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March 2022 Newsletter
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Dear Fellow Mystics,

Greetings of a happy and holy Lenten season from Two Thomases’ Hermitage, now day 712. May our Centering Prayer practice be a source for divine strength to guide our spiritual journey.

In this issue we invite you to explore:

  • This Saturday: Join Contemplative Outreach Atlanta's United in Prayer hour from 11am - Noon ET Details and link to register here,
  • A question and answer discussion on the Sacred Word,
  • Lenten Lessons Reflection,
  • CO Chicago and CO Atlanta are hosting Julian Davis Reid presenting Musica Divina on Saturday, April 2nd. Mr. Reid is an artist-theologian who uses words and music to invite us into the restful life we were created to live. Please save the date; registration details are coming soon and will be available here. You can learn about Mr. Reid here.

We are also working on ways to do a better job of providing updates on upcoming events and sharing resources of interest without filling up your inbox. Toward that end we have launched this new Facebook page where we will post updates. We invite you to follow our page and share with those you think might be interested. From the page you can also access our Groups should you wish to connect with your fellow Southern Contemplatives.

We’d love to hear what you think, what you want to know more about, and how we can support your Centering Prayer practice. Email us here.

Please know that we deeply appreciate your donation in any amount to our non-profit chapter of international Contemplative Outreach. It helps us to continue providing resources and support for you. You can donate on our website here.

Love draws us closer,

Maggie

 

Question and Answer About the Sacred Word   
by Maggie Winfrey

Question: I've been bouncing around with different sacred words recently, and it has been very distracting in my CP practice. I'm finding that words aren't resonating. Does that make sense? 

Answer: Thanks for your question!

We can get into all kinds of mental anguish about which sacred word to choose. We can be in the middle of the Centering Prayer session and wonder whether it’s the right one. If we are distracted about which word works, it’s important for us to stay with one and not change it during the prayer. We can find one that fits when we are out of the prayer.

It really does not matter which word we choose, only one that will be a symbol. It could be something like "door.” It's just a device to bring our attention back to our intention of growing closer to God. The main idea is not the word but how we are coming back "ever so gently" (so it's not an ego trip) to our intention to consent to God's love, presence, and action going on within us. Knowing that there’s no exact right or wrong word should ease our conscience about which one fits us.

We do not say our sacred word continuously. We only say it when we notice we are wrapped up in thought. The word does not have to have a deep theological significance, because if we keep thinking about what it means, we will have moved out of silence into thinking. Thinking is not part of Centering Prayer. Our sacred word does not carry a magic power to achieve enlightenment. We are just there with God in silence, not trying to receive revelations or to become a holy person. The most powerful thing we can do during Centering Prayer is to rest in God and to allow God to work healing and loving us completely. This period in silence appears to be nothing much, but it is the most beneficial thing we can do. We are growing closer to God. We receive tremendous fruits and gifts in the silence that are obvious to our friends and family before we are. They show up in our actions outside the prayer.

Our own Paul Reeves
explains it well here in our Introduction to Centering Prayer Workshop on Zoom in conference III. Choosing and Using the sacred word starts at  1:10:40 .

In our culture we have learned the way to succeed is to meet goals, tick boxes, and achieve certain expectations. We are doing the opposite in Centering Prayer. We are spending time resting in God in silence. There is no right word or wrong word, no goals of enlightenment or achievement. Our only goal is to “Be still and know that I am God.” [Psalm 42:10] We are not trying to present ourselves as more perfect to God with the perfect word. God looks at us already with perfect delight. Thomas Keating says, “You don’t have to win over God’s love—you already have more than you know what to do with.” [Heartfulness]

If words become a distraction to your Centering Prayer experience, there are other ways to reach our intention to consent to God. Some find focusing on each breath as we breathe in and as we breathe out. Not thinking about the breath, just being present with each breath while our intention is focused on God.

Another place where you can find excellent information about the sacred word is in Chapter 3 of Thomas Keating’s Open Mind Open Heart, available here.

