Contemplative Trove: Spiritual Practice Opportunities in January and February

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. Many of us have floundered around in the past looking for community and deep engagement with other pilgrims on the spiritual path. Here we share a curated list of what we are finding, hoping you might find some of it helpful on your journey. We’ve included a Comments section with each listing detailing what we as participants have liked. If you know of something coming up in February or March and would like to have it listed here, please email the information as shown below to by January 19 to be included in the post at the beginning of January. Please note that all times are listed in Central Time.


St. Mark’s Episcopal Church School of Wisdom

Dates and Times: Starting in January, dates and times vary (see individual course descriptions)
Registration: Open
Cost: Donations accepted
Frequency: Weekly
Duration: 3 months
Format: Monday and Wednesday courses are in person, the Tuesday course is online
Recording Available: N/A
Description: There are three courses available:

  • Monday Evenings Full Semester, on St. Mark’s campus, January 22 – April 15, 6-7:30
    • Book Study: New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton, on St. Mark’s campus and via Zoom, Susan Hanson
    • Cultural Literacy for Religion (part 2), on St. Mark’s campus, Fr. Gary Gooch
  • Tuesday Evenings Full Semester, via Zoom, January 23 – April 16, 6-7:30
    • Book Study: Wild Wisdom: Zen Masters, Mountain Monks, and Rebellious Eccentrics Reflect on the Healing Power of Nature by Neil Douglas-Klotz, via Zoom, Jerry and Jim Kimmel
  • Wisdom on Wednesdays Full Semester, January 24 – April 17, 1-2:30
    • Pauli Murray (1910-1985): Episcopal Priest and Activist, On St. Mark’s campus,  Brandon Beck

Comments: This is a local opportunity (San Marcos, TX) to participate in person as a student of Wisdom traditions. Note that one class is offered online (Tuesday Evenings 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m.). We have heard good things about the offerings and the leaders of this school.

The Wisdom of the Body

Dates and Times: January – a 10-week online companion retreat to the book
Registration: Open
Cost: $175 (Use code BODY20 to take 20% off through Jan. 31)
Frequency: Self-paced
Duration: 10 weeks
Format: Online
Recording Available: Yes
Description: Imagine journeying through a season committed to exploration, curiosity, tenderness, and delight. Imagine breathing deeply and feeling intimacy with an old and wise friend. Imagine, as Buddhist writer Reginald Ray says, to discover the last unexplored wilderness, which is the body. Each week breaks open a different theme to help us make the descent into our body’s experience and receive its wisdom. Reflections are grounded in monastic wisdom and an invitation to allow contemplative practice to be a doorway of discovery. Through meditation, reflection, writing, visual art, and movement participants are given space to discover their own pathways within. Each week is like a mini-retreat leading you into new ways of being in relationship to your body, ways that are more kind, loving, and abundantly compassionate to lead us toward a deep sense of peace and self-celebration. Each week lays out a banquet of possibilities for you to explore. You can choose which ones speak to you. Whether your body is already an old friend and companion with whom you want to grow more intimate, or whether the whole idea of embodiment feels distant and foreign, or somewhere in between you are most welcome here.  You are invited to bring your joys and sorrows, your delight and your grief.
This online retreat is open to all women (anyone who identifies in this way – femme, female, woman, etc.)
Comments: This is presented by Abbey of the Arts and co-led by Christine Vaulters-Paintner, whose presentations we have enjoyed in the past. We like that it is open to all who identify as women.

One-Day Retreat Reflecting on the Life and Work of Howard Thurman, Spiritual Guide to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dates and Times: Available Weds, Jan. 3 – Weds., March 13; asynchronous
Registration: Open
Cost: $49 per person (individual); group registrations available at lower cost per person
Frequency: One-time
Duration: 1 day
Format: Online
Recording Available: Yes
Description: This is a recorded retreat, available for 10 weeks. It can be used by individuals or by groups. Led by Lerita Coleman Brown, Ph.D. The retreat includes audio teaching, guided meditation, reflection questions and invitations into silence, Dr. Brown invites you into intentional quiet space to reflect on the life and work of Howard Thurman, spiritual guide to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The retreat day schedule is here.
Comments: Presented by the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, this is a recorded, self-paced retreat. For those interested in learning more about Howard Thurman, we think this would be a wonderful opportunity to learn and reflect, especially during this time of year.

