Contemplative Trove: Spiritual Practice Opportunities in June and July

Photo credit: Sandy Reich

By Melanie P. Moore, et. al.

At the end of each month, we publish a listing of upcoming contemplative and spiritual opportunities recommended by folks here at The Abbey. Many of us—especially during the pandemic—floundered around looking for community and deep engagement with other pilgrims on the spiritual path. Here we share what we’ve found, hoping you might find some of 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 July or August and would like to have it listed here, please email the information as shown below to by June 15 to be included in the post at the beginning of July. Please note that all times are listed in Central Time.

June 2023

Planting Life: Sowing and Preserving Native Seeds of Antiquity

Dates and Times: Thursday – Sunday, June 1 – June 4
Registration: Open, limited to 32 participants
Cost: In person: $405 (Upaya Members), $450 (Non-members); Online: by donation
Duration: 4 days
Format: In person or Online
Recording Available: N/A
Description: Please join us for our unique annual Upaya online and in-person Planting Life program beginning on Thursday evening, June 1 and continuing until mid-day, Sunday, June 4, 2023, Our time together will be grounded in daily meditation and socially engaged Buddhist training infused with the dynamic teachings of Native seedways and Traditional Ecological Knowledge. On Saturday, June 3, 2023, we will gather in the Upaya Zen Windmill Garden to sow the heritage seeds of persistent Native culture and to offer a formal seed blessing ceremony convened by Native leaders. Please note that Wendy Johnson will give the public Dharma talk on Wednesday, May 31st on the topic of Planting Life and Growing the Seeds of Persistent Culture.
Comments: We know Upaya is a well-trusted source and think that, if this is your path, you would find much to learn and a great experience to be had. Upaya has a variety of programs, including certification and other more rigorous programs as well as some general interest type offerings.

Eremos Summer Interlude Series

Dates and Times: Wednesdays at Noon,  June 7 – August 23
Registration: Open; each week has a separate registraion
Cost: Free
Frequency: Weekly
Duration: 6 weeks, sessions can be done individually (it’s not a six-week commitment)
Format: Zoom
Recording Available: not stated on registration page
Description: In a year when Eremos is focusing on Facets of Joy, we invite you to explore with us this summer how wonder is a vital component or facet of joy. From opening to more wonder and awe to using your gift of curiosity to wonder about this world we live in, developing our sense of wonder can sharpen our awareness of the joy all around us. Join us for as many of the free 1-hour sessions you can this summer, as each facilitator explores a different way to connect with wonder which in turn connects us to more joy.
Comments: We enjoy the Eremos online offerings and this series–which participants can register for any or all weeks–looks to be a lovely way to become more attentive to joy in our own lives.

Closer Than Breath: The Christian Mystic Summit

Dates and Times: Sunday – Thursday, June 18 – 22
Registration: Open
Cost: Free
Frequency: One-time event
Duration: 5 Days
Format: Online
Recording Available: Yes
Description: This free, five-day summit brings nine contemplative teachers to explore the depths of the Christian mystical tradition, with a keynote speech by Carl MacColman, author of The New BIg Book of Christian Mysticism. The summit is sponsored by Closer Than Breath, an online spiritual community with a fee-based membership model, and Broadleaf Books.
Comments: There are some speakers we know at this free event. We’ve read MacColman’s books, including his Big Book of Christian Mysticism (there is a new edition, just out) and some of us follow Justin Coutts on Facebook and his website, New Eden Ministry, where his blog posts are interesting reading; he is a self-described “Christian animist, aspiring contemplative, Celtic neo-platonist, and occasional bard.”

Recipes for a Sacred Life: True Stories and a few Miracles, Eremos Summer Book Reflection

Dates and Times: June – Dates and Times vary based on facilitator
Registration: Open
Cost: $50 + book
Frequency: Four 90-minute facilitated sessions
Duration: Four weeks
Format: 3 groups meet online, 1 group meets in person
Recording Available: No
Description: Journey with us for four weeks in June as we explore Rivvy Neshama’s recipes (short essays divided into ten sections or themes) for a sacred life. As we read and discuss them, inspiration and clarity about our personal recipes are sure to arise. In Rivvy’s words: “…what I hope is this: that you find a few [recipes] that will add to the wonder, love, and sacredness of your life. Those are the ones to follow. Those are the ones to keep.” Hearing from each other in the group about which recipes call to us can, in turn, help us better clarify what our own recipes are. Beautiful inspiration to take with us into the rest of the summer and the second half of the year.
Comments: Note that when you register, you can view the schedules (dates and times) of each facilitated group to be sure you find one that fits your schedule. We’ve done them and have enjoyed these book reflection groups. We know our friend from The Abbey, Joyce Palevitz, is leading one of the groups online and we think she’s a terrific facilitator. Groups in our experience have been about 6 – 8 people, some from wide-ranging parts of the U.S. for the online groups.

