get in touch

Spirit Journal – October 2018


Have you noticed that autumn has arrived?

We are now less than a month away from November 3 – the date for this year’s Annual Fall One-Day Workshop.  This event is always a great opportunity for Chicago-area contemplatives to meet face to face and get to know one another better, while learning and growing in ways that help each of us move along the spiritual path.  We hope you can join us this year for a unique opportunity to spend a full day with Cynthia Bourgeault, focused on her transformational wisdom teachings. (See below for further information and registration.)

In addition, this issue lets you know about opportunities to get involved and help Contemplative Outreach Chicago as an active volunteer, and it shares information about a number of interesting events and retreats that are coming up in the Chicago area and across the midwest.

This month’s Insights come from Thomas Keating, William Johnston, Richard Rohr, and Kahlil Gibran.  This issue also includes the seventh chapter of Phil Jackson’s Spirit in the Wild – an ongoing journal of Phil’s solo wilderness journey in the High Sierras last year.  In this chapter, dangerous weather conditions are creating an increasingly precarious situation, as Phil struggles to make progress toward safety and home.

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!

It’s Less Than a Month Until Our Seventh Annual One-Day Fall Workshop – November 3 in Lisle – Don’t Miss Out

This Year’s Fall Workshop Features Cynthia Bourgeault.  Her Focus: How Wisdom Work Can Help Extend and Deepen Our Transformation in Centering Prayer

More than 425 people have already registered, so why not sign up today?  You may register online or download and print this mail-in form

An Invitation and Welcome from Cynthia Bourgeault: “Contemplative Prayer to Contemplative Wisdom”

Photo of Cynthia Bourgeault(In case you missed it last month, here’s what Cynthia Bourgeault would like you to know about this unique all-day workshop experience.)

In our workshop November 3, we will begin grounded in the practice of centering prayer, and from that perspective, we will explore the view as “the eye of the heart” opens and traverses the path leading directly from a daily practice of contemplative prayer into the mystical wisdom lineage flowing like an underground river through the heart of the Christian mystical and contemplative heritage.

Rooted in the Christian mystical and visionary tradition, we will look at contemplation in its original sense, as “luminous seeing” and listen to the language of silence with its creative connections to the subtle realms, without which spiritual inquiry tends to become overly cognitive and contentious.

I look forward to joining you all for a day that will include a blend of teaching and narrative. Our day together will flow from describing the journey to re-open access to an ancient, but badly neglected, lineage of Christian mystical wisdom to, more importantly, creating opportunities to pray, practice, and dialogue together, building our own practical foundation for the wisdom journey.

Visit Cynthia’s website.

Help Wanted – From You!

by Alan Krema

Our Chicago area Contemplative Outreach activities and events are all organized and staffed by volunteers.

We have volunteers who present Centering Prayer and the Welcoming Prayer.  We have a group of 12 people who serve on our leadership team, which we call the Circle of Service.  There are needs on our team for many different skills and types of work to help contribute to our mission of making contemplative prayer accessible to others.

I want to pay attention with great gratitude for the years of service of Pat Benson who has been coordinator of the centering prayer group facilitators.  There are many resources and connections to be made available to facilitators, and Pat was devoted to seeing that these group facilitators felt supported by our chapter.  Pat also helped in numerous other ways, always willing to lend a hand and serve.  Pat will be missed.

I would also like to welcome Sandy Janowski, who has very graciously offered to step into this role.  She has been a facilitator and member of several centering prayer groups in the northwest suburbs and understands that groups have different structures and needs. For example, when she formed a group in her parish, the group struggled with format until a group consensus formed and brought them together.  Sandy looks forward to being of service and would love to hear not only concerns but also stories of transformation. She has offered to welcome group facilitators to join her for lunch at the Fall Workshop on November 3, carrying on a tradition that Pat Benson started.

We have other needs for service in our group and I encourage you to consider volunteering.  You are always welcome to attend our meetings to pray with us and observe the activities we engage in.  Then if you wish to offer specific help for something, you may volunteer to help for one year.  Our entire chapter would be very grateful.

We have the fall workshop, weekend retreats, workshop days, intensive retreat, resource assistance, such as secretary, treasurer, educational, etc.

In the service of making contemplative transformation accessible to all, we offer you an invitation to go deeper into transformation in Christ through an active engagement with contemplative prayer.

