A Springtime Winter: Learning to Be During COVID19

“Winter preserves and strengthens a tree. Rather than expending its strength on the exterior surface, its sap is forced deeper and deeper into its interior depth. In winter, a tougher, more resilient life is firmly established. Winter is necessary for the tree to survive and flourish.”

Thomas Merton 

It is March 20, 2020 and we have officially entered the season of Spring.  Spring promises blossoming flowers, sunny days, new life.  Yet we are in midst of uncertainty, fear, and feelings of death.  Fear of actual death, and the death of what we hold on to for our security and comfort – for our survival.  Schedules, routines, income, jobs, health, hobbies, toilet paper, purpose.  What was normal yesterday can’t even be accessed today.

We cannot control the situation, others’ reactions, our employers’ responses, our financial investment, our family’s well-being, etc. 

So we sit.  And wait.  And hunker down. And pray.

This week our spring break trip to the mountains got cut short.  So now that I am home, I am finding that I am mindlessly scrolling through social media, not sure what I am looking for.  I have feelings of guilt and laziness as I see other yoga instructors offer online classes, or at least words of wisdom.

But the truth is, I am tired.  I am uncertain. And I am not motivated to tell the story otherwise.

And, I believe in what Merton said above.  Because I have experienced it.  The only way to flourish, is to go deep in the winter time.  To reflect.  To rest.  To be.  

I don’t believe God caused this virus to occur.   But I do believe God works through all things.  So I will attempt to trust the pace of slow, give my soul what it needs to rest, sit in the reality of this winter time we are experiencing, and look for signs of spring.  The sun shining.  A fish jumping.  My dog snoring.  A laugh with my kid.  A deep conversation about theology and politics with my teen.  

I will “be”.  I will not strive to “do.”  Because from a place of being, when it’s time, we can do immeasurably more than we ever imagined.  

Before we were evacuated from Colorado this week, I took a walk in the snowy pine-tree filled forest.  Some of the pine trees were dead.  A few years back a pine beetle struck the rocky mountains hard – and many beautiful pine trees suffered.  Yet, to my surprise, there were several new baby pine trees coming up through the snow.  Where there was death, new life begins.  

I will believe that on the other side of this is not just a life of survival, but of flourishing. 

Angie Winn has spent over 25 years consulting, coaching, and training leaders and organizations to thrive.  Although her experience is in both for-profit and non-profit realms, Angie’s passion is to work with individuals, leaders, and teams living out their call and engaging with vulnerable communities.  Through a framework she designed called “stability in motion”, Angie offers coaching, consulting, workshops, yoga sessions, and retreats to individuals, leaders and teams in both her Orlando and Colorado-based retreat spaces, as well as at client locations.  Angie is a follower of Jesus, has a heart for social justice, and has a family of two teen boys, a lab, and a husband. Connect with her at winnsummitstrategies.com and loftonmain.com, Facebook, Instagram, and at her blog.

*header photo credit: Fabrice Villard 

Poetry for Perspective During COVID19

by Lynn Ungar


What if you thought of it

as [an unexpected] Sabbath

—the most sacred of times?


Cease from travel.

Cease from buying and selling.

Give up, just for now, on trying to make the world 

different than it is.


Sing. Pray. Touch only those

to whom you commit your life.

Center down.


And when your body has become still,

reach out with your heart.


Know that we are connected

in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.

(You could hardly deny it now.)


Know that our lives are in one another’s hands.

(Surely, that has come clear.)


Do not reach out your hands.

Reach out your heart.

Reach out your words.


Reach out all the tendrils

of compassion that move, invisibly,

where we cannot touch.


Promise this world your love

for better or for worse,

in sickness and in health,

so long as we all shall live.

Spiritual Gifts Amidst COVID19

by Mark Kutolowsk


In every life circumstance, there are spiritual gifts, freely given to those who are able to perceive them. This outbreak is no different. What then, are some of the spiritual opportunities of this pandemic?


  1. To recognize and honor the instinctual self: Everyone has both a material body and a psyche that are finite. They will die when we die. Yet, these parts of our selves desperately do not want to die. Our instinctual, animal inheritance is a finite self that is committed to survival at all costs, even though its inevitable end is death. When we acknowledge this aspect of self and honor its feedback, we can see it for what it is. Even more importantly, we can recognize that we are not this self. It is a part of who we are, but it is not us. It is totally natural for this aspect of self to feel great fear in the face a threat to its survival—like a global pandemic and social instability. Allow yourself to feel these fears, identify their source (the instinctual self), and do not confuse them for your true self.


