Contemplative Trove: Practice Opportunities in April and May

Photo credit: Sandy Reich

By Melanie P. Moore, et. al.

Each month, we publish a listing of upcoming contemplative and spiritual opportunities recommended by folks here at The Abbey. Here’s where we share opportunities we’ve found for community and deep engagement with other pilgrims on the spiritual path. We hope you might find it helpful on your journey. We’ve included “Comments” on each listing detailing what we as participants have liked. If you know of something coming up in May or June and would like to have it listed here, please email the information as shown below to by April 15 to be included in the post for May 3. Please note that all times are listed in Central Time.


Immortal Diamond, featuring Richard Rohr

Dates and Times: March 8 – May 10
Registration: Open now, register here
Cost: $120, purchase of Immortal Diamond book not included in registration
Frequency: Self-paced; Students should expect to invest 4–6 hours of work each week on course material, reading assignments, online discussions with other students, and time for personal reflection.
Duration: 10 weeks
Format: Online
Recording Available: During the course and for four weeks after the course only.
Description: A 10-week online course exploring the True Self and the False Self, based on Richard Rohr’s book, Immortal Diamond. Learn to “die before we die” and discover how the promise of resurrection is true for each of us—right now. “Immortal Diamond” is an opportunity to mine for the real you that has been there all along, hidden under the trappings of ego and False Self. As Richard Rohr writes, “Life is not a matter of creating a special name for ourselves, but of uncovering the name we have always had.” We need ego to help us function, succeed, and belong. But if we let it stay in charge, ego stands in the way of living freely and authentically, from our God-given identity and calling. We are called to “die before we die,” to discover that the promise of resurrection is true for each of us, now. This course will deepen your understanding of the True Self, what it means to die before you die, resurrection, and the transformative journey. Rediscover your forgotten Self that can never be destroyed—only transformed to live in eternal Love.
Comments:  We like Richard Rohr’s teaching and the CAC. The format is flexible to accommodate participation even for busy people.

We Gather Together: Resurrection – Transformation  Big Sit

Date and Time: Saturday, April 1; 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Registration: Open
Cost: Free
Frequency: One-time event
Duration: Two hours
Format: Zoom
Recording Available: Yes
Description: Join us for a meaningful morning exploring the Resurrection-Transformation theme. This Big Sit incorporates two 20-minute silent Centering Prayer sessions with Lectio Divina (sacred reading four times), Taizé chant, and stories about Love for our reflection.
Comments: We like the community and very accessible format of these “big sits” because they provide the opportunity to participate at the level you feel comfortable whether it’s your first time or your hundredth! This is a program of Contemplative Outreach Atlanta, an affiliate of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC).

Half- and Full-Day Centering Prayer Retreats

Dates and Times: Various times in March and April
Registration: Coming soon to links on this page
Cost: Coming soon to links on this page
Frequency: Once each
Duration: One day or half day
Format: Online
Recording Available: No
Description: Titles include: “Half-Day Holy Saturday Centering Prayer Retreat,” led by Mary Anne Best, April 8, 9 a.m. – noon; online/in-person hybrid event; “One-Day Online Centering Prayer Retreat,” May 6, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.; “One-Day Song and Silence Retreat,” May 20, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Comments:  We like that these provide a shorter opportunity to have several sits–a sort of mini retreat–to try these options online. This is a very accessible (and convenient) way to sample these offerings.

Virtual Sit Meditations during Lent

Dates and Times: Fridays during Lent (March 3 – April 7), 8 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. 
Registration: Sign up for Virtual Sit Email meditations here or click the date on this page to participate
Cost: Free
Frequency: Weekly during Lent
Duration: 30 minutes
Format: YouTube
Recording Available: Yes
Description: This is a contemplative practice during Lent. From the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC): Join the CAC online contemplative community for a free series of Virtual Sit Meditations to cultivate greater awareness during this Lenten season.
Comments:  Many of us got started in meditation by doing sits with the CAC. It’s also very helpful to know that this is available for you to join, as opposed to being all on your own to do meditation. These Lenten meditations, with the support of this community, can be a great way to get started or experiment with a spiritual discipline.

