This new issue includes feedback from the Annual Fall Workshop we hosted on October 3, thoughts from Thich Nhat Hanh on “why we practice,” information about our Winter Weekend Retreat (coming up in February), a link to our expanded online events calendar, insights from Mary Oliver, Thomas Merton, Pope Francis, and Richard Rohr, and a recommended link to the interesting website of the public radio program On Being.
We invite you to help us make Spirit Journal a unique, thoughtful, and interesting resource. Please use the e-mail address at the end to send your ideas and feedback.
Fall Workshop Revisited
Were you there?
Contemplative Outreach Chicago’s fourth annual Fall Workshop took place on October 3 at St. John of the Cross in Western Springs. Participation grew to more than 130 people this year, and there was a tremendous feeling of unity and friendship as we practiced Centering Prayer together to start the day!
The workshop sessions were all well-attended and participant feedback was very positive. Here are some sample comments participants wrote after experiencing the individual sessions:
“Opened me up to the possibilities and answered some questions that have come up about my journey.”
“Excellent presentation – clear, insightful, interactive, positive, enlightening.”
“Wow! I am so impressed with this speaker! What a gift!”
“Great job! Nice to have more info on successfully moving through the stages.”
“Appreciate clarity of presentation. Thanks for including music and poetry. Mind expanding. Positive.”
“Life changing! Thank you!
“Very thankful for the availability of this workshop, and look forward to observing how it penetrates my soul.”
“What a dynamic and engaging speaker! Thank you, so glad I chose this session.”
“I thought the variety of slides, videos, music, etc. was terrific!”
“Speaker was very articulate and introduced ideas that were new to me and very worthwhile. Really an excellent job!”
“The presentation was affirming and encouraging to my developing practice of contemplation.”
“I wanted more!”
Thanks to everyone who came out this year and helped make it the best-ever One-Day Fall Workshop!
Why We Practice
The regular practice of Centering Prayer is often said to be “transformational,” but what is the essence of this change?
In 1998, the well-known Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh said: “Jesus Christ is not an entity that you have to look for outside yourself; Jesus Christ is within you. He is the eyes that we need not to be blind anymore. Our practice is always to get out of our blindness, to have the kind of eyes that can see things as they are.”
During the same lecture, he translated this song from the Vietnamese:
This Is the Pure Land*
This is the pure land;
The pure land is right here.
This mindful smile helps me
To establish myself in the present moment.
Look, I see the Buddha as a red leaf,
And the dharma as a cloud.
My Sangha is everywhere,
And my true homeland is just right here.
Breathing in, I see the chrysanthemum blooming;
Breathing out, I see the bamboo bending.
My mind is totally free,
And I enjoy it day after day.
*According to Thich Nhat Hanh, “the pure land” in Buddhism has the same meaning as “the Kingdom of God” in Christianity.
What’s Next? Winter Weekend Retreat – Registration Now Available
If you’re looking for an opportunity to deepen the contemplative dimension of your life, our 2016 Winter Weekend Retreat is designed for you.
Entitled Understanding and Navigating the Dark Night, the retreat 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.
God is present and active in these spiritual experiences — for, as St. John himself wrote, “Faith is a dark night for man, but in this very way it gives him light.”
It is not assumed that participants will know anything about St. John of the Cross 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.
The retreat will be led by the Rev. Dr. Shawn Kafader at the lovely Portiuncula Center for Prayer in St. Francis Woods, Frankfort, Illinois. It may seem early to be making your plans for a weekend in February, but accommodations at “the Port” are limited, so please consider whether this retreat may be right for you and, if so, register soon. Here is a link to more information and registration.
Wisconsin Events Added to Our Online Calendar
We are working to make the Contemplative Outreach Chicago website a complete source for regional information about Centering Prayer and related topics. For example, we recently updated the online Events Calendar to include two upcoming events sponsored by our friends at Contemplative Outreach of Southeast Wisconsin: a weekend retreat in December at Siena Retreat Center in Racine and a seven-day Advanced and Post Intensive Retreat coming up next August. Have a look!
If you’re taking the time to laugh, you’re doing something unbelievably brave; you are protesting against sorrow by remembering, even if only in small moments, that the world is still good, and there are still things to smile about.
– Mary Oliver
As long as I continue to take myself seriously, how can I consider myself a saint? How can I consider myself a contemplative? For the self I bother about does not really exist, never will, never did – except in my own imagination.
– Thomas Merton
Who am I, to judge?
– Pope Francis
I sadly say this after 46 years of giving retreats, conferences, and initiation rites all over the world. Only those who went on to develop a contemplative mind had the skills to finally grow and profit from the message that they heard. For the others, it was just another consumer experience for their spiritual résumé.
– Richard Rohr
Website to Explore: On Being
This far-ranging and insightful website describes On Being as “a social enterprise with a radio show at its heart…a Peabody Award-winning public radio conversation and podcast, a Webby Award-winning website and online exploration, a publisher and public event convener. On Being opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live?”
Web-exclusive content includes thoughtful reflections from multiple resident and guest columnists, along with an interactive blog. In addition, the website offers the ability to download and listen to radio episodes from 2001 to the present, grouped by topic and with a complete index of written summaries to help you select individual episodes of special interest.
When you have a chance, take a look (and listen): onbeing.org.
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 email@example.com.