Sunday, December 14, 2008

"Radical Simplification"

The conference was in the Fall and the world has turned in ways expected and unexpected since then. The poet David Whyte writes contemplatively about the present Winter and living from the center in relation to life's peripheries here "A Fire Inside: Thoughts on the Creativity of Winter."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Circle of Service: "A Hundred Roots Silently Drinking"

The Contemplative Outreach Circle of Service is a two-year, experimental, pilot undertaking intended to explore a contemplative rather than a traditional, corporate Board approach to serving the Spirit-led community that is Contemplative Outreach. The following slides were shown at the business meeting in describing the Circle of Service as it has evolved so far.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Josefina Hernandez has provided a nice gallery of photos here A few of them are displayed below. Thank you Josefina!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Homily and Blessing

The conference closed with an ecumenical service led by The Reverand J. David Muyskens on Sunday morning. Fr. Thomas delivered the following homily and gave the blessing. The text for the homily was I Corinthians 12.

Status of Blog

Dear Friends and Visitors -

It appears this blog has been well-received both by those who were not at the conference and those who were. The blog will continue "to live" here for now as a source of enrichment and a place for sharing community. Other postings, comments, conversations, photos and videos may appear in time. So if you find the blog a meaningful source of spiritual refreshment you are invited to visit it periodically and share it with others - the door will be open.


Sunday, September 28, 2008


Nonduality is creeping into the Christian contemplative conversation. We heard it with Fr. Thomas and Richard Rohr last year, and again this year in the articulation of our deepening relationship with God as it moves from conversation, to communion, to union---all of which take place within a dualistic context (I / other, subject / object, human / divine, etc.) and to the incomprehensible experience/non-experience to identity.

During a dialogue between Fr. Thomas and Fr. Lawrence, Thomas spoke about a quote, which originated in discussion with a monk at Snowmass/ Paraphrased the comment is: "In the first part of life we learn that there is an Other; in the second, we become the Other; and in the third, we come to realize that there is no Other."

The comment was made in the context of an encounter with Bede Griffith, a 20th century British Benedictine, who lived in India for 30 years and did much to stimulate inter-faith dialogue between Christianity and Hinduism.

As the conversation continued, Fr. Lawrence alluded to a paradoxical statement, I believe, from the Vedanta tradition:

The world is not real.
Only Brahman is real.
Brahman is the world.

Fr. Thomas also mentioned the non-dual language of the Beguines and the Rhineland mystics, most particularly Meister Eckhart...who said, "The eye with which I look at God is the eye with which God looks at me."

These two guides gently invite us into the deep water of the Contemplative dimension of the Gospel--to take seriously Jesus call....."that all may be one".... "that they may be in me, as I am in the Father and the Father is in me:..."But to those who received him (I read that as consent to his presence), who believed in his name (Jeshua--Yahweh saves; Emmanuel--God with us), he gives the power to be(come) children of God."

I think it's time to take seriously Jesus' invitation, the unmerited gift of our sharing in the infinite love and mercy of the Blessed Trinity...God knows this is the penultimate Bail Out our times require.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Fr. Thomas and Fr. Laurence Conversing

After a full day of giving presentations and dialoging, signing books and interacting with scores of people, Fr. Thomas and Fr. Laurence in their generosity were gracious enough to respond in an intimate setting to a question: What relevance does the contemplative dimension of life have for the modern world given its considerable financial, ecological, social and other problems?


Hearing Fr. Keating and then Fr. Freeman speak to approximately 400 and then both in conversation, I was delighted yet again at their wonderful light touch and humor. We are close to them as we read their books, but there is a whole new dimension of understanding when we are actually with them. We give thanks for their willingness to be with us.

As I began to print boarding passes and realize the Conference was coming to an end, it was comforting to think we still had tomorrow's morning session and the final Ecumenical closing Liturgy to savor. As I waited for the elevator, I heard a woman saying, "You, know, I'm really glad I came." In my heart I echoed, "YES"!

Vivien Michals

Essence of Joy

Posted with the permission of Penn State Essence of Joy choral director Anthony Leach.

