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 Fall invites us to awakening, transition and transformation!

 Christian Contemplative Community events and resources

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again."  ... "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." 
 John 3:3,6

We hope that you are settling into fall and it's wonderful invitation to awaken. In Via Lumen would like to continue looking into the area of Level of Consciousness as it applies to Christian Contemplative Spirituality. Jesus lived and taught from the highest levels of Human Consciousness as did the great Spiritual Masters. Living and Seeing from the high Levels of Consciousness is what unites mystics across all Faith Traditions.

In addition to this background information, we'll be providing an update on current Contemplative events that will enrich you this fall! You'll also find some information about In Via Lumen programs being developed to be offered this coming Winter and Spring.
The Christian Spiritual Journey as a call to live at higher Levels of Consciousness
For the past several years I've been exploring how raising Levels of Consciousness is the underlying dynamic of Christian Contemplative Spirituality.

It is from Jesus's advanced Level of Consciousness that he lived his life, taught and invited others to follow him.

I began sharing some information on the Levels of Consciousness in last month's update which is available here.
As Jim Marion, the author of Putting on the Mind of Christ, pointed out in Chapter 1, this work is important, for If we want to follow Jesus, we have no choice but to go deep within ourselves and, putting on the same mind that Jesus had, come into the nondual, no-separation vision of the Kingdom of Heaven.  

This month I'll continue with an excerpt from Chapter 2 of Jim's book:

The nondual consciousness that is the vision of the Kingdom of Heaven is the highest stage in the growth of human consciousness from infancy to full spiritual maturity. By the process of inner growth in spiritual awareness, a path of constant inner realization, we gradually come to see our own union with God in Christ so that, at the final stage of nondual awareness, God alone and his Kingdom remain. We see, when we realize the vision of the Kingdom of Heaven, that we, like Jesus, are not mere human beings after all, but are now, and have always been, nothing less than immortal, unlimited, divine Spirit. 

In his ministry, Jesus wanted more than anything else to tell us about the nondual vision of the Kingdom he saw. He saw a Kingdom right here on Earth in which everyone was truly and substantially “one” with God and “one” with each other. At the same time, however, he saw that this nondual “oneness” didn’t take away from God’s transcendence or from our own humanness or individuality. To our human minds this sounds like paradox… But Jesus’ nondual vision of the Kingdom of Heaven was not a paradox. It only seems like a paradox to our limited logical way of thinking. Jesus’ nondual vision was simply the seeing of what, in fact, is actually true.

Jesus, however, found it impossible to describe his nondual vision in simple declarative sentences without sounding paradoxical. That is because the human mind and declarative, spacetime language that our human minds have created, is itself dualistic. Our minds, and therefore human language, are inherently structured on the basis of countless spacetime, logical, polar opposites… Jesus ended up saying that the Kingdom was “not here and not there” (Luke 17:21). Still another way Jesus got around the problem of declarative or logical language was to speak about his inner nondual vision of the Kingdom in parables, analogies, metaphors and stories. This got around the problem of logic but made his words less clear. That left him open to constant misunderstandings on the part of the Pharisees (and millions even today) who cannot understand any truth unless it can be expressed in logical black versus white terms… Even then the vision of the Kingdom of Heaven is clearly expressed in poetic or metaphorical language, readers or listeners are still going to be unable to clearly understand that vision unless they too have already realized nondual consciousness! That is because we cannot understand a level of consciousness above our own by simply reading or listening to words…

To clearly understand a level of consciousness, we actually have to live at that level ourselves and “see” the world from that level ourselves…. Saint Augustine, making this point, said that the “outer” meaning of the Scriptures was the “silver,” but the inner meaning of the Scriptures was the “gold.” St Therese of Lisieux, to give just one example of continual consciousness growth… said she was forever getting new insights and understandings from Scriptures as her awareness continued to grow. There would be no need for us to “truly seek” the Kingdom if we assume… that we already fully understand Jesus…

With respect to Jesus, how many times have we heard people say that “Jesus was a human being just like us, so therefore he must have thought in this or that way”?  (These people) don’t understand that there are different levels of human consciousness. True, Jesus was a human being like us, but, though he perhaps knew less than one tenth of the information possessed by a college student today, his level of consciousness far exceeded that of today’s greatest, but merely intellectual, geniuses… I hope this gives you an idea of how hard it was for Jesus to make himself understood by the lower-conscious Jewish priests and lay preachers. He even had problems being understood by his own disciples, though his disciples… were themselves great souls who came to Earth to help Jesus in his mission… The vast majority of us, including our Christian leaders, can’t see the inner Kingdom of Heaven now any more than the Pharisees and Jewish people were able to see it then…

