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A Lenten call to Inner Awakening through Contemplative Practice

 Reflections, events and resources

  But as for you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

 Matthew 6:6

This Gospel is a part of each Ash Wednesday liturgy! It is an invitation to the most intimate form of prayer, often seen as the inspiration for Christian Contemplative Prayer practices such as Centering Prayer. This is a wonderful invitation for our Lenten Interior Journey and a promise of the reward of transformation brought about by such practices.

For me, the Christian Contemplative path is one of Surrender, Kenosis (self-emptying) and of putting on the Mind of Christ (raising my level of Consciousness beyond the normal linear/rational Consciousness to levels often characterized by NonDuality.) To see reality and the world from a higher perspective as Jesus did and subsequently live authentically from that perspective is the ultimate gift of the Christian Contemplative path. For me, Lent is a time to deepen my practice and renew my intention to follow the Christian Contemplative path more deliberately. In this month's email I discuss Witnessing Presence as the means of experiencing living from our deepest Self and opening to NonDual Awareness. I also highlight the important Contemplative practices that focus on Surrender and Kenosis which open us up to these higher levels of Consciousness.

In addition, I highlight wonderful opportunities and resources available for Lenten renewal and beyond.
Over the past months I've focused on Dr. David Hawkins Map of Consciousness which is based on the energetic levels associated with different stages of Consciousness. As we discussed in January's and February's emails, the Level of Consciousness characterized by Love (500) is the first level where humans transcend the domination of the linear mind. This seems to be the level at which Nondual Consciousness begins to emerge or, as Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault likes to say, it's when a new Operating System is installed. This month we will explore her insights in Christian Nonduality, looking further at Witnessing Presence and exploring how practices like Centering Prayer which, along with Body Presence and Contemplative Awareness practices we discussed last month, are important to open us up to this transcendence. The insights I share are from the Heart of Centering Prayer: Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice. 
NonDuality, Witnessing and the Contemplative Practices of Centering Prayer and Body Presence

In Chapter I of the Heart of Centering Prayer, Cynthia explores various definitions of NonDuality and lands on one that she uses throughout the rest of her book. Her definition of NonDuality focuses on "the structures of perception", "not about what one sees but how one sees... through the lens of the continuing evolution of consciousness."  According to Cynthia, the "lower" levels of consciousness all work with increasingly sophisticated refinement of the classic binary hardwiring - "perception through differentiation." The brain sets up the perceptual field with an implicit "inside" and "outside" (with one's innermost sense of identity squarely at the center of the inside...) The world swirling around outside is then navigated by breaking it up into finite bits... which are then manipulated through standard binary operations - 'more/less," "better/worse," "good/bad," and so on. In this operating system identity is conferred by what differentiates you from everything else, and to be "self-aware" means to be able to stand outside yourself and reflect back on yourself, or to be able to navigate your way forward or backward along the arrow of time through your memory or imagination... Imagine that there might be a different way of structuring the field of perception... that did not depend on ... inside and outside, subject and object. Instead, one would grasp the entire pattern as a whole... through a perceptual modality ... more immediate and sensate... Then one would indeed experience that signature sense of oneness... You see oneness because you see from oneness... a mind that does not need to separate and exclude in order to perceive reality will encounter far less resistance in the current of life and inflict far less violence upon others. But they are the fruits of this transformation in consciousness, not the essence of it...[which] allows us to focus on the underlying patterns of attention, self-sense, and synchrony as opposed to linearity.   pp 48 - 50 (The Heart of Centering Prayer) 

It's my understanding and experience that our ego and our innate attachment to it's underlying structures keep us firmly in the grips of linear consciousness. It's our willingness to surrender our attachments to these ego structures and an opening to our deeper Witnessing Self, which is required in order to move into the new level of consciousness which has been termed NonDuality. As Cynthia points out, "Awareness of Being" is what witnessing is fundamentally all about... the great spiritual paths insist that without some fluency in inner observation, we will never move beyond the egoic, narrative self with its endless stories that most of us mistake for the seat of our personal selfhood.... Who is the inner witness? Unfortunately, that is the wrong question to ask... In various traditions the witness has been identified with "Real I," "the true self," and "essential being," but all this naming misses the point. Witnessing is, if anything, a verb: an innate capacity of human consciousness to be present to itself as a field of awareness. Though personal, it is not a person - not an other - but a subtle capacity of consciousness itself... Its purpose seems to be to keep track simultaneously of the horizontal axis - our life in time - and the pure divine awareness [vertical axis] that is always intersecting this axis... Some would even say that this conscious interweaving of the horizontal and vertical... dimensions of existence is the specific cosmic task we humans are charged with.  pp 79 - 80 (The Heart of Centering Prayer) 