A Sea of Faces

It started at the airport . . . Oh, my, there is Cherry, Eileen, Maru, and continued at the hotel! Everywhere I went there were familiar faces. After 25 years in this blessed community, the friendships made become rich and deep, and each is so precious. Greeting everyone was a new/old adventure come to life! Finding those you knew was easy the first couple days. "Let's sit together at lunch, at dinner . . . " It was a small lake of those to whom you are connected at a deep level, those whom you love.

Then came Friday night . . . the lake overflowed into a Sea of Faces! The richness was multiplied over and over. Our spacious prayer room overflowed and filled a second large room, our somewhat cozy meals tripled in size . . . it was totally awesome! New faces, new name tags to scan, new members of the community with whom to exchange. It was exhilaring! Add all this to all of you out there traveling with us . . . how blessed we all are!

Community and the Contemplative Life


On Friday afternoon, Pamela Begeman provided a stunning glimpse of the lastest topic in the Contemplative Living series--Community and the Contemplative Life. She approached the topic in the manner of Lectio Divina, by inviting us to ponder scripture, graphic images, and quotes from Fr. Thomas. Each spoke to underlying unity of the Body of Christ.

I have included a few of the quotes and images below.

•Based on
–the third theological principle of Centering Prayer - it is ecclesial in its effects, building communities of faith
–25 years experience of an evolving global community

•Flow of booklet:
–Begin from one’s experience of Oneness arising out of daily practice
–Moves to the experience of Oneness through Communion,
–… to the experience of the mystical Body of Christ,
–… to the Communion of Saints,
–…. to Oneness with All That Is – a manifestation of the Trinitarian experience.

I urge you to live in a manner worth of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love,

striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit

through the bond of peace:

One Body and one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith,

… and one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.
--Ephesians 4:1-6

"How to become infinitely diverse and infinitely unified is the goal of Contemplative Outreach.”
– Thomas Keating, Sept 25, 2008

More to follow...

Discovering Community

Here are two images of contemplative community. One, the silence of a group before dinner and the second, a workshop led by Pamela Begeman on exploring the meaning of contemplative community through scripture, prose, images and life experience using the prayer practice of lectio divina (divine reading). Click on the photos to see them up close.

Forgiveness - "By Our Wounds We Are Healed"

This afternoon featured workshops with Pamela Begeman on "Community and the Contemplative Life," Anne Mazza, Timothy Koock and Margie Tomlinson presenting the "Introduction to Centering Prayer," and Fr. Carl Arico, in his always entertaining and enlightening style, presenting on The Practice of Foregiveness - A Way of Life. Here is a snippet of Fr. Carl's workshop taken "on the move."

30 Seconds of Silence

The dinner this evening marked a transition from the "business" aspect of the conference to the weekend of spiritual enrichment with Fr. Thomas and Fr. Laurence and the greater Pittsburgh community. This transition was marked by a dinner and musical performance. The performance this year was from "Essence of Joy," a choral ensemble from Penn State who performed "sacred and secular music from the African/African American traditions." Before dinner there was silence, a time to go inward and open to the greater life in which we participate.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Business Meeting NOT

This morning's business meeting turned out to be a high light of the Conference for me. What a good time to drop the trappings of corporate culture for a format that reflects a contemplative way of servant leadership! This is a Circle of Service that is not powered by the primitive energy centers. It was presented by Ron with clarity, poetry and beauty. What a business meeting! The balance of the meeting was the distribution of the the clear, easy to understand reports from our President, Treasurer, Nominating Committee, CRCS, Resource Faculty, Circle of Friends. The "Building Community" report with its news about the improved web site, bookstore and even on-line courses was exciting. And the fiinal five minutes of the business meeting was a preview of a new "Heartfulness" video series which features a wonderful interview of Fr. Keating with Betty Sue Flowers that will be released on three DVD's with study guide by March. I was sorry when the meeting was over.