My point in this chapter is to clearly point out that there are different levels of human consciousness, different levels of spiritual understanding, and that the nondual vision of the Kingdom of Heaven is the highest… Even in our own society, it is still not generally understood that people (except perhaps children) have different levels of awareness… This is a dangerous assumption given the life and death urgency of many problems facing the human race… It is essential, therefore, even from a secular perspective, that people be assisted in moving to higher and higher levels of inner personal awareness. This is especially important for the Christian church. It is vitally important because the only essential purpose of religion is to accelerate growth in consciousness…. 
Jim Marion, Putting on the Mind of Christ, Chapter 2

The first programs that will notably incorporate Levels of Consciousness are the two Gospel of Thomas study groups that have begun this fall! I'm delighted that 32 folks are opening themselves up to travel this journey of deeper knowing and transformation!

I'm excited about the series on Levels of Consciousness we are planning to offer this winter with our friend, Fr. Michael Holleran.
Here is an initial list of the Christian Contemplative Programs being offered this fall
October 2022:
October 1, 2022: Centering Prayer Introductory Workshop, Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center, 303 Tunxis Road West Hartford, CT 06107

October 15, 2022: Waking Up with the Enneagram: A Guide for your Contemplative Journey with Rev. Nhien Vuong, J.D., M.Div., Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center, 303 Tunxis Road West Hartford, CT 06107

October 29, 2022: Welcoming Prayer Introductory Workshop with Mike Smoolca,  Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center, 303 Tunxis Road West Hartford, CT 06107

November 2022:
 November 19, 2022: Heart Speaks to Heart: Correspondence as Spiritual Practice with Judith Valente and Brother Paul Quenon, OSCO,  Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center, 303 Tunxis Road West Hartford, CT 06107

December 2022:
 December 10, 2022: Lectio Divina Advent Experience with Frank Pendola and Mike Smoolca, Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center, 303 Tunxis Road West Hartford, CT 06107

January 2023:
January 28, 2023: The Contemplative Spirituality of Icons and Iconography with Marek Czarnecki, Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center, 303 Tunxis Road West Hartford, CT 06107
You can find an up to date list of Christian Contemplative Programs on our Featured Program page!
The Christian Contemplative Experience at Holy Family Retreat Center in West Hartford, CT (CCE) seeks to affirm the oneness of all Christians and to transcend our outward differences by joining together in silent prayer. CCE's purpose is to provide a space where Christians can meet, share and pray together in the contemplative tradition.
I would highly encourage folks who haven't had a formal introduction to Centering Prayer to attend the October 1st Introductory Workshop and for folks generally interested in learning the fine points of Welcoming Prayer to attend the October 29th session.

Both of these are half-day workshops and can be attended in person or online over Zoom.

The Christian Contemplative Experience is honored to offer this enriching program offered by an outstanding Contemplative teacher!

October 15 - Waking Up with the Enneagram: A Guide for your Contemplative Journey, offered in-person and online!

The Enneagram is an extraordinary framework for transformational development. A multi-dimensional model of consciousness, the Enneagram equips each of us with a highly precise roadmap for embodying our divine potential.

In this introductory Enneagram workshop, you’ll gain insights into how the Enneagram maps our personality-based obstacles to Presence and provides a path from egoic to unitive consciousness. A focus is to explore the relationship between the Enneagram and Centering Prayer, Welcoming Prayer, Fr. Keating’s “emotional programs for happiness,” and contemplative silence, solitude, and stillness.

We are fortunate to have a world-renowned Contemplative Enneagram teacher, Rev. Nhien Vuong, with us to share this day. 
Rev. Nhien Vuong, J.D., M.Div., is a contemplative Enneagram counselor, consultant, global community builder and founder of Evolving Enneagram. An ordained Unity minister and Accredited Enneagram Professional, Nhien presents on an international stage, offering a compassionate, interspiritual path of transformation without dogma using the Enneagram as a guide for our individual and collective awakening. For the past several years, Nhien has had the honor of presenting at some of the largest Enneagram events worldwide.
To get to know Rev. Nhien better, here is some teaching she did on an Introduction to the Enneagram and also on the Cloud of Unknowing a few years ago at her Church.

Please visit the Retreat web page for further information and to register for this special Retreat experience:
The full Christian Contemplative Experience schedule has been made available online at: 
As part of CCE, a weekly Christian Contemplative Prayer group is offered each Thursday evening which meets online or in-person at Holy Family Retreat Center in West Hartford, CT as conditions allow. For more information on how to join us, please contact Mike Smoolca at or
North-Central CT Chapter of the International Thomas Merton Society (NCCTITMS)

The NCCITMS was formed to study the writings, work, life and influence of Thomas Merton, in the hope of inspiring, affirming and enriching every member to embrace life and the God who created it.
The North-Central CT Chapter of the ITMS is delighted to be partnering with the Christian Contemplative Experience at Holy Family to offer a wonderful day with a pair of Retreat leaders who share a common love for Thomas Merton, including one who had a personal relationship with Thomas Merton himself!