Southern Lights Conference

Dates and Times: Friday, Jan. 12 – Sunday, Jan. 14
Registration: Open
Cost: $119 (online), $189 (in-person, at Epworth by the Sea, St. Simons Island, GA)
Frequency: Annual event
Duration: 3 days
Format: Online and In-person
Recording Available: Yes, through April 2024
Description: For the past 19 years, Southern Lights has been a beacon of light for leaders and forward thinkers who take our call seriously to “…do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” Through sessions with a stellar line-up of speakers, musicians, and a community of fellow attendees, we invite each of our participants to think more deeply about their faith and how to live as followers of Jesus in today’s fast-changing world. This January, we will reimagine our faith together as we move beyond patriarchy and hierarchy: in our interior lives, in our communities of faith, and in the Scriptures.
Comments: We are attending this conference for the first time this year, but have heard great things about it. We were particularly drawn to the conference by the featured speakers this year: Cole Arthur Riley, Elizabeth (Libbie) Schrader Polczer, and Simran Jeet Singh.

Centering Prayer: The Next 40 Years

Dates and Times: Saturday – Sunday, Jan. 20-21
Registration: Open
Cost: $125
Frequency: One-time; annual event
Duration: 2 days
Format: Online
Recording Available: Yes
Description: Join the 3rd Annual Centering Prayer Summit for a two day journey exploring depths of Centering Prayer and the future of contemplative community.
The Summit will explore:

  • Diverse Teachings: Engage with presentations on 12-step spirituality, emotional sobriety, and the evolution of Centering Prayer.
  • Global Community Vision: Explore the future direction of our global contemplative community.
  • Celebrating 40 Years: Reflect on the journey of Centering Prayer over the past four decades.
  • Deepen Your Practice: Deepen both your understanding and personal practice as we collectively open and celebrate God’s presence and action within.

Cynthia Bourgeault will hold the opening address on Centering Prayer: The Next Forty Years:

  • What spiritual landscape nurtured our practice into being forty years ago? What shifts have we witnessed and what challenges now beckon our ever-evolving community forward?
  • How do we embrace Thomas Keating as a still-living teacher, here to guide and enlighten us? And how do we honor and extend his interspiritual legacy, initiated at the Snowmass Conferences?

This event is hosted by Closer Than Breath. For Individual presentation titles, click here
Comments: We find this topic compelling and while we have not attended this annual event in the past, we do like the presenter (Closer Than Breath) and several of the speakers including Cynthia Bourgeault.

Sheltering Together: How Connecting Can Help Us Survive the Storms of Life, with Flint Sparks

Dates and Times: Thursday, Jan. 25, 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Registration: Open
Cost: $40 (partial scholarships available)
Frequency: One-time event
Duration: 1.5 hours
Format: Online
Recording Available: No
Description: Using the wisdom of a tree as our guide, join us for an evening exploration of how we can prepare ourselves for the twists and turns of this new year. In our evening together, Flint will share stories of people gathering under the banyan trees after the devastating fires in Lahaina and examples within Zen Buddhism of the power of community to help us not only survive and find comfort and hope, but ultimately thrive. Joining us from his home in Hawaii, we will shelter with Flint for an evening, gathering under the image of a large banyan tree, and leave this night soul-nourished and inspired to build and deepen our relationships in 2024. There will be time for questions, as we enjoy a special conversation with Flint. No previous experience with Buddhist teachings or practices is required.
Comments: This seems like a timely topic for many people. Flint Sparks is a former Austin resident known in many spiritual circles locally. Those who have participated in events with him in the past have always found him to be present to the groups in ways that are authentic and helpful on their journeys. We find Eremos programming to be consistently high-quality and have enjoyed their programs in the past.

The Cave of Transformation, Shapeshifting, and the Medicine of Song: A Mini-retreat on Ireland’s Mermaid Saint

Dates and Times: Friday, Jan. 26, 10 a.m. – noon
Registration: Open
Cost: $35 (payment plans available)
Frequency: One-time event
Duration: 2 hours
Format: Online
Recording Available: Yes
Description: We will spend our time together entering this mythic story and listening for what its symbols and movements have to say to our own lives. Li Ban survives a devastating flood and descends across the threshold into the underworld of the cave to grieve and mourn, and then shapeshifts into a mermaid. In our world of extinctions and climate crisis, what does it mean to survive? What are the thresholds we have crossed? What are the caves which call us into the womb of life and rebirth? How are we being invited to descend, to rest in solitude, to grieve, and to transform?  Through teaching, meditation, reflection, writing, gentle movement, and song we will lean into our own mythical journeys and call on St. Muirgen to help bring us clarity and guidance for next steps. We will turn on closed captioning during the live Zoom session (which you are able to turn off in your settings if you find distracting) as well as provide a video recording with closed captioning available and a text transcript of the session.
Comments: This is a presentation from Abbey of the Arts in Ireland. We think it looks like a fresh–and differently embodied–exploration of Celtic myth and spirituality. It may be a bit of a reach for some on a spiritual path, but we think it’s always interesting to take a look through a different lens–even underwater! 