Vivien Michals

A Contemplative Business Meeting

The words "contemplative" and "business" seemed incongruent until I attended today's 2008 Business Meeting of Contemplative Outreach. I am impressed by the Board of Trustee's determination and efforts to find or develop a model of contemplative governance. For the last two years the Board has been prayerfully discerning ways to govern with a contemplative organizational structure based on the servant leadership style of Jesus. Decisions emerge out of group consensus rather than the power of a majority; they rely solely on the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit. When giving the Treasurer's report, Mary Anne Best laughed, explaining that following a serious financial down turn two years ago, the Board decided to made Jesus their Financial adviser. The following year generous donations flowed in and they haven't had financial problems since! God always answers our prayers, sometimes even more generously than we would ask or even imagine. I noticed the atmosphere of the meeting was one of listening and openness to the views of others as well as the Spirit. The usual hierarchal model for officers has changed and is now known as the Circle of Service. The Holy Spirit is at the center of this circle, flowing out in all directions into the committees, the membership and their communities. This style of leadership is 180 degrees from what we are accustomed to in our goal oriented, ego-centered culture. Thank you, Circle of Service, for your continuing efforts to bring about the transformative process in us all.

The Work of the Spirit

Here at the Conference, each morning begins with Centering Prayer.  Each afternoon ends with Centering Prayer.  Hundreds of people sit together in the Silence.  This is what gives energy to plans, and renews our patience and generosity on mornings like Friday, when we have Regional Meetings and the Annual Business Meeting.  It is easy to see how Spirit inspires the words of Fr. Thomas and Gail, but the equal miracle is how Spirit opens us to do the less exciting jobs with love and with increased care for each other on the journey.  For this we are daily grateful.

Three Cheers for Ron!

As I opened the blog this morning, it was so exciting to see what all had been added. Could not help but say, "Three cheers, Ron, for answering the Spirit's call to host this wonderful blog." Not only has he worked tirelessly taking photos, posting video interviews and speeches, doing his own blogging, etc., but he has most patiently nurtured us first time bloggers until we (or should I say I?) got it right. He has done all this while smiling and as we say in Contemplative Outreach, with utmost charity. So, three cheers, Ron, you are doing a great job, and I am sure all those "tuning in" would agree!

Prayer Room and Contemplative Convocation

Yesterday morning Thusday Fr. Thomas spoke on "Contemplative Outreach Community: Vision and Service." Here attendees await the beginning.

Twice a day, morning and
evening, 200+ of us gather for prayer in this room. The good folks of the Pittsburgh chapter coordinate the sits including gong chimes to mark the beginnings and endings and a special reading to assist us in moving to the "inner room" where God in silence awaits.

Having Fun with David Frenette

David Frenette, who was staffing the information table on retreats on Thursday, was gracious and playful enough to assent to a short impromptu interview. As you'll hear, David fairs better than I, as I begin by asking David about a conference when my intent was to ask about a retreat he and Fr. Thomas are conducting for individuals who have considerable experience with Centering Prayer. Here is David's website Incarnational Contemplation

Atención Extensión Contemplativa Internacional - en Español

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Susan Komis Explains Wisdom Circles

Living Flame Meeting

Hello Community out there! I'm Marge Rafftery of St. Petersburg, Florida and the national coordinator of the Living Flame Program ( ). I too have been recruited by our blog host, Ron Barnett, to share with you some of my impressions of this wonderful conference. It is such a gift to have all of you aboard. All here are in awe of this latest techno-adventure and excited to have all of you here with us!

Tonight we just had a smashing meeting of over 50 people interested in learning more about this 14 year old national Contemplative Outreach offering. Please see the above website for more detailed information - too much for our precise blog. The enthusiasm by those there who have presented it in the past (Los Angeles and Long Island); those currently presenting it (San Diego); and those starting it in 2009 (Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and Cleveland) was fantastic! There was much excitement and interest in the room - I left very energized and full of gratitude for the growth in the room because of this blessed program. Stay tuned . . .

Widsom Circles

"Wisdom Circles" are small (25 person) groups offered at three times during this first part of the Conference. Apart from exploring important topics (Centering Prayer Groups/Facilitators, Chapters and New Technology, Consensus, National Level Programs, International Committees, Servant-Leadership, Unity Statement) this format is giving me a chance for meaningful face-to-face interactions with other members.