Discovering Your Recipes for a Sacred Life

Dates and Times: Saturday, June 24, 9:30 a.m. – Noon
Registration: Open
Cost: $50
Frequency: One-time
Duration: 2.5 hours
Format: In person, at St. Matthews Episcopal Church, Austin, TX
Recording Available: No
Description: Inspired by Neshama’s book, Recipes for a Sacred Life, acclaimed author, speaker, and facilitator, Jeanne Guy, will create a space for us—along with a little laughter—to share the wisdom of our experiences and of those we admire to gather our best recipes for a sacred life. Through journaling, conversation, writing prompts, wit and more, Jeanne will help you remember all you already know and give you an opportunity to share it with others. From watching more comedies to calling more friends more often, we can’t wait to hear your recipes! Whether you’re ready to pass on this wisdom to loved ones, or wanting more inspiration, join us for a morning exploring how we define and delight in what makes a sacred life. Leave with a unique list of “recipes” you’ve created and collected from your peers to enrich your life and to pass on to loved ones. 
Comments: This is a one-time, in-person event using the same book the Eremos Book reflection groups are reading in June. We’ve participated in groups led by Jeanne Guy before and have found her to be a very engaging facilitator–with a great combination of depth and wit.

White Tara: The Power of Lineage, Feelings, and Basic Goodness, with Michael Lobsang Tenpa

Dates and Times: Saturday, June 24, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Registration: Open
Cost: Donation requested
Frequency: One-time
Duration: 3 hours
Format: Online
Recording Available: Yes
Description: White Tara—a beloved meditational deity in the Indo-Tibetan tradition—is an expression of the qualities of wisdom, positive potential, and longevity in the form of a dynamic female buddha. Her practices, used and transmitted by many Buddhist lineage holders, provide us with a powerful set of tools for connecting with our basic goodness, strengthening both our compassion and wisdom, and changing the overall interdependence within which our experiences unfold. This 3-hour session with Tibetan Buddhist translator Michael Lobsang Tenpa will include guided meditations and elaborate explanations aimed at establishing two facts: this practice is ancient and profound, and yet it is also fully accessible to anyone who is inspired to do it. We will explore the historical context, analyze the visual and psychological significance of White Tara’s appearance, and experiment with different aspects of practice, all to establish a firm foundation for personal or group practice in the future.
Comments: We like this because we’ve taken other courses from this group (Tibet House US) and we are always interested in feminine spirituality.

Being with Loss, with Frank Ostaseski and Tara Brach

Dates and Times: Sunday, June 25, Noon – 1:30 p.m.
Registration: Open
Cost: Donation requested
Frequency: One-time
Duration: 1.5 hours
Format: Online
Recording Available: Yes
Description: Grief is our natural response to loss. We have individual and cultural habits around managing grief. We are generally afraid and impatient. Our own unexplored fear of grief can lead us to hurrying others along the path of healing.The practice of turning toward our losses and meeting our suffering with kindness and awareness can support us in letting go of our well-constructed defenses and open to greater love. Frank and Tara will introduce ways to invite the pain into our heart where it can finally be held in loving awareness and integrated into our life as a source of wisdom and a well of great compassion.
Comments: We like this because we like Frank and Tara as facilitators. They did a similar offering last year which some of us did and are recommending this based on that experience. Grief and loss keep circling around and these offerings provide additional contemplative ideas and a space for discussion, reflection, and exploration.

Mystical Sobriety, featuring James Finley

Dates and Times: Wednesday, June 28 – Sept. 13 
Registration: Open May 3 – June 13
Cost: $249 – $497
Frequency: Weekly
Duration: 12 weeks
Format: Online, with 4 live calls
Recording Available: Yes
Description: a 12-week online course. Students should expect to invest 2–4 hours per week in the teaching, practices, and personal reflections. There is an additional “Next 90 Days,” during which students process what they have learned by engaging in exercised designed by James Finley. The rhythm for this course is modeled after the four movements of Lectio Divina. Students are encouraged to prepare themselves for this structure by listening to Jim teach on them in an episode of his podcast. This course will also include four LIVE virtual calls with James Finley at 10 a.m. – 11 a.m., introducing students to the tender seriousness of this material and answering questions (with replays available). Attendance at these calls is encouraged, but not required. Recordings will be available within a few days of the call.
Comments: We participated in a pilot version of this and thought it was good. Please note on the website for registration there is a content advisory for this course due to the work with past trauma; we encourage you to read it here.

July 2023

The Divine Exchange, featuring Cynthia Bourgeault

Dates and TImes: July 26 – 
Registration: Open June 7 – July 18
Cost: $195
Frequency: Weekly lessons, students work at their own pace
Duration: 14 weeks
Format: Online
Recording Available: Yes – throughout the course and for four weeks after the course
Description: Building on the foundations established in the prerequisite Introductory Wisdom School course, this 14-week online course explores the heart of God through the idea of Divine Exchange, Cynthia Bourgeault’s framework for the Christian Wisdom tradition. Learn how kenosis, or self-emptying, can lead to a participatory exchange between the finite and the infinite. Bourgeault continues to unpack the metaphysics of her Wisdom understanding to demonstrate how students can take the work even further through practices like kenosis and three-centered awareness. In this 14-week online course 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.
Comments: Important to note this builds on the prerequisite 14-week course, the Introductory Wisdom School. If you like Cynthia Bourgeault, as we do, you will find this course is a deeper dive into some of her more esoteric teachings. If you are interested in this, we recommend reading Bourgeault’s Eye of Heart before registering.


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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2 Responses

  1. Am interested in registering for St Matthews class 6/24 9-12. Can’t figure out how to do it. Also interested in Joyce P class

    1. Thanks Diane. If you click on the title of the event in the blog, it should take you to the site where you can register.

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