  1. To remember our eternal nature: Each of us also possesses an aspect of ourselves that is eternal—our spirit that abides in union with God. We can each call to mind peak experiences—moments where we were caught up in great love or wonder, all fear dropped away, and we tasted something timeless and liberating. Those moments are break-throughs of the Spirit. In a time of great cultural fear and uncertainty, we are invited to re-connect with this aspect of our being—the tremendous inner resource of our self that is hidden in God. From this source comes a peace, freedom, and stability that allows us to face the dangers of the present with equanimity. This inner self united with God allowed the early Christians to sing joyfully as they went to be torn apart by wild animals in ancient Rome. They were living from the realm of God where death has no power—so they were fearless in the face of the present threats to their lives. Remembering and living from the Spirit is so important that any exterior loss or hardship can be seen as a blessing if it awakens awareness of the Spirit. That’s why many alcoholics who have found God in their recovery refer to their alcoholism as a blessing.


  1. Accurate feedback as to the state of our soul: One spiritual gift of a scary situation like the coronavirus outbreak is that it provides accurate and clear feedback as to the state of our souls in each moment. Are you feeling afraid and overwhelmed? That’s a sure sign you have identified with the finite/instinctual self. Are you feeling fear as an emotion, but have access to a deeper wellspring of timeless peace? That’s a sure sign you are living in the Spirit. The greater the external strive, the more intense and direct is this feedback as to the state of our inner identification at each moment.


  1. A reminder of the fragility of life: Material life is finite. Each of us will die, our culture will collapse, and even our planet will eventually cease to exist. Yet our culture—with its obsession with youth, growth and success—encourages a constant forgetfulness of this basic truth. The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing illness, deaths, and strain on social systems can be a wakeup call to remember this basic truth. There’s a reason why many spiritual traditions (Christianity and Buddhism included) have included meditation on death as valuable spiritual practices.


  1. A revelation of systems of injustice: In this crisis, as in any time of societal stress, it is inevitably the poor and the marginalized who suffer the most. While the coronavirus illness itself may play no favorites, it is the wealthy who are least affected by the social fallout. The working poor, those tied into the ‘gig economy,’ and those who depend on tips will bear the brunt of the ensuing economic hardship, while the salaried will likely continue to be paid even when they are not able to work. Keep your eyes open to the social world and notice how power and wealth make their presence known in the responses to the outbreak. To have patterns of injustice revealed opens us to see reality more clearly and can open the door of the heart to compassion.


  1. An invitation to prayer and action: When we are faced with acute suffering in our communities and world, we can choose to respond with love. There may be practical ways we can serve our neighbors in their physical needs of food and basic supplies. In this time, with greater social isolation, phone calls and emotional support are invaluable. Even if our own means are very limited, each of us can pray—opening our hearts to both the source of infinite love and to the suffering of our brothers and sisters among us.


  1. Practice of sabbath: For many of us, the immediate effect of the coronavirus outbreak is that many of our work-related, academic and social activities are cancelled. We are asked to stay home. This can be an occasion for disappointment, feelings of isolation, or boredom. Or, it can be an opportunity to practice sabbath rest. Use the extra time to pray, to observe the natural world, to deeply rest. Allow yourself to let go of the need to control and build. Instead, rest in the grace of letting things be as they are.


Let us turn to God in this time—in love and trust.



Mark Kutolowski is a centering prayer teacher, spiritual director and wilderness guide. He and his wife Lisa homestead and run Metanoia of Vermont , a nonprofit whose mission is to nurture the Way of Christ through work and prayer in relationship with the land.


*header photo credit: Milada Vigerova 

A Call to Solidarity During COVID-19


by Chris Heuertz


I’ve been pretty sad for a couple weeks given the assault on our collective consciousness’s peace of heart & mind.

Lots of us aren’t going to be able to adjust to the new reality without each other.

So right now, let’s make an intention of hope & resiliency for those out there aching the uncertainty of how vulnerable we all are—specifically for some of the most susceptible among us:

You’re not alone.
We’re in this together.
We’ll do everything we can to help.

For the parents of newborns who feel the sadness of not being able to introduce their babies to friends and family because of social distancing.

For retired folks who are already struggling to get by but now watching their shaky financial futures vaporize with every hit the stock market takes.

For everyone getting married over the next few months, try to remember you’re not celebrating alone even if your community can’t be there for the ceremony.

For the refugees trying to make sense of of this chaos in a foreign country and a language that’s often difficult to comprehend.

For the small business owners who are forced to close shop out service to our collective health but will struggle to stay in business once this has all passed.