The "Chapters and New Technology" which I attended had a sharing of communication pathways and challenges from email to web pages to shared templates to real-time presentations of meetings. I was filled with thankfulness for the leaders among us that are bringing us through this, especially Ron Barnett, Anita Donnan and Pamela Begeman who is working on new developments for the main Contemplative Outreach web page. It is comforting to me that along with admiration and excitement about the tech advances, we still champion the importance of our personal journey with the small prayer groups.

Posted by Ron Barnett for Vivien Michals

Amazing Grace and Abundant Blessings

This morning Fr. Thomas captured in such a beautiful way the meaning of our Contemplative Outreach Vision and Theological Principles and our desire as an organization to give ourselves more and more, moment by moment to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to renew, reclaim and reappropiate the Christian contemplative heritage for our times. A charism that was not sought after - one that was given as a movement of grace. Transformation of heart is what Centering Prayer is at ever deepening levels of relationship with God, which prompts one to love God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength and with all our minds and our neighbor as ourselves. We seek to listen and to address the cries of our common suffering and divided world. We seek to listen to the promptings of the Spirit and to listen in the silence of our hearts and through this practice allow God to transform our hearts and ultimately the common heart of all our creation. In all humility we are so grateful to all those who spend time in silence each day and sprinkle this amazing grace in mysterious ways around the world. I am delighted to be a part of this whirl of the Spirit and to have this opportunity to share this reflection with all of you this day. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

AM Centering Prayer

200 hearts united in Silence...

in God...

in Love

Be still and know that I am God

Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler Welcomes


Fr. Thomas's Opening Talk

In this 10 minute talk Fr. Thomas welcomes conference attendees and speaking on oneness in contemplation sets an insipirational tone for the conference.

Conference Opening Talk by Fr. Thomas Keating.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Opening Day

Marie Howard welcomes first-time participants at the conference. Each year Marie works with a local chapter and its Coordinator to organize our annual conference. Marie is a master at providing the logistical creativity needed to make our conference run smoothly and a grand success in all senses of the word.

Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler, President

Mark Nowak, Coordinator

Carol Leach Welcomes

Welcome to our conference Everyone! My name is carol leach and I'm a neophyte at this blogging stuff! The good news is that when I turned on this borrowed lap top, I found a signal... and the blog here I go! I'll do my best to give you a sense of what I am experiencing the next few days.
Maybe I should introduce myself...I'm a wife and mom (for longer than I care to remember) from Annapolis, MD. I've had a regular practice of centering prayer for about 15 years, have facilitated an ecumenical CP group for over 7 yrs at St. Anne's Episcopal church, and present Intro's to CP once in a while. Over the years I've met most of the faculty of Contemplative Outreach at various workshops and retreats so coming to these conferences (it's my third) is a much anticipated reunion of sorts. Of course, Father Thomas is always the highlight for me with his sense of humor, profound insights into the spiritual journey and his open and joyful presence that sometimes borders on mischievous. Would you believe that I once shared a steak with him in a DC restaurant ???
Despite feeling terrified and inept, I'll attempt to share my personal thoughts and reflections as we journey through this conference, "Oneness: Unity in Contemplation". More than ever we, our country and the world need the fruits of the Spirit that are fostered by contemplative prayer: wisdom, "charity, compassion and tolerance, peace-making and courage for social justice".
God's blessings, carol

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Is there an aspect of the conference that you would like to especially hear about? If so, you are invited to share it in a comment below.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Welcome to the blog of the Contemplative Outreach Annual Conference and Enrichment Weekend, September 24th-28th, 2008, in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. The theme of the conference is "Unity: Oneness in Contemplation," and it features Fr. Thomas Keating, OCSO and Fr. Laurence Freeman, OSB of The World Community of Christian Meditation (WCCM).

Guest bloggers at the conference will share session updates, perspectives and reflections to provide you with a window on the proceedings and a form of "participation" even though you may not be present. It is hoped this outward extension of the conference can serve to further support our common vision and community.

Words and images (photos, videos) will be posted daily. The contemplative communities of Contemplative Outreach and WCCM are invited to visit here throughout the five days of the conference, read the latest posts and share your comments, conversation and community.

Video Welcome