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Spirit Journal – January 2018


This first 2018 issue of Spirit Journal features new information and reflections on our two upcoming events: the Winter Weekend Retreat and the Living Wisdom Program.

We also inform you about several other interesting contemplative activities and events, locally and regionally, and include a reflection on the midwinter gifts of nature and Centering Prayer, written by our friend Deb Marqui of Healing Gardens.  January Insights focus on miracles; they come from Wayne Dyer, Paulo Coelho, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Albert Einstein

Thank you to those who have written in to help us make Spirit Journal an active forum for the members and friends of Contemplative Outreach – Chicago.  We invite all readers’ active participation: please use the email address provided at the end to send in your responses, ideas and insights.  We love hearing from you!

Coming Up in February – The Winter Weekend Retreat and the First of Three New Living Wisdom Workshops

(Note: The 2018 Winter Weekend Retreat will take place February 9-11 at the Portiuncula retreat center in Frankfort, Illinois.  The theme is From the Mind to the Heart . . . an exploration of intuitive wisdom on the spiritual journey.  Separately, our new series of Living Wisdom workshops kicks off on February 17 and continues through April.  Please visit our website for further information and a chance to register for these events.)

The Winter Weekend Retreat

by this year’s retreat guide, Alan Krema

Often at weekend retreats, we look for an experience of oneness.  Here are some reflections on our upcoming winter retreat which will explore the difference between an experience of oneness and an unboundaried awareness of wholeness:

We are a jumble of random thoughts – all in reaction and response to our environment.  From the time we began to leave the pure sense of oneness with our mother, we began to sense our self as unique, separate, boundaried in space and time.  We are encapsulated in the universe by our physical reality and our bodily sensation.

We become intensely aware of our self and are driven toward self-preservation, self-satisfaction – control, affection, and security.  We learn to manipulate our thoughts and our responses to have an effect on others and our environment.  We learn even to take for granted those items that are so basic to self-preservation that we can’t help ourselves.  Things like eating, sleeping, warming, sexuality.   We spend great energy pursuing these things – without thought.  This is self-preservation and not something we would normally think of as love.

Three Living Wisdom Workshops 

by Alan Krema

The 2018 Living Wisdom program consists of three all-day Saturday workshops, each based on a particular topic of the Wisdom tradition.

February 17:        G.I. Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way, with David Orth

March 24:             Spirituality from the Ground Up, with Jeff Ediger

April 14:               Wisdom of the Gospel of Thomas, with Alan Krema

These workshops will be held at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Mount Prospect, Illinois.

I am particularly pleased that we are able to bring these wisdom topics to our local chapter.  Each is a unique look at wisdom from a perspective that is generally not taken, or even a bit unconventional.

Looking at the February workshop on Gurdjieff, we will explore what is known as “the fourth way” – a path of contemplative practice based on everyday living and working within a field of knowing or remembering our true Self.  This brings one directly to the challenge of self-realization and a life of work that is practically aligned with the admonition of St Paul to “pray always.”

David Orth is a long time practitioner of the Gurdjieff work and will bring us into the light of the practice.  We will also look at some of Cynthia Bourgeault’s teachings about how the Gurdjieff work is applied to the Christian contemplative wisdom path.  We will use some material from Cynthia’s newly released ecourse an “Introductory Wisdom School,” and we will offer our attendees special discounted access to this course.

Upcoming Events, Retreats, and Conferences

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

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 —

The Seven Mansions of the Interior Castle – February 2-4 at the Marianist Retreat Center Near St. Louis

Interior Castle is one of the most celebrated books on mystical theology in existence.  Join Susan Komis for a special retreat weekend, offering sacred space and time to explore the Seven Mansions of Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle.  Teresa is one of Christianity’s great mystics and teachers.  The Seven Mansions of the Interior Castle is her final work and one of the most profound literary works on contemplation and experiential mysticism.

Prayer stood at the center of Teresa’s teaching.  Her fidelity to prayer was a means of deepening her intimate relationship with God.  She considered a life of prayer in terms of love. This retreat will reflect on the light of Teresa’s timeless insights into the human soul, its journey towards God, and how Teresa’s teaching is relevant to our personal contemporary spiritual journey today.