 
Reflection: Lenten Lessons
by Maggie Winfrey

 
 
 

One Ash Wednesday many years ago as I prepared to have my forehead crossed in ashes, I was shocked to hear something different from the usual “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Instead, Fr. Charlie said to me, “Repent, and believe the good news!” His words plunged me into a new perspective for Lent. Instead of telling me I was not worth much, Fr. Charlie resuscitated a truth hidden deep inside me all this time: that I was a beloved of God.

Traditionally the Church has begun the season of Lent by telling us we need to be cleansed, to become humble, and to do penance for our  evil ways. The practice might have had the purpose to inspire us to be “poor in spirit,” as the first Beatitude. It never really helped me because it came from the outside. I have found that true transformation flows from the inside. The message of dust always made me feel insignificant and unloved. Fr. Charlie changed that with two lessons.

First, we are called to repent. What does it mean to repent? Fr. Thomas often says, “Repent means change your mind. Change your attitude.” Another meaning is to turn around and go in a different direction. I think it means that God is really calling us, “Come back to Me, please, with all your heart!” We’ve wandered away. In Genesis, God calls Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” [Genesis 3:9] He is not asking their location. God knows where they are. God is asking them if they know where they really are. They have separated themselves and hidden in shame.

Our second lesson is to believe that we are the beloved dust of God. We are created in the image of God with our basic core of goodness. Adam and Eve have forgotten they are loved completely by God. Our relationship with God is most important. No matter what we do, say, feel, or think, we are still the beloved of God. Nothing will separate us from the love of God. [Romans 8:35]

Thomas Keating says, “The chief thing that separates us from God is the thought that we are separated from [God.] If we get rid of that thought, our troubles will be greatly reduced. We fail to believe that we are always with God and that [God] is part of every reality. The present moment, every object we see, our inmost nature are all rooted in [God.] But we hesitate to believe this until personal experience gives us the confidence to believe in it.”  [Open Mind, Open Heart, 33]  We become more aware of our closeness with God through Centering Prayer.

Too often we forget our true identity in whom God is well pleased. We seek happiness in the wrong places. We are really seeking love. We get the wrong idea thinking that we are beloved by what we do, what we have, what pleasure we feel, and what esteem we receive from others. Fr. Thomas calls them the false programs for happiness. By looking for love in the wrong places, we feel separated from God.

Jesus goes out into the desert because he knows he is the beloved in whom God is well pleased. [Mark 1:11]. He is well equipped to face the temptations of pleasure, esteem, wealth, or power knowing they are like the shifting sands of the desert and will never bring happiness. Knowing God’s love in his core, he easily sees through the illusions. We can do the same.

Let’s believe the good news! Instead of approaching our Lenten journey from a dusty perspective, let’s come back and deepen our relationship with God. Let’s go to our inner room and close the door. There, as we practice Centering Prayer consenting with God in secret, our Father rewards us [Matthew 6:6]. We draw from the inexhaustible well filled with life, light, healing, and love. We become completely humble because we know God’s free generous gifts we do not deserve.


Upcoming Events
 
March 5th – Join Contemplative Outreach Atlanta for our worldwide Zoom United in Prayer “We Are One” 11 am – 12 noon ET with Lectio Divina, Centering Prayer, Taizé chant, and a reflection from Fr. Thomas Keating. Free. Register here.
 
March 8th 8 pm ET Tuesdays with Merton: Gregory K. Hillis presents “What Does Thomas Merton Have to Tell Us About Catholic Identity? Register here.
 
In-Person March 12 Rev Dr Vincent Pizzuto hosted by Contemplative Outreach Birmingham:
“Becoming Prayer: Incarnation Makes Mystics of Us All” St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Birmingham, 9 am – 3 pm, concludes with Celtic Contemplative Eucharist . Pre-Registration $60, at the door $75, Registration link here.
 
In-Person and Online March 18-19 The Evolution of Consciousness in America: Our Beginning and the Call - with Cynthia Bourgeault and Buddy Parker, hosted by Mary & Martha’s Place. In-Person and Online in Atlanta. Register here.


March 26th Contemplative Outreach Colorado Annual Conference hosts Cynthia Bourgeault presenting Thomas Keating: The Last Thirty Years. Register here.
 