For single parents who were already under-supported and over-worked.

For the 20+ million kids in the US who need public school meal assistance just to get one or two hot meals a day + their parents who are suffering the pain of seeing their kids go hungry.

For the activists, charities, and non-profit organizations fighting to build a better world one donation at time while watching their funding thin out.

For our elders in assisted living communities who fear they may never see their family again.

For the authors, artists, musicians, speakers, and everyone else in the gig-industry whose livelihood is dependent on events that have been cancelled.

For the immunosuppressed and immunocompromised who fear running down to the market to buy the basics so they can get by one more day.

For the undocumented who have been illegalized by an unjust and unwelcoming system who fear applying for assistance at the risk of deportation.

For those who are incarcerated and concerned for their own health in their isolated communities or worried they may lose loved ones they’ll never see again.

For the flight attendants and local grocers who graciously serve all their customers while making themselves vulnerable.

For the hospice workers who wrestle with the risks of showing up or not showing up to care for their patients, and the difficult consequences of either choice.

For the chefs, bartenders, delivery folks, dish washers, host/esses, line cooks, servers, & all the hospitality industry who’ve prepared & provided meals for us but about to lose their jobs.

For parents whose employers won’t make concessions for you to stay home with your children who aren’t able to attend school.

For the health care professionals who put themselves in risk to care for the suffering bodies of our collective humanity.

For every single one of us who will lose a loved one, a friend, a family member, or a partner to this virus and will be forced to grieve alone.

You’re not alone.
We’re in this together.
We’ll do everything we can to help.


photo credit: Camilo Jimenez

#coronavirus #COVID19

Plant with Purpose

Podcast: Plant with Purpose
Host: Philippe Lazaro

For a long time, a complicated relationship has existed between Christianity and efforts to care for the environment- at least in the Western Church. However, those who have worked at the intersection of faith and sustainability have realized that these two things go hand-in-hand. Caring for creation fulfills a biblical mandate God has given humanity. Taking care of the Earth can also draw us closer to God. So why the tension?

We talk to Phileena Heuertz on how contemplative spirituality can help us connect with God amidst challenging environmental crises.

Amplify Radio

Podcast: Amplify Radio
Host: Msgr. Ronald Lengwin (host) or Krista Clayton (IVP)


Father Ron Lengwin is joined by guest Phileena Heuertz and the two discuss her book, “Mindful Silence – The Heart of Christian Contemplation.”

Faith Conversations

Podcast: Faith Conversations
Host: Anita Lustrea

Phileena Heuertz joins me this week on Faith Conversations. She is founding partner of Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism. She is a spiritual director, yoga instructor, speaker, and retreat guide. We talk about what a pilgrimage of the soul looks like. As we look at Phileena’s book Pilgrimage of a Soul, we look at what our awakening might look like as well as some of the darkness we can face while on the journey of transformation. We wrap our time by talking about what Union with God really looks like.

Good True Beautiful

Podcast: Good True Beautiful
Host: Ashton Gustafson

Our fast-paced lives are filled with distractions, frequently leaving us disillusioned and dissatisfied―with ourselves, with others, and even with God. Spiritual practices that used to sustain us fall short when life circumstances bring us to the limits of our self.

Phileena Heuertz’ latest book, Mindful Silence, illuminates some of the fundamentals of contemplative spirituality, drawing from a wellspring of wisdom from the tradition and Phileena’s personal experience.

Are You Real

Podcast: Are You Real
Host: Jon Fuller

On Episode 131 of Are You Real purpose we talk to Phileena Huertz. Phileena grew up as a pastor’s daughter, graduated college, and joined a non-profit group for 20 years along with her husband, Chris Huertz. During this time she worked alongside others, and did intense social justice work. Phileena explains what it means to have a daily contemplative practice, and the importance of that. She says there are things we must “unlearn to know.” This is a very thought provoking, and inspiring episode you don’t want to miss!

CBF Conversations

Podcast: CBF Conversations
Host: Andy Hale

American culture has been trending upward with a greater proclivity toward spirituality over the last decade, according to Pew Research study. The spirituality industry has never seen better days with more opportunities for personal development through classes, fitness groups, books, podcasts, smartphone and smartwatch apps, retreat centers and digital media.

Yet, we live in a paradox. We crave a deeper spirituality and we are the busiest creatures that have ever walked the earth. We seek a deeper mindfulness while speeding by it to get to the next thing on the schedule. Maybe Søren Kierkegaard labeled this correctly, “A paltry mediocrity.”