Finding Joy After the Sorrow with Mary C. Earle

Date and Time: Thursday, April 13
Registration: Open 
Cost: $40
Frequency: One-Time Event
Duration: 90 minutes (7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.)
Format: Zoom
Recording Available: Yes, for 30 days following event
Description: In this season of rebirth and renewal, join us for an evening with Rev. Mary Earle, as she shares her wisdom on how she and others have found joy again after—and sometimes amidst—the sorrow experienced from illness, devastating loss, and unexpected change.  With plenty of time for questions after her opening presentation, this interactive conversation with Mary can help you:

  • Gently open to joy amidst any sorrow you are experiencing now.
  • Let go of guilt about finding joy after your own suffering or the suffering of others.
  • Feel compassion for yourself and others when returning to joy takes longer than you’d like.

Comments:  We know and like Mary Earle. We appreciate the combination of depth and humor in her presentations. She’s also known to weave in Celtic aspects as well which we enjoy. No matter what the topic is, she has a way of making it up-lifting.

Soul-Full Conversations with Braiding Sweetgrass

Dates and Times: Thursdays, April 13 – June 29, 10 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.
Registration: open, Register through this link
Cost: Pay as you are able; Any donation is welcome including $0. If unable to make a donation, send me a private message so I can include you in the Zoom link email.
Frequency: Weekly
Duration: 12 weeks
Format: Zoom – I send out the Zoom link for the session on the Wednesday before our gathering. There is also a private Facebook (FB) group for everyone participating to continue the conversation in the FB group, and for those who have to miss a session to receive my notes. I post my notes from our Thursday gatherings after the session has concluded.
Recording Available: No
Description: A weekly soul-full conversation of poetry, journaling, art, and reflection. Elizabeth Gilbert says of this book: “A hymn of love to the world”. Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Book Braiding Sweetgrass allows us to know plants and animals as teachers, as elders bringing wisdom for our ongoing movements in a world that yearns for such wisdom of presence and honoring. If we can learn to better care for the world, we can be better cared for by the world leading us into healthier reciprocal relationships with the land, the water, the air and all living, breathing beings. This is “an intertwining of science, spirit, and story — old stories and new ones that can be medicine for our broken relationship with earth, a pharmacopoeia of healing stories that allow us to imagine a different relationship, in which people and land are good medicine for each other.”
Comments: This group is led by Stephanie Warfield, who we knew when she was on staff at Seton Cove where she led workshops; she is a Soul Collage facilitator as well. This book is a terrific fit for the timeframe, which includes Earth Day.

The Encounter with Evil: Tools for Interpreting the Times with Cynthia Bourgeault

Date and Time: Friday, April 14, 7 – 8:30 p.m.,  and Saturday, April 15, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Registration: Open
Cost: $85 in person, $60 online
Frequency: Two-day event
Duration: 1.5 hours on Friday, 6.5 hours on Saturday
Format: In person and online
Recording Available: Yes
Description: There is a force in this country and the world that we experience as Evil, both on a personal level and within systems. From wherever evil may emerge, we feel overpowered, clueless about how to confront it. Even our cherished institutions – church and country – seem curiously disarmed in the face of it. What is a useful, contemporary understanding of evil? How can we effectively deal with evil, both individually and culturally? More importantly, how do we move out of understanding evil into enlightened action? We will explore these questions through the lens of the Christian Wisdom tradition. Cynthia will draw from spiritual and psychological sources, and offer spiritual practices that strengthen our inner resources. 
Comments: This is a shorter, more affordable and accessible offering on this topic from Cynthia Bourgeault. She’s been working with students in five-day Wisdom Schools using this material for some time. This session is recorded and can be watched (and re-watched, as some of us need to do in order to fully “get” a lot of Cynthia’s work).

Hidden Wonders, Little Things, and the Role of Imagination to Sustain Us in our Elder Years, with Rev. Mary C. Earle and Dr. Marilyn McEntyre

Date and Time: Saturday, April 22nd Noon-2:00pm
Registration: Open
Cost: $25
Frequency: one-time
Duration: 2 hours (Noon-2:00pm)
Format: Zoom
Recording Available: Yes, available through May 22nd
Description: Rev. Mary C. Earle will give her talk “Next Steps: Wisdom from St. David of Wales–Remember the Little Things.” As we age, often our focus shifts, and we find ourselves attending to small moments, hidden wonders, little moments of exquisite gratitude. This offering, inspired by St. David of Wales, invites the kind of slow, patient beholding and listening that leads to fully receiving the gift of life and the mystery of love. Dr Marilyn McEntyre will give her talk “Imagination Matters”
How we imagine things can influence how we live. This offering will provide a time to reflect on the role of imagination in sustaining faith, hope, and love/compassion in our  elder years.
Comments: We know and like Mary Earle. We appreciate the combination of depth and humor in her presentations. She’s also known to weave in Celtic aspects as well which we enjoy. No matter what the topic is, she has a way of making it up-lifting.  This webinar gives a taste of the Forest Dwelling: Spirituality of Our Wisdom Years program, a 2-year formational program designed for more mature seekers who desire to mindfully embrace the challenges and opportunities of aging and diminishment by accessing the deep wisdom embedded in the world’s great mystical and contemplative traditions.