From my experience and understanding, surrendering our ego attachments is a kenotic journey to letting go of the ego and is not something we do ourselves. It requires spiritual practice in which we hold an intention to surrender and open ourselves to receiving the Divine gift of transformation given through grace. Centering Prayer and Body Presence and Contemplative Awareness practices are wonderful practices of surrender. Cynthia writes, Since... [Centering] prayer works entirely with "intention, not attention," there is no focal point for the attention... Practitioners must learn early how to maintain their attention in (or more often, return it to) that inner, undifferentiated state... As practitioners gradually learn the art of withdrawing energy from all objects of attention, they are at the same time (largely unbeknownst to themselves) developing an inner capacity to distinguish by feel the difference between attention in and attention on. Letting go is first and foremost a gesture... and every opportunity to practice it strengthens the patterning... Sooner or later a tipping point is reached... When a thought arises at the surface of the mind, a countering pull from the depths becomes so strong that letting go is effortless; in fact is it impossible to do otherwise. At about the same time, typically, one also begins to experience this "tug" outside of the prayer period itself, as the events of daily life offer themselves as reminders (rather than distractions from) the deeper yearning of the heart... Centering Prayer['s]... great strength as a practice is that it begins to build (or quicken) within a person a new center of gravity through which the cul-de-sac of most witnessing practices - the mind spying on itself - can be surmounted by a new ability to remain rooted in being ... not reflection... This is a huge milestone... All that now remains is to transpose the usual seat of one's identity from the narrative self to this native ground of witnessing presence. pp 87 - 90 (The Heart of Centering Prayer) 

Furthermore Cynthia talks about Welcoming Prayer, as an example Body Presence and Contemplative Awareness practice. The instructions are very clear that, when knocked off course by an emotional or physical upset, you immediately become present to the upset as physical sensation in your body. There are no stories and commentaries... only stay present to it... The attention shifts lower in the body and is carried by sensation, the true seat of inner witnessing. In the second step - welcoming - you unconditionally accept the reality of this sensation sharing the Now with you... In this alignment - grounded in sensation, unconditionally present to the energetic disturbance in your field of consciousness - you have "backed" into witnessing consciousness in a full and authentic way. "You," as pure consciousness have trumped "you" as the victim of any story or situation. And in this pure witnessing position, connected to sensation but separated from story, the inner shift can be extremely powerful... As your being increases, your receptivity to higher meaning increases..."  pp 90 - 92 (The Heart of Centering Prayer) 

It is with these Contemplative Practices that the Witness develops as the realization of your True Self. Through these practices we open up to receive the gift of NonDual awareness which breaks through Linear Consciousness. Next month I intend to enhance the picture with a focus on Prayer of the Heart and Heart-centered awareness as a gateway to NonDual Consciousness.
To learn and experience more, the upcoming Centering Prayer and BioSpiritual Focusing programs are available to you:
March 25, 2023: Centering Prayer Introductory Workshop with Mike Smoolca, Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center, 303 Tunxis Road West Hartford, CT 06107  (This half-day workshop is offered in a hybrid format).
Six Continuing Sessions of the Introduction to the Centering Prayer Practice

Online over Zoom

Wednesday evenings
April 12, 19 and 26, 2023

6:30 pm-8:30pm

Contemplative Outreach of Connecticut is offering this series of three Zoom sessions to those who have recently completed an complete Introduction of Centering Prayer Workshop and especially to those are are being formed as Presenters of Centering Prayer.

In these sessions, Fr. Thomas Keating offers an explanation of Centering Prayer which serves to support an emerging daily practice of Centering Prayer.

The Continuing Sessions provide support and conceptual background as well as the opportunity to share the initial Centering Prayer experience with others who have made a similar commitment.