Wisdom Frame Drum Zoom Circle

Dates and Times: 4 Fridays – January 26, February 2, 9 and 16, 11 a.m. – noon
Registration: Open – limited spots available. Register by emailing the contact on this page.
Cost: Please consider a $10 donation to Wisdom Waypoints for every session attended.
Frequency: Weekly 
Duration: 4 weeks
Format: Online
Recording Available: No
Description: Ever wondered how to tap into the Magic Structure of Consciousness and bring it forward into your life? Have a frame drum at home and wondered how to play, or simply hoping to get started? It Is easy and for everyone – please join us!
We will learn simple rhythms on the frame drum in the upright and lap style methods of playing, applying them with wisdom chants that are featured on the Wisdom Waypoints website. We will learn ancient middle eastern rhythms during practice, e.g. Maqsum, Ayub, Chiftatelli and more! Our weekly practice for the hour will include tips for your drum practice, warm-up, learning a simple rhythm with a wisdom chant, learning a world rhythm and playing it to music. As one of my teachers wisely states – “It’s primal, and we all know how to do it.” Come join us and feel free to share with others who may be interested!
Comments: This looks like an interesting exploration into drumming as a wisdom spiritual practice. We often participate in Wisdom Waypoints offerings and the leader, Laura Copeland, is someone we know and like from prior groups she has led.

The Seeds are Rumbling: Calling on Brigid as Midwife, Muse, and Transforming Fire

Dates and Times: Monday, Jan. 29, 10:30 a.m. – noon
Registration: Open
Cost: $40
Frequency: One-time event
Duration: 1.5 hours
Format: Online
Recording Available: Yes
Description: Join us just before the Feast of Brigid to celebrate this powerful woman who is both goddess and saint in the Celtic tradition. We have many inspiring stories about her as midwife, creative muse, transformer, and source of generous abundance. Many traditions connected to Brigid continue to be practiced in Ireland, Scotland, and beyond. Her feast falls on the Celtic festival of Imbolc which is the very beginning of spring, when the seeds begin to rumble beneath the earth. Our time together will be a ritual and mini-retreat that will take place live-from-Ireland. Through teaching, meditation, poetry, song, and creative exploration, you will be invited to tend to the seeds rumbling within the dark fertile earth of your own spirit and call upon Brigid to help nurture them into new beginnings. In a world where there is so much to break our heart, let’s gather together as an online community and nourish the beauty and promise each one of us carries as gift.
Comments: We think this would be a great intro to or to re-engagement with the Irish Saint Brigid just before her feast day. Presented by Abbey of the Arts, it is presented from Brigid’s homeland of Ireland.

Wisdom Way of Knowing Book Circle

Dates and Times: Once a month from Jan. 30 – May 28; Choose one of the 7 groups/time slots available 
Registration: Open
Cost: Donation
Frequency: Monthly
Duration: 5 months
Format: Online
Recording Available: No
Description: The reference to a “Wisdom” way of knowing is about using our whole being to see. We can prepare our hearts to awaken (and re-awaken) and perceive using “more of us”, not just “knowing more”. Our heart knows the way. In our 5-month book discussion group (the last Tuesday of each month) we will intentionally cultivate Wisdom knowing through:

  • Grounding in the practices of a Wisdom Circle
  • Supportive group discussions facilitated by seasoned Wisdom practitioners examining a few chapters a month
  • Mindful attentional practices/Inner Tasks
  • Meditation
  • Body movements and sacred gesture

This Wisdom Book Study and Practice Circle is designed for seekers who want to cultivate a deeper connection with the Wisdom tradition which lies at the headwaters of all sacred paths. As we come together in community, seeking inspiration and practices for our awakening, we will leave with a felt sense of our deepening presence and how we can be of service in the world.
Comments: We have participated in these book groups several times and have found them to be interesting and rewarding–some of us are repeat participants! The groups are relatively small, made up of people from all over the world (due to the many time slot options). Discussions are both with the full group and in breakout groups. We have not found anonymity/observer-only to be an option when participating, if that is what you are looking for.