A Joyful Connection Day Retreat: Renew Your Connection to Mother Earth

Date and Time: Saturday, April 22, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (The formal program begins at 10 a.m. but participants are encouraged to come as early as 9:30 a.m. to see the grounds, enjoy a cup of coffee, and get settled for this restorative day.)
Registration: Open
Cost: $80 – includes lunch, snacks, and all materials
Frequency: One-time event
Duration: 7 hours
Format: In person
Location: Still Waters Retreat Center, Austin, TX
Recording Available: N/A
Description: Led by Leslie Wagner and Dianna Amorde. Whatever your faith tradition or background, there are gifts to be had in deepening your connection with all that Mother Nature offers us. On Earth Day 2023, you’re invited to renew your relationship with Earth in a beautiful, warm, welcoming retreat space. With plenty of time for solitary walks, journaling on the porch, rich conversations with like-hearted souls, or exploring the labyrinth, Leslie and Dianna will offer reflections, poetry and more to support you in listening to or sensing what the earth wants to give you this day and what you can do to support and honor her. Come and rest awhile in the sheltering arms of Mother Earth and a circle of new friends. Leave renewed and refreshed in body, mind, and spirit.
Comments: We like the blend of practices offered and time in both community and solitude in a comfortable and spacious natural setting. 

Elder Vision: Having Eyes to See and Ears to Hear the Sacred PresenceA Conversation with Br. Phillip Elwin, fsc

Date and Time: Tuesday, April 25 6 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Registration: Open
Cost: $15
Frequency: one-time
Duration: 60 minutes (6 p.m. – 7 p.m.)
Format: Zoom
Recording Available: Yes, available through May 25, 2023
Description: Do you long to linger in God’s presence? Do you struggle with setting aside time to do this? Have you grown weary of the challenges facing us as elders in today’s world? Have you lost some of the joy and enthusiasm for life that you used to have? In this sixth in a series of conversations with elders who have entered into the final stage of life with grace and wisdom, Dr Maggie Meigs, Director of the Forest Dwelling Program at Oblate School of Theology (OST), will have a conversation with Brother Phillip Elwin (fsc), a graduate of the first cohort of the program. Br Phillip, a poet, artist, and Australian De La Salle Christian Brother, at almost 80 years old, speaks with great humility and clarity about his reverence for the sacred presence in ordinary life. Brother Phillip will share his simple approach to experiencing God in nature and in the daily tasks of life. He will also share some of his inspirational poetry and art as he invites you into a way of being that is rich for the human senses and food for the soul. 
Comments: This is part of the “Forest Dwelling: Spirituality of Our Wisdom Years” series and offers an introduction to the OST Forest Dwelling program, which is designed for more mature seekers who desire to mindfully embrace the challenges and opportunities of aging and diminishment by accessing the deep wisdom embedded in the world’s great mystical and contemplative traditions.

May 2023

Ubuntu and Contemplation:  How an Indigenous African Philosophy Maps Our Spiritual Path to Global Community

Date and Time: Saturday, May 13, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Registration: Open
Cost: $50 Recommended Contribution (Scholarships available)
Frequency: One-time
Duration: 3 hours
Format: Zoom
Recording Available: Yes, will be available on Contemplative Outreach Chicago Chapter’s YouTube Channel
Description: The gathering will begin with a 20-30 minute contemplative experience, including Centering Prayer and a brief guided meditation to expand our experience and open our hearts. 
Then, based on his in-depth study, personal knowledge and experience of Ubuntu, Rev. Battle will lead an interactive and deeply contemplative workshop incorporating presentations, art, music, and pauses for reflection. The workshop will tell the fascinating story of Ubuntu’s origin, history and meaning. But it will also give us a chance to discover Ubuntu-based practices that can help us begin to experience a “beloved community,” globally and locally, clarifying connections and removing divisions within our own individual hearts and across the wider contemplative movement.
There will be pauses for silence, small group sharing using the “Ubuntu Circles” process, and discernment about what God may be inviting our community into in terms of spiritual/racial/cultural union. We invite you to join us on this sacred journey toward Communal Contemplative Spirituality.
Comments:  We think this would be a wonderful opportunity for those who feel drawn to it to learn more about Ubuntu and to hear Rev. Battle given his connection to the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu. 

