Contemplative Trove: Spiritual Practice Opportunities in July and August

Photo credit: Sandy Reich

By Melanie P. Moore, et. al.

July 2023

Eremos Summer Interlude Series

Dates and Times: Wednesdays at Noon,  June 7 – August 23
Registration: Open; each week has a separate registration
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.

The Alchemy of Love: A Live Online Community Conversation with Cynthia Bourgeault and A. H. Almaas

Dates and Times: Saturday, July 16, Noon – 1:30 p.m.
Registration: Open
Cost: Donation ($25 recommended)
Frequency: One-time event
Duration: 1.5 hours
Format: Online
Recording Available: No
Description: Join this captivating conversation into divine and personal love with two modern-day mystics, held dear by SAND. Love, a powerful catalyst for transformation on the spiritual path, resonates at the core of our being. Through this dialogue, we will transcend the limitations of a narrow, individualized perception of love, immersing ourselves in the boundless realm of our true nature—a universal expression of pure love. Join us and bring your questions!
Comments:We like this because these two conversation leaders, Bourgeault and Almaas, are teachers we have followed for some time. Almaas is well-known as an Enneagram leader and Bourgeault is an Episcopal priest and modern-day mystic who writes and leads numerous workshops on spiritual practices.

The Divine Exchange, featuring Cynthia Bourgeault

Dates and Times: July 26 – Nov. 1
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.

An Encounter with Evil Wisdom School

Dates and Times: Self-paced
Registration: Open
Cost: $147
Frequency: 30 self-paced sessions
Duration: Varies
Format: Online
Recording Available: Yes
Description: In this timely advanced wisdom school course, we will be inquiring into the nature and presence of evil as a discernible force, with a focus on these key questions: What is a useful, contemporary understanding of evil? How can we effectively deal with evil, at both an individual and collective scale? Cynthia’s teachings draw from a wide variety of sources both spiritual and psychological, with the emphasis first and foremost on the practical: learning to recognize and shield oneself better from the toxic effects of prolonged exposure to evil, “speaking truth to power” in a way that wields real clout, and as necessary, to draw more intentionally and skillfully on assistance from realms beyond our own. This Course includes over 30 sessions filmed live during a five-day Wisdom School with Cynthia Bourgeault at the Valle Crucis Conference Center in North Carolina in April 2023. This Course has been created as an on-demand course, to use at your own pace. The format, organization, and flow of every session has been carefully designed so that you can experience the daily rhythm and structure of a wisdom school in your own setting and circumstances. The daily flow of the course includes:

  • Morning Gurdjieff Exercises
  • Teachings by Cynthia in the morning, afternoon, and her responses to questions and additional reflections during several evenings
  • Gurdjieff Movements in the morning and afternoons with Heather Ruce
  • Chant and music sprinkled throughout
  • An Enneagram video montage that highlights the essential work being done twice a day during the Work Periods
  • The entire week infused with morning, afternoon, and evening Centering Prayer and gathered, collected silence
  • Many of the resources (downloadable) that we used during the week, as well as others we have curated especially for this course

Participants will receive unlimited access for one year to all course materials and resources.
Comments: We like this because… it is timely for our current situation in the United States and is led by Cynthia Bourgeault. NOTE: This is an advanced course. Because of the esoteric nature of the material covered, we do not recommend this as an introduction to Bourgeault’s work.

August 2023

Resilience:  Practicing Compassion in a World of Conflict

Dates and Times: Friday – Saturday, September 29 – September 30
Registration: Early Registration ends August 1
Cost: Early Registration $99
Frequency: One-time
Duration: 1.5 days
Format: Online
Recording Available: Yes
Description:  The Upper Room and Africa Upper Room Ministries are excited to offer a virtual event designed to equip us to live compassionately amid conflict. Change, confrontation, and division are all around us, making it easy to feel ungrounded and alone. The challenge of finding places to be heard and accepted is real. In times like these, how are we to live fully and faithfully as followers of Jesus Christ? When our communities are in conflict, how do we find the support of sustaining relationships? Our virtual event will include storytelling, time for personal reflection and conversation, guided spiritual practice, and worship. This gathering offers time for centering, interaction, and spiritual practices to help you cultivate relationships that endure even in the face of profound disagreement and division.
Here are some examples different practices offered during two Fri. workshop segments:

  • Prayer in a Resilient Spirituality
  • Writing as Compassionate Practice
  • Practicing Compassion at Borders
  • Practicing Compassion in Breath and Music
  • Compassion and Our Physical Bodies

Speakers and workshop leaders include Bishop Purity Malinga, Nadiyka Gerbish, Ray Buckley, Christopher Carter, Rubén Ortiz, Jane Herring, Jerry Haas, Alma Cota de Yánez, Juliet Windvogel, and Piula Ala’ilima with worship led by Rev. Lydia Muñoz.
Comments: This is a unique event for learning about and participating in a variety of spiritual practices with a focus on compassion and resilience. We’ve found the  Upper Room offerings to be well done with a good mix of content presentation and opportunities for interaction–at whatever level you are comfortable engaging.