Susan Komis is the former Director of Chapter Programs and Services of Contemplative Outreach and continues to serve as a commissioned presenter and retreat director.  She is a Pastoral Minister and has been active in adult faith development, spiritual direction and inter-spiritual dialogue.

Click here for more complete information and a chance to register.

Three Midwest Wisdom Schools in Dubuque Iowa, the First in February

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:

February 5-8, 2018           Mary Magdalene as Unitive Wisdom 

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

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

All of the schools will be 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.

Last Chance: Register Now for Cynthia Bourgeault’s Mega Wisdom School in North Carolina in March

The next “Mega” Wisdom School with Cynthia Bourgeault will take place Sunday, March 11 – Friday, March 16, 2018 at Kanuga Conference Center in North Carolina.

Entitled Introductory Wisdom School Part B: The Divine Exchange, the retreat will cover the Wisdom metaphysical map, the Divine Exchange, Vertical Exchange, Reciprocal Feeding, the Jesus teachings based in exchange, an introduction to Trinitarian metaphysics and selections from the Gospel of Thomas.  For complete information, visit the Wisdom Way of Knowing website.

If you are interested in attending or have any questions about the Wisdom School, please email Alan at

Healing Gardens Announces 2018 Programs 

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 scheduled so far for 2018:

Silent Saturday, March 17, 9:00am-noon (additional Silent Saturdays are scheduled throughout the spring, summer, and fall)

Introductory Centering Prayer Workshop, Saturday March 24, 8:45am – 3:00pm (another Introductory Workshop is scheduled for July 28)

Level One Enneagram Workshop, Saturday April 7, 8:45am – 3:30pm

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

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.

Winter Red

By Deborah Marqui

In the Japanese Sun Pear tree outside my window, amidst the tangle of small bare branches and limbs, sits a bright red cardinal. With his feathers puffed out to stay warm, he preens himself – perhaps waiting for his lifetime mate.

As I stare at this welcome, colorful, picturesque sight, I see my own soul in this lovely little bird. I am a bright, vibrant being in the midst of my own negative tangled thoughts that twist the truth of who I am. It amazes me that the human being that I am shines through the tangled mess of destructive beliefs. Perhaps, the light and beauty shine through because of the tangled web of hurts and negative messages . . . another holy paradox.

Winter Red – One Week Later: He is here again. He comes almost every morning to the tree outside my window sitting in the middle of the tangled, twisted branches – a stunning display of color that takes my breath away.  Often, his mate joins him as they fly easily in and out of the twisted, leafless branches.

I reflect again on my friend the cardinal, as a metaphor for my soul. Like the red bird, I am able to rest in the midst of my own dark and troubled thoughts. At times, I can even fly away from them with a deep knowing that they do not have the power to name who I am. This is a blessed gift from the daily practice of Centering Prayer, a silent meditation practice, where I allow God to heal me from the inside out.

“It is as if God says to me: Your radiance cannot be hidden by your mistakes or by any external situation you may be experiencing. Your life is hidden with me…. My love changes everything.”  – Peter Traben Hass


I am realistic – I expect miracles.

– Wayne Dyer

You have to take risks.  We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.

– Paulo Coelho

The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

– Albert Einstein

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

Spirit Journal – December 2017


Merry Christmas!

Our December issue of Spirit Journal announces the continuation of our Living Wisdom Program in 2018 – with all-day Saturday workshops exploring three facets of the Wisdom tradition.  It also features an in-depth reflection on the 2018 Winter Weekend Retreat, written by Alan Krema, who will serve as the retreat guide.

In addition, we inform you about several other upcoming contemplative activities and events, locally and further afield.  Christmas Insights come from Calvin Coolidge, G.K. Chesterton, Dale Evans, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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Spirit Journal – November 2017


This issue announces our 2018 Winter Weekend Retreat, looks back on the recent 2017 Fall Workshop, provides several worthwhile video links, alerts you to other events of interest, and wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving!  November Insights come from Meister Eckhart, Kahlil Gibran, Thomas Merton and A.A. Milne.

