it is also true that not every individual workshop session received such high marks. This more detailed feedback, along with suggestions and constructive criticism included in the open-ended comments, will help us create even better events in the future. So, a special thanks to all who have taken the time to complete our survey.
Many people especially appreciated the opportunity to end the day together by watching The Rising Tide of Silence, the lovely short film about Thomas Keating. If you would be interested in seeing it again (or if you missed the Fall Workshop), the film is available through Amazon, Google, iTunes, and Vimeo. (On Amazon, Prime members can watch it for free.)
“Naked” – A Fall Poem
by Deborah Marqui
I passed by her the other day.
She was wearing a dress of vibrant reds, oranges and yellows
that cast a glowing light all around her.
Her dress was dancing in the gentle breeze.
Her beauty took my breath away.
I could only gaze at the vision before me
and utter a prayer of thanks to be so honored
to possess eyes that see beauty with a sense of wonder.
I passed by her several days later
and was astonished to see her standing naked.
Her beautiful dress with all its vibrant color
was lying in a puddle at her feet.
She was standing proud and strong.
I could see her body was beautiful
with graceful limbs even though
there were lumps on her trunk and several scars.
I wondered if I could stand
as proud and tall naked for all to see,
at peace with my body.
Then I remembered,
that in those moments of standing naked before God
with only my ‘blind, naked intent’*
were the times I felt most loved.
I bowed and thanked the tree
and resolved to go about my life
a little more naked.
I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving
to be so honored to have eyes
that see beauty with a sense of wonder.
*See The Cloud of Unknowing, Johnson, Wm. Editor. New York: Doubleday, 1973.
Other Upcoming Events, Retreats, and Conferences
Communion of Saints Art Exhibit Through November 30 at Saint James Commons
“Communion of Saints,” an art exhibit featuring the water-based work of Marcia Whitney-Schenck, will be held from Nov. 3-30th at St. James Commons, 65 E. Huron St., Chicago. The artist offers a fresh interpretation of a familiar subject, using such techniques as collage, watercolor, acrylic fluid on water, abstract, and symbolism.
Whitney-Schenck, based in Chicago, is the former editor and publisher of the journal Christianity and the Arts and has been a long-time supporter of the Chicago Chapter of the International Thomas Merton Society. For five years, she performed one-woman dramatizations of saints utilizing images, sound, and movement.
The exhibit, sponsored by St. James Cathedral and the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, commemorates All Saints Day, November 1st. A public reception will be held from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3 in St. James Commons. Admission is free and the exhibit can be viewed from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday or by appointment. Because the gallery is occasionally used for other events, please call 312-787-7360 to confirm availability. The artist is available for a gallery tour. Contact: email@example.com.
Contemplative Discernment Retreat December 12-15 – Racine Wisconsin
Advent is a beautiful time of year to open our minds and hearts and listen to our bodies as we once again anticipate God’s incarnation in the birth of Jesus. Contemplative Outreach of Southeast Wisconsin is offering the retreat Contemplative Discernment: Listening in Love December 12-15 at the Siena Retreat Center on the shore of Lake Michigan in Racine.
Contemplative discernment is another dimension of the consent to God’s presence and action in our lives. This is what we practice in Centering Prayer. (The retreat presupposes knowledge and practice of Centering Prayer.) Discernment involves listening in love for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and allowing our consent to deepen into surrender to God’s will. Contemplative discernment moves us from our usual decision-making to a way of life and furthers the development of our relationship with God toward intimacy and union. The retreat will look specifically to Mary as a model of contemplative discernment.
The retreat presenter is Cherry Haisten, recently named Contemplative Ministries Coordinator at St. Andrew’s Center, a healing and lifelong learning ministry of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Seattle. A teacher of centering prayer, the welcoming prayer, and related contemplative practices, she leads workshops and retreats nationally. She has served on the Welcoming Prayer service team of Contemplative Outreach International Resource Faculty since 2005, is part of the Living Flame program, and has been in leadership of Contemplative Outreach Northwest since 1996.
Please click on this link to download further information and a registration form.
Save the Dates: Eight Day Intensive and Post-Intensive Retreats July 12-19 – Benet Lake Wisconsin
Intensive Retreat and Post-Intensive Retreats offer you an opportunity to deepen the practice of Centering Prayer in an atmosphere of profound silence and community support. These extended retreats are offered every summer, alternating between Contemplative Outreach of Southeast Wisconsin (2020) and Contemplative Outreach Chicago (2021).
Registration will be available next month.
Ongoing Centering Prayer “11th Step” Program – 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, an ongoing Centering Prayer-based 11th step group 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 — firstname.lastname@example.org.)
For contemplation is nothing else than a secret and peaceful and loving inflow of God, which, if not hampered, fires the soul in the spirit of love.
– John of the Cross
We should not judge the value of our meditation by “how we feel.” A hard and apparently fruitless meditation may in fact be much more valuable than one that is easy, happy, enlightened and apparently a big success.
– Thomas Merton
Don’t judge centering prayer on the basis of how many thoughts come or how much peace you enjoy. The only way to judge this prayer is by its long-range fruits: whether in daily life you enjoy greater peace, humility and charity. Having come to deep interior silence, you begin to relate to others beyond the superficial aspects of social status, race, nationality, religion, and personal characteristics.
– Thomas Keating
Like most beginners, I thought that the aim in Centering Prayer was to let go of my thoughts so that God could “fill” me with his presence. One day I suddenly realized that the God story was the sideshow and the letting go was the main event. That was when the practice flipped for me, as I recognized that thoughts were not the obstacle; they were the raw material, as every opportunity to practice releasing that focal point for attention deepened the reservoir of “free attention” within me and strengthened the signal of the homing beacon of my heart.
– Cynthia Bourgeault
Please write in to comment on or add to 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 email@example.com.