Introductory Wisdom School with Cynthia Bourgeault

Dates and Times: Starts Wednesday, August 16
Registration: Open
Cost: $195
Frequency: Self-paced, with estimated 3-4 hours per week of work
Duration: 14 weeks
Format: Online
Recording Available: yes
Description: Discover the Christian Wisdom path and its relevance for us today. Awaken to your yearning for a different kind of presence and to develop the skills, knowledge, and actions for self-transformation. A 14-week online course exploring the Christian Wisdom way of knowing and its relevance to our realities today. Cynthia Bourgeault blends teaching with contemplative practices to help students engage in their conscious work on an embodied level—aligning the mind, body, and heart.
Comments: We like this because it is the foundation of most of Cynthia Bourgeault’s other schools and courses. 

The Enneagram & Your Unique Path to Joy

Dates and Times: Saturday, August 19, 9:30 a.m. – noon in person (PLUS: refresher on the Enneagram Thursday, August 17, 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. on Zoom)
Registration: Open
Cost: $50
Location: St. Matthews Episcopal Church, Austin, TX
Frequency: One-time event
Duration: 2.5 hours 
Format: In person
Recording Available: No
Description: If you’re seeking more joy in your life, the Enneagram personality model can help you cut through the hundreds of suggestions for finding joy to discover the approach uniquely suited to you and your personality type. Studied by thousands of people around the world and introduced to many by George Gurdjieff in 1915, many spiritual leaders, including Fr. Richard Rohr, value the Enneagram for its ability to help us accept ourselves as we are, and then move towards a healthier relationship with God, each other, and ourselves.
Comments: This is a wonderful local Austin opportunity to learn more about yourself through the Enneagram. The presenter is Nancy McCranie, a Presbyterian pastor and the Director of Volunteer and Bereavement Services at Hospice Austin, who is an experienced and popular group leader.

The Cloud of Unknowing and the Greening Power of Contemplation

Dates and Times: Saturday, August 26; 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Registration: Open
Cost: $50
Frequency: One-time event
Duration: 3 hours
Format: Online
Recording Available: Yes
Description: Led by Carmen Acevedo Butcher. Contemplation, as taught in the classic Christian text The Cloud of Unknowing, is not time-consuming. It’s all about longing. One of the most practical, useful guides for exploring relationship with the Divine and our true, loving self, these letters by an anonymous, likely a Carthusian, monk are penned to a spiritual companion, likely a woman, and maybe even Julian of Norwich. Anonymous starts with the bread-and-butter practice of lectio divina, or sacred reading, and he teaches contemplation simply, calling it “a gentle, joyful, humble stirring of love.” His down-to-earth language reminds us to “be the tree, and let grace be the carpenter,” compares contemplative practice to a falconer’s training and a “leash of longing,” and imagines a game of hide-and-seek, to make this sometimes frustrating practice accessible. How can we make this joyful contemplative practice a part of our own lives? How do we fit contemplation into our busy days? Join us on August 26th. We will consider these questions through close readings, chanting, journaling from writing prompts, lectio divina, and Centering Prayer, exploring ways to bring the easy practice of contemplation into our ordinary days. 
Comments: Carmen Acevedo Butcher is well-known and prolific contemporary translator of the mystics. We think this would be an excellent chance to learn more about The Cloud of Unknowing from a trusted expert.

Love and Death: Opening the Great Gifts

Dates and Times: Friday, August 25 – Sunday, August 27; Opening session begins at 8:45 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25
Registration: Open
Cost: Donation requested
Frequency: Daily for the three-day weekend; the schedule is available here
Duration: Friday evening – Sunday
Format: Online
Recording Available: Yes
Description: This online, donation-based program explores the powerful equation of love and death. This whole life is a place where we make real our dedication to awakening, in living and dying, in caring and being cared for, in loving and receiving love. Being completely and vividly present for the rich details of our lives and the lives of others is the means that we use to discover truth and come home to who we really are. Love and death then are experiences of discovery. This program, led by two pioneers in the end-of-life care field and long-time Buddhist practitioners, is an exploration of how we bring depth and dedication into our whole life and the life of the world. Through teachings, exchanges, and unique practices and processes, we explore the profound relationship between love and death, engaged practice and the role of love and compassion in how we serve others, different forms of love, how art reveals the connection between love and death, and practices that related to the power of impermanence and surrender. This program is open to all and is a special opportunity to work closely with Frank Ostaseski and Roshi Joan Halifax.
Comments: This is led by Frank Ostaseski, whose work we have read and whose online courses we’ve participated in–dealing with dying and grief. His teachings and his interactions with participants create a deep experience for everyone in the group. Ostaseski and Roshi Joan Halifax lead this together and their collaborations are always inspiring.


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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