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Spirit Journal – October 2017


This issue alerts you that we’ve had to change one of the topics scheduled for the Sixth Annual One-Day Fall Workshop, which is coming up in less than two weeks: Saturday, November 4 in Lisle.  Unfortunately, one of the presenters had to withdraw due to illness; see below for a description of the excellent replacement session we’ve arranged.

This issue also includes an interesting reminiscence by Rabbi Rami Shapiro about the beginning of his working relationship with Fr. Thomas Keating, and a report from Alan Krema about his experiences at the 2017 Contemplative Outreach International Conference.  As usual, we also draw your attention to various upcoming activities, events, retreats, and conferences.

October Insights come from Alan Watts, Karen Armstrong, Thomas Keating, and Thomas Merton.

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Spirit Journal – September 2017


Happy Peace Day Chicago!

The Sixth Annual One-Day Fall Workshop is only six weeks away on November 4.  To help you get ready, this issue features personal reflections from two more of the people who will be leading workshop sessions, providing insight on the topics they plan to cover.  (For similar background on the other two workshop sessions, see last month’s Spirit Journal.)

We also let you know about other upcoming activities, events, retreats, and conferences, and draw your attention to God is Love, a major new  work from Thomas Keating.  September Insights come from Mahatma Ghandi, Thomas Keating, Therese of Lisieux and Anne Lamott.

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Spirit Journal – August 2017


To help you get ready for the Sixth Annual One-Day Fall Workshop coming up on November 4, this issue features personal reflections from three of the people who will be leading workshop sessions, providing insight on the topics they plan to cover.  Next month, we will provide similar background on the other two workshop sessions.

As usual, we also call your attention to a range of other upcoming activities, events, retreats, and conferences you may wish to attend.  August Insights come from Joseph Campbell, Richard Rohr, Jiddu Krishnamurti, and John Muir.

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Spirit Journal – July 2017


This issue fills in the details on the topics planned for our Sixth Annual One-Day Fall Workshop.  Discounted early bird registration for the Fall Workshop is available through July 31 only, so there is just a little more time to plan ahead and save.

Also featured in this month’s issue: Alan Krema offers a reflection on “Conscious Work” as a key part of the Wisdom journey, and asks for your feedback on an idea for taking the next step in our evolving Living Wisdom program.

As usual, we call your attention to a number of upcoming activities, events, retreats, and conferences you may wish to attend.  It’s wonderful to see how this list is expanding over time as interest in contemplative topics grows across our region and beyond.  July’s Insights come from Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Rabindranath Tagore.

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Spirit Journal – June 2017


This issue begins with an invitation to the eight-day Intensive and Post-Intensive Retreats coming up soon in August at the Portiuncula Center; then we offer an advance opportunity to  regisiter – with an “early bird” discount – for our sixth annual One-Day Fall Workshop on November 4.

There’s an article by Chicago Coordinator Al Krema about the activities of our volunteer “circle of service,” with an invitation for you to get involved, and news about a new AA program in Chicago that is using Centering prayer as the “11th step.”

We call your attention to a range of upcoming summer events, retreats, and conferences you may wish to attend, and suggest that you plan now if you are interested in taking part in a weeklong Wisdom School with Cynthia Bourgeault in North Carolina next March.  June Insights come from Samuel Johnson, Vladimir Nabokov, Henry David Thoreau, and Rumi.

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Spirit Journal – May 2017


Our late-May, pre-summer issue begins with an invitation to the Intensive and Post-Intensive Retreats coming up in August; then we share several participants’ personal reflections on the recent Cloud of Unknowing Retreat with Father William Meninger.

We invite you to consider participating in a range of upcoming summer events, retreats, and conferences,  and  offer a link to Contemplative Outreach’s June national newsletter, which includes a valuable summary of our organization’s revised and updated vision.  This month’s Insights come from Rami Shapiro, Ram Dass, Rachel Carson and Patti Smith.

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Spirit Journal – April 2017


This month, we begin by providing further information on the Intensive and Post-Intensive Retreats planned for August; then we share one participant’s reflections on the four completed workshops of the Living Wisdom program.

We alert you to upcoming events that focus on Christian Meditation, the Tree of Life, the Enneagram, and Centering Prayer.  There is an item about a new Thomas Keating video series and Insights from Neem Karoli Baba, Thomas Keating, Mahatma Ghandi, and David Richo.

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