In-Person April 1-2 Sarasota Conference on Spirituality, Community, and Social Change about Howard Thurman. Register here.

April 2 Julian Davis Reid is presenting Musica Divina. This event is a collaboration of Contemplative Outreach Chicago and Contemplative Outreach Atlanta. Details will be available here.

In-Person and Online April 8-9 The Unfinished Search for Common Ground: A Conference on the Life and Work of Howard Thurman. Sponsored by the Candler School of Theology and the Howard Thurman Papers Project. Speakers include Barbara Brown Taylor. Additional information and registration here.

April 9th 12:30 pm ET Network presents Racism, White Supremacy, and US Christianity with Robert P. Jones and Fr. Bryan Massingale. Register here.
 

Resources

Looking for a Centering Prayer group?
We are here to center with you. We support each other on our spiritual journey when we gather. Find a Centering Prayer group here. Contact the facilitator by email and prepare to be welcomed warmly. Most of our groups meet by Zoom, and some are hybrid in-person and Zoom. Members from all backgrounds are welcome. 
 
For Centering Prayer Groups/New Groups
Would you like an Introduction to Centering Prayer Workshop for your community? Contact us here.
Would you like to start a Centering Prayer group? Contact us here.
 
For Beginners
Learn about Centering Prayer here.
Watch Father Keating explain the method of Centering Prayer in this episode from the Spiritual Journey series here.
Do you have a question about Centering Prayer? Please send it to us here.
 
Contemplative Outreach Ltd. International
With offerings for beginners and long-time practitioners alike, CO Ltd is a great resource at any stage of your spiritual journey. Find out more here.
Join their online Meditation Chapel here.
 
Center for Action and Contemplation
We invite you to explore these inspiring resources:
  • Their free video series  Wisdom in Times of Crisis, features all five of our core faculty.
  • Their podcast series New Season of Learning How to See:  features Brian McLaren, Jacqui Lewis and Richard Rohr.
  • Their six-episode podcast series Learning How to See includes Brian McLaren, Barbara Holmes, Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, James Finley speaking here.  
  • James Finley and others present and inspiring podcast: “Turning to the Mystics: What is Lectio, Meditation, and Prayer?". You can hear it here as one of CAC’s programs.
  • How can we embody more empathy and love in these “hot mess times?” Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis returns for the second season of our podcast, Love.Period. Access her podcast of a new vision of Christianity—one with love and justice at the core of its practice—right here.
Center for Christogenesis:
From Ilia Delio:
  • Webinar “The Entangled Planet” access link here (Password: planet)
  • Interview on "Buddha at the Gas Pump" here.
  • Interviews millennials on how they redefine religion in terms of an evolutionary world  - her video “Why have hope for the future” here.
Encountering Silence Podcast
Conversations with Carl McColman, Cassidy Hall and Kevin Johnson are available here.
 
Ignatius House
They are open for socially-distanced retreats with many offerings. Information here.
 
Notable YouTube Channels
You'll find inspiration on these channels:
  • Tuesdays with Merton here.
  • Br. Elias Marechal OCSO here.
  • Fr. William Meninger here.
  • Discover the Welcoming Prayer here.
Monastery of the Holy Spirit Zoom Retreats
The Monastery has canceled in-person retreats indefinitely due to the present Covid wave. All retreats will be on Zoom, however there are no retreats scheduled for the near future. You may visit us here. Please call the retreat house office at 770-760-0959 Mon-Fri 8:00 – 1:00. Requested donation for retreat is $45.
 
Group Meetings and Coordinating Team Gatherings
Some groups have socially distanced in-person Centering Prayer meetings with the option of joining by Zoom. With colder weather, most of our meetings will be by Zoom. We recommend that participants receive the Covid-19 vaccination. Check with Centering Prayer group facilitators to find out their meeting access here.
 

Silence   Solitude  Solidarity   Service
We embrace the process of transformation in Christ, both in ourselves and in others, through the practice of Centering Prayer. The Contemplative Outreach organization is a network of communities and individuals seeking the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit to contribute to the renewal of the Christian contemplative tradition through the practice of Centering Prayer.
- Vision Theological Principal 1

Be still and know that I am God.
- Ps 46:10

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