Tag Archives: contemplativeactivism

New Contemplative Leaders Exchange

 A Reflection by Phileena Heuertz

 

Last year, at the invitation of renowned Cistercian monk Fr. Thomas Keating, four of among the most prominent living western Christian contemplative teachers gathered in Snowmass at St. Benedict’s Monastery. In addition to Fr. Keating, three others gathered in respectful friendship: Rev. Dr. Tilden Edwards, Fr. Laurence Freeman, and Fr. Richard Rohr. Each of these men are recognized as being at the forefront of the Western Christian contemplative renewal, and each founded respective contemplative organizations.

United by their shared commitment to the Christian contemplative tradition and concern for the healing of our world, after their week-long dialogue, they determined it was important to gather a group of younger contemplative leaders. A name for the gathering soon emerged: “New Contemplative Leaders Exchange.” It was important to the founders that this be a genuine “exchange,” learning from one another and the Holy Spirit within each of us.

So, August 14-18, 2017, I joined twenty other “younger” contemplatives at Snowmass, along with the four teachers who invited us. We were organized in groups of five or six according to the founder and his organization that we were representing.

Rev. Dr. Margaret Benefiel, the current Executive Director of Shalem, was asked by the founders to facilitate our conversations, and the entire gathering was funded by the Trust for the Meditation Process, Minneapolis, MN.

As you can imagine, it was an opportunity of a lifetime. I was so honored to be included in the meeting, and upon arrival was greeted by some of the brightest and most compassionate Christians I’ve ever met.

While it was obvious that we were not the only younger leaders on the contemplative landscape, it was apparent that our relationship with the teachers was one of trust. We had been invited out of the inspiration that emerged among the elders the year prior. They wanted to identify a few younger contemplatives who could be entrusted with their wisdom lineages in order to nurture and advance the movement in the coming years.

Following are the next generation contemplative leaders who were present at the Exchange, representing the corresponding founders and their organizations. 


Tilden Edwards, Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation:

Thomas J. Bushlack, Ph.D. St. Louis, MO, Associate Professor of Theology & Christian Ethics, Aquinas Institute of Theology, Representative to the Exchange and Trustee, Trust for Meditation Process

Rev. Dr. Stuart Higginbotham, Gainesville, GA, Rector, Grace Episcopal Church

Bo Karen Lee, Ph.D., Princeton, NJ, Associate Professor of Spiritual Theology and Formation, Princeton Theological Seminary

Jessica (Jessie) M. Smith, Ph.D., Washington DC, Director of Research and Planning, General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church

Rev. Matthew Wright, Woodstock, NY, Rector, St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church

Laurence Freeman, World Community for Christian Meditation:

Sarah Bachelard, Bruce, Australia, Director Benedictus Contemplative Church

Drs. Sicco Claus, MaPhil, Den Haag, Netherlands, Ph.D. student,  public school teacher, and National Coordinator of the Netherlands for World Community for Christian Meditation

Leonardo Correa, Porto Alecre, Brazil, Director of Communications, World Community for Christian Meditation

Karen Pedigo, Ph.D., Frankfort, IL, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, The Center for Mindfulness Psychotherapy, Teacher, World Community for Christian Meditation

Fr. Vladimir Volrab, Decin, Czech Republic, Hussite Priest, Bishop’s Vicar, National Coordinator of World Community for Christian Meditation

Thomas Keating, Contemplative Outreach:

Sabina Alkire, Ph.D., Oxford, United Kingdom, Director Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford, Associate Priest, Parish of Cowley St John, East Oxford 

Erik Keeney, Snowmass, CO, Cistercian monk St. Benedict’s Monastery, OCSO, Thomas Keating’s assistant

Mark Kutolowski, Thetford, VT, Metanoia of Vermont

Fr. Justin Lanier, Bennington, VT, Rector, St. Peter’s Church

Rory McEntee, Madison, NJ, Ph.D. student, Drew University

Rafael Dickson Morales, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation:

Adam Bucko, Nashotah, WI, M.Div. student, Nashota House Theological Seminary

Phileena Heuertz, Omaha, NE, Founding Partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

Mark Longhurst, Williamstown, MA, Pastor, First Congregational Church, Editor, Ordinary Mystic, www.ordinarymystic.net

Kirsten Oates, Sausalito, CA, Managing Director Program Design and Teacher Relations, Center for Action and Contemplation

Gabrielle Stoner, Ada, MI, M.A. theology student Chicago Theological Seminary

 


During the course of four days we began each morning at 6:30 for meditation, followed by grand silence through breakfast until beginning our dialogue for the day at 9:30 am. Two more meditation or silent prayer sits punctuated the days, in addition to prayer and Eucharist with Fr. Thomas’ Cistercian, (Trappist), community.