In Great Love,  Alan

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’ Upcoming Programs Include Yoga, Tai Chi, and Silent Saturday

Healing Gardens at Stonehill Farm invites you to enjoy two acres of perennial gardens in a quiet wooded setting in St. Charles.  The contemplative activities taking place at Healing Gardens this fall include the following:

Yoga and/or Tai Chi in the Gardens, Sunday October 14

Silent Saturday Morning, October 20

For more information and registration, please visit the Healing Gardens website.

Merton Society Talks, October – November

The Chicago Chapter of the International Thomas Merton Society has scheduled talks for this month and next, Sunday afternoons at the Rectory Assembly of Immaculate Conception Parish, 7211 W. Talcott, Chicago.

October 21: Gregory F. Augustine Pierce, Publisher, ACTA Publications, will speak on “What Brian Doyle Knew: The Spirituality of Reading and Writing in the Age of Cable TV, YouTube, and Instagram.”

November 18: Pat O’Connell, founding member of the ITMS, former president and current Board Member will discuss the newly published, “Cistercian Fathers and Forefathers—Essays and Conferences” by Thomas Merton, edited by Pat. Also commenting will be Tom Masters, Editorial Director of New City Press, publisher of the book.

Talks are open to the public; park in the church lot. Freewill donation at the door, suggested $5, (free to dues-paying members) and refreshments will be served. “MERTON LECTURE” signs with arrows point to the entrance of the Rectory Assembly. For more information, contact Mike at 773-685-4736.

Midwest Wisdom Schools in Dubuque Iowa

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 at the Shalom Spirituality Center in Dubuque.  The next session is:

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 in 2017.  For more information & registration, please visit the Contemplative Presence website.  (

Fr. Richard Rohr Will Be Keynote Speaker at “Disappear from View?” Thomas Merton Fifty Years Later, December 7-8 at the Catholic Theological Union

The Bernardin Center at Catholic Theological Union joins the Chicago Chapter of the International Thomas Merton Society and Loyola University’s Joan & Bill Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage to host a two-day conference dedicated to the legacy and future of Merton’s work.  The schedule of addresses, panel discussions, concurrent presentations, and liturgy will bring together in Chicago internationally-known speakers including Richard Rohr, Paul Quenon, Judith Valente, Paul Pearson, C. Vanessa White, Robert Ellsberg, Christopher Pramuk, and many others.  Registration is required.  For further information and registration, visit the CTU website.

Spirit in the Wild Chapter 7 – The Siren’s Call of the Summit

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.  If you want to start at the beginning, go to the March issue of Spirit Journal.  Here is Chapter 7:

It has now been two days since I saw a soul, and that young man was rushing back to the safety of the Tuolumne settlement.

The dawn shadows give the illusion of my small self as a giant, stretching across this large snowy clearing. I crack and crunch into my frozen clothes and shoes, which soften and dampen me upon thawing.  I stuff handfuls of snacks into my mouth and everything else into my pack. I must move, not only to get out of the wilderness, but to simply exert enough to keep from freezing. I shoulder my pack and hit the trail.

The soft old forest floor here has been eroded by walkers to form a trench more than six inches deep. The deeper snow fills it in but does not make it level, so it is hard walking, but easy to follow.  The frozen, scentless air is blessedly exhilarating. In not very long I am sweating even in this single digit temperature and a new fear creeps in: the trench is my only marker, the footprints that guided me—which I called Footprints of God—are gone. I am so alone, not even this invisible guide to show me the way. It is wooded here though, and I can often see the telltale signs of trail:  broken tree twigs, or even an occasional log sawn apart by the trail crew to clear the trail.  I imagine I will see such clues and markers until footprints, or horse prints may return close to the trailhead. If not I will use my map, the record of my route in, or worst case dead reckoning. I don’t see much choice for now but to go on. I am not yet lost, and my map shows where I need to go.


The basic disposition in the spiritual journey is the capacity to accept all reality; God, ourselves, other people, and all creation as they are.

– Thomas Keating

Faith is that breakthrough into a deep realm of the soul which accepts paradox with humility.

– William Johnston

You cannot ever become worthy or “perfect” by yourself; you can only reconnect to your Infinite Source. The biblical revelation is about awakening, not accomplishing. It is about realization, not performance. You cannot get there, you can only be there. Only the humble can receive it and surrender to such grace.

– Richard Rohr

I am ignorant of absolute truth. But I am humble before my ignorance and therein lies my honor and my reward.

– Kahlil Gibran

Your Turn

You are always invited to 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

Comments are closed.

Web design by cpe design