“Contemplative prayer practice effectively keeps us humble and honest. Humility and honesty are essential to building a just world,” said Phileena Heuertz. “The more of us who commit to such practice, the more peaceful our world will be.”

Phileena Heuertz spent the first portion of her journey serving alongside orphans, child soldiers, and those being trafficked in Africa with Word Made Flesh. In more recent years, Heuertz has been a part of the New Friar Movement and the Gravity Center.

We sat down with Phileena to discuss her new book, Mindful Silence: The Heart of Christian Contemplation.


Podcast: Contemplify
Host: Paul Swanson

Eleven years ago I was a work intern at the Center for Action and Contemplation. A season of life that would unknowingly tether me to the contemplative journey. As a work intern, I lived in community with 6 other interns. If that weren’t enough, we were also the guest house for retreatants. One evening as we were settling into our dinner, there was a knock on our door. I hustled over to welcome our unknown guest, who happened to be Phileena Heuertz. Over the course of the meal we would come to learn about Phileena’s work with folks living in poverty and on the margins. She had just completed the pilgrimage, Camino de Santiago, and regaled us with stories of that experience. It was over the course of that meal that I first recognized the depth of Phileena’s being and presence.

I’m grateful for my friendship with Phileena and the ways our paths have crossed over the years. Phileena has written a book that will surely find its place in the new contemplative canon, Mindful Silence: The Heart of Christian Contemplation. In Mindful Silence she weaves her story, contemplative themes and teachers alongside practices, with the invitation always at hand to take another step into greater healing and wholeness by embodying the contemplative way. In our conversation we sink into the themes of Mindful Silence, how her dog Basil has been a contemplative guide, the passing of one of her mentors Fr. Thomas Keating, and how on a pilgrimage to Assisi, Italy Phileena had an unexpected experience that continues to impart wisdom into her journey.

Phileena is a founding partner alongside her husband Chris of Gravity: A Center for Contemplative Activism. A spiritual director, retreat leader, writer, yoga teacher and exactly the type of person you want to find yourself in conversation with. Head over to mindfulsilence.org to learn about Phileena’s book. Get a copy for yourself and a friend. This is the type of book that is resonates when read alone and relished when read alongside fellow travelers.

You can learn more about Phileena Heuertz’s work at mindfulsilence.orggravitycenter.com and phileena.com


Podcast: Otherwise
Host: Casey Tygrett

Today, in one of the last two episodes of this season we talk with author, activist, and spiritual director Phileena Heuertz, author of the new book Mindful Silence: The Heart of Christian Contemplation.

Phileena is the author of Pilgrimage of a Soul and a founding partner of Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism. For nearly twenty years she and her husband, Chris, codirected an international nonprofit in more than seventy countries, building community among victims of human trafficking, survivors of HIV and AIDS, abandoned children, and child soldiers and war brides.

Spiritual director, yoga instructor, public speaker, retreat guide, and author, Phileena is passionate about spirituality and making the world a better place. She has led contemplative retreats for a number of faith communities, including Word Made Flesh, World Vision International, and Compassion International. In addition, she is sought after as a speaker at universities, seminaries, and conferences such as Q, Catalyst, Urbana, and the Center for Action and Contemplation. Phileena was also named an “Outstanding Alumni” by Asbury University and one of Outreach magazine’s “30 Emerging Influencers Reshaping Leadership.”

Ordinary Mystic

Podcast: Ordinary Mystic
Host: Mark Longhurst

 This is, above, a conversation with Phileena Heuertz of Gravity: A Center for Contemplative Activism. Phileena has just released a powerful book entitled Mindful Silence. Through her own personal journey, contemplative practice, and study of the mystics, Phileena leads readers to encounter the possibility and power that silence has for people today.

The Contemplative Light

Podcast: The Contemplative Light
Host: Clint Sabom

I talked with Phileena Heuertz, whose new book is out this month. Mindful Silence: The Heart Of Christian Contemplation presents a process-oriented framework of great value to Christians looking to deepen their spiritual lives. Phileena’s husband Chris will be on the podcast later this month to discuss his book The Sacred Enneagram.

CXMH: Christianity & Mental Health

Podcast: SCXMH: Christianity & Mental Health
Host: Holly Oxhandler

This week, we’re joined by Phileena Heuertz, co-founder of Gravity: A Center for Contemplative Activism, and author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life. In this episode, Phileena talks with us about her first book (one of Holly’s favorite books, which you’ll soon understand why!) and unpacks the seven stages of the spiritual journey. What are the seven stages and how do they map alongside a pilgrimage? You’ll have to listen to find out (and then pick up the book to read more)!