During the first complete day, the left brain came out in full force with each group proposing important issues of concern for the future of the contemplative movement. Chief among the issues included addressing two elements in the movement’s shadow: one that is dominated by white middle and upper class Christians and lacking concerted action for social change. Several recognized the poverty of our friendships and the need to join with more leaders of color to be able to do the collective healing our world needs.

The Rohr group, of which I was a part, made the following statement:

We cherish the gifts of the Christian Contemplative Tradition. We honor the lives and work of our founders who have evolved this tradition. We desire to participate in evolving this contemplative tradition and make it accessible to the masses because we believe in its relevancy and transformative depth. 

And for it to be truly transformative we need to address our movement’s current shadow:

We recognize the poverty of our friendships in this Exchange and desire to heal divisions with historically oppressed people unrepresented through humble, open, dialogue, friendship, and co-creating communion paradigm models (social justice).

Our ideas shape reality. Incarnational theology and embodied mysticism require paying attention to the bodies around us.

Teresa Pasquale Mateus’ leadership with the Mystic Soul Conference coming up in January 2018 was mentioned, and members were invited to consider attending the conference to listen, learn, and build community.

Other issues brought into focus included:

  • The phenomenology of contemplation from impasse (domination paradigms) to prophecy (communion paradigms)
  • Networking (How to connect and harness the wisdom of the contemplative spectrum)
  • Formation and Educational Models (Congregations, communities, etc. as schools of contemplative embodiment)
  • Contemplative Action: Prayer, service, activism (How action becomes contemplation)
  • Mindfulness and Christian contemplation
  • Body and incarnational contemplation

By the second day, a significant shift occurred. The right collective brain awakened (no doubt due to our collective prayer sits). This day was marked with vulnerability, deepening friendship, and a commitment to supporting one another.

Being located in the sacred valley of Snowmass, drenched in solitude, silence, and stillness and years and years of collective prayer, and participating in a minimum of ninety minutes of meditation each day, served to help open us to the intuitive, spiritual dimension of our collective body. So that by the final day, we were grounded in friendship and deeper trust, and unified in a collective desire to work together in service of the healing of our world.

But of course, four days for a group of unfamiliar people is hardly enough time to tackle the challenges before us.

So, by the final day, with the left and right hemispheres of our collective primary brain united, and the secondary brain (our intuitive gut) energized, and with the insights and wisdom of our founders, we agreed to a few modest commitments:

  • Select a representative from each of the four groups who will be responsible for connecting us to the larger body.
  • Continue to nurture the small group entities (organized by the founder we were representing) for deepening friendship, mutual support, and possible initiatives.
  • And to look for ways in which we can all collaborate at greater levels, keeping in view the larger contemplative landscape and its leaders who were not in attendance at this meeting.

This is only the beginning.

Since the founding of Shalem in 1973, Contemplative Outreach in 1984, Center for Action and Contemplation in 1986, and World Community for Christian Meditation in 1991, we have spanned nearly half a century. These renowned Western Christian contemplative teachers and their respective organizations have determinedly helped to renew the Western Christian contemplative tradition for our time. And in all those years of sacrificial service, 2016 was the first year all four of the founders had ever been altogether.

2017 marks a huge shift in connection, friendship, networking, and support for the contemplative movement. It seems only natural that we can anticipate a compounding effect of our meeting this year—the beginning of a commitment to unite contemplatives everywhere in our shared desire to be of service to the evolution of consciousness, and to heal our world through contemplative practice and compassionate action.

Mark Kutolowski put it this way:

“I left feeling incredibly humbled by the deep trust of these four contemplative elders – trust in the Holy Spirit’s work in our generation and in the world. In our group I saw people who have committed their lives to building on the founders’ insights, and who seek to bring the gifts of contemplation to affect bodily transformation and profound social change. I feel great joy in being a part of a community of love who experiences contemplation as central to the Christian story, and is ready to support the larger body of Christ in growing in prayerful intimacy with God.” 