The Voice of the Feminine Mini-retreat series

Dates and Times: Thursday, Feb. 1, and Saturday, Feb. 17; April 13-14 and 27-28; May 18-19
Registration: Open – register for each event separately
Cost: Saturday portion: $65 ea. (Online), $80 ea. (In-Person); Sunday portion: Free
Frequency: 2 events in each month: February, April, May
Duration: Saturday portions: 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.; Sunday portions: 1 hour at 8:30 a.m.
Format: Online and In-person
Recording Available: No
Description: The program will be introduced on Feb. 1 by Rabbi Shira Stutman who will be talking about “Gender and the Divine – He/She/It/Them/They?”
This will be followed on Feb. 17 with Cynthia Bourgeault, April 13 with Ilia Delio, April 27 with Heathery Vesey, and May 18 with Susan Aposhyan. Click here for more details.
Comments: This is presented by Aspen Chapel and is a new format, “mini-retreat” where participants can join one or all of the sessions. It is offered in-person and online. We are particularly intrigued by the ecumenical nature of the programming and, of course, we like that Cynthia Bourgeault is one of the speakers as well.

How to Know a Person – Winter Book Reflection Series

Dates and Times: February – Four 90-minute facilitated sessions, beginning FEBRUARY 2024 (dates vary by group
Registration: Open
Cost: $50 + book
Frequency: 4 sessions
Duration: 90 minutes per session
Format: Online
Recording Available: No
Description: Join us for four weekly conversations as we discuss the insights shared and seek to become more understanding and considerate towards others, so we see to the heart of a person. And in doing so, we encourage others to see us. From his own heart-opening efforts while witnessing “creeping dehumanization” in the world, best-selling author and New York Times columnist David Brooks has become passionate about the need to develop better social skills. Research shows most of us are woefully lacking in the ability to deeply see and listen to another. This book is an invitation through stories, research, and suggestions to become a better human by being more attentive to another. Sessions include time for silence, reflection, and sharing.
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 others in our own lives.  

Attending to You: How Paying Attention Like a Poet Can Help Us Listen Better and Deepen Connections

Dates and Times: Thursday, Feb. 29, 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Registration: Open
Cost: $40
Frequency: One-time event
Duration: 1.5 hours
Format: Zoom
Recording Available: No
Description: Join us for a conversation with poet Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer about how attentive listening, gazing, and sensing—part of a poet’s craft—is vital for forging strong relationships. And it’s those relationships that see us through the wild twists and turns of life.
While her poetry will be a featured part of the conversation, our focus will be on the stories behind the poems that point to the wisdom Rosemerry has gained from the relationships built through everything from momentary encounters to heartbreaking losses shared. 
Leave the conversation with: ways to increase your attention to others; inspiration for building new relationships and strengthening existing relationships; creative processes for expanding your sensory awareness of the people you encounter each day.
Comments: We always find it interesting to hear poets talk about the stories behind their work, especially hearing how their perspective focuses attention in unique ways. Learning how poets approach their craft and how that then influences the ways they  move through the world and relate to others is fascinating. This is presented by Eremos.


Contemplative Chant

Dates and Times: Wednesdays at 4 p.m.
Registration: Open
Cost: Free
Frequency: Ongoing
Duration: 30 minutes
Format: Online
Recording Available: No
Description: 30 minutes of contemplative chant from Wisdom Waypoints, with chants led by Susan Latimer and Elizabeth Combs. Chanting is a wonderful practice for bringing both the Moving Center (body, breath, tone) and the Emotional Center (open heart) online. It is a spiritual practice that opens our hearts, nourishes our nervous systems, prepares us for prayer and meditation as a bridge into stillness, and connects us to our innate joy, courage, steadfastness, peace, beauty, truth and goodness. In times of great uncertainty and change, we find chant to be one of the things that most grounds us. These sessions draw chants from Wisdom Schools, various spiritual and religious traditions, sacred texts, old hymns and poetry. Because of the limitations of synching sound on Zoom, all participants are muted except for the one leading. This allows everyone to chant along in their own space. (Great if you are shy about sharing your voice! Fun if you like to try harmonies!)
Comments: Some of us join this contemplative chant weekly and enjoy it very much. We find it a wonderful contemplative practice. Wisdom Waypoints is the wisdom community started by Cynthia Bourgeault, one of our favorite wisdom teachers. Note that this is a small and warm group of regular participants. Therefore, it can be more difficult to participate anonymously.

The Abbey Tuesday Morning Meditation and Book Discussion: Leaving Church

Dates and Times: Tuesdays at 8 a.m. (Meditation at 8 a.m., optional book discussion at 8:30 a.m.)
Registration: Open
Cost: Free
Frequency: Weekly
Duration: Ongoing
Format: Zoom
Recording Available: No
Description: A 20-minute sit, followed by discussion of Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark.
Comments: Of course we love this meditation group! It’s The Abbey, our own contemplative community.

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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