They will be sharing a topic that has affinity to the close relationship they’ve developed throughout the years.
Br. Paul Quenon, O.C.S.O., has been a monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani for 60 years, the first years of which were spent under the guidance of his novice master, Thomas Merton.

Among his many books, he has written nine collections of poetry and an award-winning memoir, In Praise of the Useless Life: A Monk’s Memoir.

He is a talented photographer, and a compilation of his poems with photographs, See the Moment, Feel the Moment, will be published in 2023.
Judith Valente, currently Vice President of the International Thomas Merton Society is the author of several spirituality books, including two co-authored with Br. Paul Quenon. The most recent is How to Be: A Monk and a Journalist Reflect on Living & Dying, Purpose & Prayer, Forgiveness & Friendship.

She is an award-winning journalist and poet and a lay Benedictine Oblate who guides frequent contemplative retreats. Judith has written a contemporary guide on The Rule of St. Benedict, titled How to Live
Their program is: November 19, 2022: Heart Speaks to Heart: Correspondence as Spiritual Practice  to be held in person at Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center, 303 Tunxis Road West Hartford, CT 06107 as well as online over Zoom.

Br. Paul and Judith are both planning on being at Holy Family in person and will talk about how correspondence has been an important contemplative practice to recognize and share the presence of God in our lives. They’ll look at how Merton's most engaging letters inspired a years-long contemplative exchange between Brother Paul and Judith and how it might do the same for you. Brother Paul will also take us on a virtual tour of Gethsemani, share his contemplative photographs and poetry, and engage in dialogue about contemplative living.

Contemplative Outreach of CT - ​The Connecticut Chapter's mission is to support, grow and share the Contemplative Outreach Prayer Practices as well as to foster and enhance the Christian Contemplative Community in the Connecticut and Southwestern New England area.  
Among various things, the Contemplative Outreach of CT Chapter offers Introductory workshops in Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina and Welcoming Prayer by Contemplative Outreach Commissioned Presenters as well as online training to become a Contemplative Outreach Commissioned Presenter of Centering Prayer.

If you're interested in finding out about our online Centering Prayer Presenter Trainings classes including information about becoming a Commissioned Presenter of Centering Prayer please visit:

Please refer to the Fall 2022 Quarterly Update for recent updates.
Spiritual Direction and Companioning
If you're a Christian Contemplative seeker in need of deep listening and a caring spiritual presence, In Via Lumen offers Spiritual Direction and Companioning specifically focused on serving Christian Contemplatives. 

If you would like to explore these options further, please use the contact form on these pages or email Mike Smoolca at:
Preliminary information on some In Via Lumen programs being developed for Winter and Spring
Tuesday evenings 6:30-8:30 p.m. Eastern Time, January 24,31, February 7,14, 2023 - A multi-week workshop by Fr. Michael Holleran on Levels of Consciousness, how the Kabbalah informs Buddhist, Christian and modern understanding. Offered over Zoom.
Monday mornings 10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time starting in mid-January 2023 - A Contemplative Study group on Thomas Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation. Offered over Zoom.
Wednesday evenings from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time starting in mid-March and running from 8 - 10 weeks.

A guided book study and companioned experiences of BioSpiritual Focusing using the essential workbook written by Fr. Ed McMahon and Peter Campbell and based on course material developed by the BioSpiritual Institute. Offered over Zoom.
We continue to keep the situation in Ukraine in our hearts and in our prayers as well as the many senseless, tragic mass shootings that continue to occur regularly in the United States and the challenges our neglect of Creation is presenting to our lives. May our witness to the loss of all life and destruction prompt us to renounce violence and hatred and a deeper awareness and sense of personal responsibility in the decisions we make in our lives. May our prayers inspire us to find ways to provide assistance to all those suffering and put an end to this needless loss of life as well as the Evil that is behind it. May we also work for greater understanding of one another and a transcendence of the polarization in our own Country.
I invite you to visit the In Via Lumen, LLC web page for more information and other resources. Among a variety of resources, you'll find a month-by-month list of featured programs that is updated periodically.

Please forward this email to anyone who you feel might be interested in any of this programming. Also, if you have a need or an idea for a program that you feel would enrich the Christian Contemplative Community, please send me an email!

Hoping that your fall is a deeply meaningful time of awakening, transition and transformation!

Peace, Prayers, and Blessings of Awakening,
                                                                      Mike Smoolca
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