Reference:

Benefiel, Margaret (2017 August 3). “Contemplative Founders Meeting with Young Contemplative Leaders,” Religion News Service. Retrieved from http://religionnews.com/2017/08/03/contemplative-founders-meeting-with-young-contemplative-leaders/

Other New Contemplatives Reflections:

Bushlack, Thomas (2017 August 25). “Bearing (True) Witness,” Creating Space for Transformation. Retrieved from https://thomasjbushlack.com/2017/08/25/bearing-true-witness/

Higginbotham, Stuart (2017 August 25). “Minister’s message: A Journey from impasse to imagination in Christ,” The Times. Retrieved from https://www.gainesvilletimes.com/life/ministers-message-journey-impasse-imagination-christ/

Photo Credit: Tom Bushlack, Richard Rohr, and Phileena Heuertz

 

the shout of sacred consent

by Eric Leroy Wilson

The memories of the older women I observed as a child at Riverview Church are etched indelibly in my mind. This church, built by the sweat and labor of my grandmother and grandfather, was the seedbed of my contemplative life. That church was sacred ground defended and held by these warrior women of faith. Their work-creased hands, sculpted by caring and cotton picking, offered bits of peppermint candy out of the corners of secondhand purses. Their backs were made strong by stooping and picking up the pieces of broken men shattered by a world antagonistic to their very being. These women were fierce. While denied access to adequate education, these women held depth. Their very presence functioned as midwifery to my faith. As they held vigil over their own sorrows during worship they would coax and wheedle the sacred, which was buried within me, to the surface. And these women moaned as the Holy Spirit moaned and as the earth moaned. They sang from a place as deep as the bowels of slave ships and yet from such a thin space you could swear you saw a glimpse of heaven and earth becoming one. And as the preacher preached and as holy words were proclaimed they would say, “Yeeeeeesssssss! This was different than a typical exclamation of, “Amen!” This was not just some throw away, “Hallelujah!” This was a profoundly felt and richly stated, “Yeeeeeesssssss!” And their “Yeeeeeesssssss!” may be the solution to many, if not all of the problems our world faces today, because their “Yeeeeeesssssss!” is so vastly different from the dangerous “yes” of our day. 

So often our “yes” is the reactionary “yes” to obligations we never really bought into. Sometimes we say yes and agree to do things we don’t have time to do only to gain approval from people we don’t even like. The dangerous “yes” of our day is a “yes” to exploitation of the other due to the false vow we make in our heart that we live in a world of lack, want, and scarcityThe “yes” we say from a place of assumed deficiency affirms our willingness to horde resources, turn a blind eye to systemic disparity, and find comfort in our apathy for the other. Yet all the while Jesus invites us to see a world that can feed a multitude with a few loaves and fish. Jesus bursts on the scene turning our eyes from scarcity to living life, and living it to the full. 

Sure there are the benign “yeses” of our day. The “yes” we say to meals with loved ones, the “yes” to walks with four-legged friends, the “yes” to coffee breaks and “yes” to social media likes of smiling babies and silly memes. All of these “yeses” are good and are the stuff of life lived. But so many of the “yeses” we use as common currency purchase for us all hardships when they are spent on agreeing to exploitation, estrangement, and indifference.

But if we look into the depths of our being there is the “Yeeeeeesssssss” within us all. In the recesses of our heart where our spirit and the Spirit of the Divine keep company with one another is our “Yeeeeeesssssss” of sacred consent. This is the place where your heart says “yes” to eternity. There is in the deepest place of your heart a space where you offer consent to all of God’s invitation. This is the place where we say “yes” to God’s invitation to intimacy. This sacred place within is where we say “yes” to God’s invitation to be transformed in the likeness of Christ. This is a likeness characterized by grace, joy, forgiveness, and vast pools of compassion — all of which is willing to be spread thick and wide and indiscriminately over all. In times of silence, stillness, meditation and keeping company with God, God is faithful to reveal this glorious area of our sacred consent. Our job is to familiarize ourselves with this place of sacred consent. And once we are familiar with this space, we must stand up with in this interior place and practice living from our sacred consent.

I’m convinced this is what these women were attesting to so many years ago in that shack of a church building. As the rough-hewn pews creaked under the weight of the lives they carried, these women offered shouts from the place of their sacred consent. While they knew the pain of loving too hard and working fingers to the bone, they also knew there was a place inside themselves where they and their God met. And anytime a passage was read or a song sung or a thought offered that happened to brush up against that place in their heart, they had no choice but to offer to us all a resounding, “Yeeeeeesssssss!” And I’ve spent the better part of my life now trying to find mine. When I do, I pray my “Yeeeeeesssssss!” brings as much light in this world as their “Yeeeeeesssssss!” did mine.