Wisdom Waypoints – Wisdom Practice Half Day with Cynthia Bourgeault

Date and Time: Saturday, May 20, from 9 a.m. – noon
Registration: Opens April 10, check the Wisdom Waypoints Events page
Cost: info not yet available
Frequency: One-time event
Duration: 3 hours
Format: Zoom
Recording Available: info not yet available
Description: This Wisdom Practice Half Day day will include a talk from Cynthia following up on her Eastertide invitation, as well as times to practice Chanting, a Gurdjieff Exercise, and more. The time will be guided by seasoned facilitators and is for anyone wanting to deepen into Wisdom practices with others and mark the close of the Eastertide season. Registration will open April 10th, 2023.
Comments: This is a wonderful opportunity to participate online (which means at whatever level you feel comfortable with) and get a view into some of the practices that Cynthia Bourgeault shares in her retreats, as well as a chance to hear Cynthia speak live on Zoom if you are able to participate in real time. Typically recordings are available, however, because this offering is not open for registration until April 10, we are not yet able to confirm all details.


The Soul’s Slow Ripening: 12 Celtic Practices for Seekers of the Sacred

Dates and Times: Virtual, on your own time/Self-study
Registration: Open, sign up here
Cost: $160
Frequency: Daily – six days each week participants receive an email with a link to the day’s content.
Duration: 12 weeks
Format: Online
Recording Available: N/A; participants will have access to all program materials for the lifetime of the website.
Description: Christine Valters Paintner uses reflections, stories, guided activities, prayer experiences, and a variety of creative arts to help you patiently and attentively listen to God’s invitation. This 12-week self-study retreat is a companion to Christine’s book The Soul’s Slow Ripening: 12 Celtic Practices for Seeking the Sacred. Journey together inviting you to explore the gifts of Celtic Christian spirituality, practices unique to this ancient tradition, inspiring stories of Irish saints, scripture reflections, plus creative invitations into writing and photography. Each chapter begins with a story of a particular Irish saint—some well-known like Patrick or Brigid, others less so, such as Ita and Ciaran—and then introduces a helpful practice for discernment that the saint’s life illustrates. Also included are 12 vibrant songs commissioned for each saint and practice along with gesture prayers taught by liturgical dancer and movement therapist Betsey Beckman, MM to bring the whole body into our prayer in an open and accessible way.
Comments: The meditation group at The Abbey is currently reading this book and several of us have read it before. It is a wonderful book and this opportunity to work at your own pace with resources from the author could be great, particularly if your schedule requires flexibility.

Word of the Week

Dates and Times: Emails sent on Sundays, meets each Tuesday at 8 a.m. and Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Registration: Sign up for weekly emails here.
Cost: Free annual subscription (with recommended donation of $95/yr)
Frequency: Weekly, per above
Duration: One hour
Format: Zoom – link is sent weekly in the email on Sunday
Recording Available: No
Description: A beautiful email is sent on Sundays with the reading of Lectio Divina that will be done. There is a sit and then the Lectio Divina.
Comments:  We like this because it’s a chance to revisit the reading for the week—and they always include beautiful artwork (it’s Lectio and Visio Divina!). We like the sense of community. It’s a pretty stable group and there’s a chance to share. We also like the balance of it—they are very mindful of the time, it’s just an hour. There’s a rhythm of it that we like. We read the emails each week and appreciate having the email in advance to sit with it a little before the group reading. There are also opportunities to interact online with the group during the week. We will note that it can be difficult to find the link for the Zoom in the weekly email; it is also spelled out here—the third bullet has link to the zoom with poorly brown highlighted “Click on this link,” but it also provides the zoom code and passcode in the email.

Wisdom Waypoints Daily Centering Prayer/Meditation

Dates and Times: Monday – Friday 9:30 a.m.; Monday/Wednesday/Sunday 6 p.m.; Saturday 10:30 a.m.
Registration: No registration required, join via website
Cost: Free
Frequency: Daily, per above
Duration: 30 minutes
Format: Zoom
Recording Available: No
Description: A collective wisdom pause for “Silence and Stillness.” Wisdom members lead each sit with a brief reading, chant, and meditation/stillness.
Comments:  We like this because it is a way to maintain our personal practice alongside others with the degree of anonymity (or not) with which we are each comfortable. Wisdom Waypoints is a part of Cynthia Bourgeault’s network of teaching and practice resources.

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