Eric Wilson serves as the Associate Chaplain at Pepperdine University in Malibu California.  Wilson is a certified Spiritual Director, Executive Coach and is a religion blogger for the HuffPost.  He is an award winning playwright and theatrical director.  His work has been published and performed around the country including the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.  Eric’s work attempts to leverage contemplative practice, the arts, and soul care for the purpose of fostering social justice in the world. Wilson’s book, Faith the First Seven Lessons was released Fall of 2016.   

This post originally appeared on HuffPost in February 2016.  
*header photo credit: Kathy Hillacre

Gravity’s Contemplative Activist in Residence

September 15, 2016 – February 15, 2017 

From September 15, 2016 –February 15, 2017 Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism welcomes Chiraphone Khamphouvong as our Contemplative Activist (not) in Residence (CAIR).

The CAIR program supports leading, innovative activists who desire a sabbatical for personal, professional, and spiritual development. CAIR is for bold and courageous leaders who have forfeited the American dream to actively dream of a better world for all people.

For Chiraphone, the CAIR fellowship includes a series of retreats, spiritual directions sessions, enneagram sessions, and mentorship meetings to support her evolving vocation.

As a child, Chiraphone escaped a civil war in Laos, became a refugee in Thailand, and eventually immigrated to the United States. Her familiarity with crisis and hardship led Chiraphone to a life of service in more than 35 countries. Her service work has focused on dignifying and sustainable community development in the private and public sectors of society.

Chiraphone began her service in the Peace Corps in South Africa’s post-Apartheid, where she CK Angkor Window_BWvolunteered as an Education Resource Worker training 600 educators in 28 schools. Most recently, she served as World Relief Cambodia’s Director for Partnerships and Resource Development—the very organization that originally helped Chiraphone and her family find refuge in the United States.

Now at an unexpected crossroad, Chiraphone desires space to process her years of tireless service to discern the next step in her vocation. Chiraphone is making sabbatical specifically around the themes to remain, reflect, and reimagine.

Chiraphone hopes for a better world for all people and, therefore, values Gravity’s emphasis on integrating contemplation and action to help realize that better world. She’s grateful for the opportunity to find restoration through CAIR’s programs and services.


 

 

Integrating Contemplation and Action: An Aid Worker’s Reflection from the Refugee Crisis in Morocco

Recently, Chris and Phileena visited our team in Ifrane, Morocco. I’m one of about 40 university and post-graduate students offering emergency aid to the thousands of refugees and immigrants desperately making their way through Morocco.

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have participated in the retreat which was focused on integrating contemplation and action—something which was rather new for most of us.

Whenever we are presented with new ways of doing things, there’s naturally some level of skepticism that arises. Contemplative prayer practices were very new for us. At first it was somewhat awkward. But it didn’t take long before I started to appreciate the practices.

As Chris rightly pointed out in one of his remarks, it’s advised that one tries out a new prayer practice for at least six months before deciding whether they like it or not. I have personally realized that I don’t even need to wait for six months in this case, because based on the various exercises we tried, I’ve already detected the positive impact.

As we spent time together during the retreat, it came into focus that we are living in a seemingly chaotic and fast moving world: the current global migrant crisis, economic uncertainties, the constant flow of information (both good and bad, relevant and not so relevant), terrorism, and lots of distractions here and there etc.

This tense reality makes a lot of people ever more anxious, afraid, and depressed. Many, people on our team included, feel like we’re drowning in the sea of noise and need.

Being able to find stillness, calmness, and focus in the midst of our stormy reality (needs of refugees, information saturation, problems, anxieties, chaos, noise etc.) has become more important now than ever before.

Furthermore, the need for discernment to be able to navigate through it all, to determine how to respond to the dire needs of our neighbors as well as our own families, cannot be underestimated.

This is why contemplative prayer practices are so very important. These exercises for our soul help restore inner peace, equilibrium, and focus, which in turn help acquire and develop the discernment needed to effectively manage and resolve the various issues we face daily in our personal lives as well as with the unrelenting demands of the immigrant and refugee crisis.

Just like Jesus, who always elevated the discussion when confronted with questions and issues, we also do not necessarily have to have answers to all the questions and problems we face. We only need to ensure we’ve got the central focus right. When this central aspect which consists of inner peace, stillness, calmness, oneness, inner equilibrium and discernment are firmly in place, then we can be able to face any challenges that come our way and effectively navigate through all that life throws at us. Contemplative practice helps us realize such centeredness.


Theo

Theophilus Balorbey, an Aachen Peace Prize laureate (2015), is a student volunteer with the International Aid Committee (Comité d’Entraide International-CEI) in service to migrants & refugees in Morocco. He is passionate about contributing his bit towards making our world a better place for all humanity.