The topics covered in the six sessions are as follows:

Session 1 – Prayer in Secret, The Discipline of Centering Prayer,
Session 2 – What Centering Prayer Is Not and What It Is, The Basic Principles of Centering Prayer,
Session 3 – The Method of Centering Prayer Part I, The Method of Centering Prayer Part II.
August 24-29, 2023: 5-Day Guided BioSpiritual Focusing Retreat with BioSpiritual Focusing Leadership Team, Genesis Spiritual Life Center, 53 Mill Street, Westfield, MA 01085
Rediscovering the Lost Body Connection
An 8-week Book Study & Practicum 
Our Spring Book Study and Practicum is full!

We are accepting names of people interested in a future eight-week in-depth study and practicum, exploring the practice of BioSpiritual Focusing, based on the book written by Fr. Peter A. Campbell, Ph.D. and Fr. Edwin M. McMahon, Ph.D, entitled, Rediscovering the Lost Body-Connection Within Christian SpiritualityThis study will highlight key topics of specific chapters, include group discussion on these topics and chapters, and include focusing sessions with experienced companions. Over the course of this study, participants will become more aware of the sacred story they carry in your own body and the movement of grace in their life.

For more information and to leave your interest in being part of a future group please visit:

Prerequisite: Basic familiarity with BioSpiritual Focusing is necessary, BioSpiritual Focusing: Day of Presence or Longer Retreat is recommended.

You will also need to purchase Rediscovering the Lost Body-Connection Within Christian Spirituality
Here is a full list of featured Christian Contemplative programs for the rest of this Winter and into Spring
March 2023:
Wednesday evenings March 1,15, 22, 29 April 5, 12, 19, 26, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time: Rediscovering the Lost Body Connection – An 8-week Book Study & Practicum with Donna O'Connor and Mike Smoolca, Online over Zoom. (Group is at capacity) Please express your interest in participating in a future group here!

March 18, 2023: The Mystical Experience of Everyday Living with Sophfronia Scott, M.F.A., Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center, 303 Tunxis Road West Hartford, CT 06107

March 25, 2023: Centering Prayer Introductory Workshop with Mike Smoolca or Frank Pendola, Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center, 303 Tunxis Road West Hartford, CT 06107

April 2023:
April 12,19 and 26 2023 Six Continuing Sessions of the Introduction to the Centering Prayer Practice over Zoom facilitated by Tricia Knight-Bellisle and Frank Pendola 

April 15, 2023: Fear, Freedom, and Levels of the Mind: Cultivating Interior Freedom in Fierce Times with Mark Kutolowski, Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center, 303 Tunxis Road West Hartford, CT 06107 

May 2023:
May 6, 2023: Emotional Sobriety through Contemplative Practice with Jim McElroy, Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center, 303 Tunxis Road West Hartford, CT 06107

June 2023:
June 10, 2023: The Ecstasy of God with Fr. Michael K. Holleran, 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.
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 and 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 Spring 2023 Quarterly meeting of the North-Central CT ITMS Chapter will be on Saturday, March 18, 2023 in conjunction with the Christian Contemplative Experience at Holy Family

The topic is: The Mystical Experience of Everyday Living presented by Sophfronia Scott, M.F.A

Mysticism is often viewed as the privileged experience of a few chosen, holy individuals. But German Jesuit, Karl Rahner, wrote about "everyday mysticism,” and Carmelite Sister Ruth Burrows described the mystical life simply as “God touching the depths of our being.” God is closer than we think--to all of us. We’ll explore everyday mysticism as life events filled with God's unmistakable presence. Sharing Thomas Merton’s experiences and her own, Sophfronia will help attendees notice, identify, and appreciate mystical encounters in their everyday lives.
Sophfronia Scott, M.F.A.
Sophfronia Scott, M.F.A., is director of Alma College’s Master’s program in Creative Writing and holds degrees from Harvard and the Vermont College of Fine Arts. A novelist, essayist, and contemplative thinker, her books include the newly-released The Seeker and the Monk: Everyday Conversations with Thomas Merton, as well as All I Need to Get By, Unforgivable Love, Love's Long Line, and This Child of Faith. Her work has appeared in Time, People and O, The Oprah Magazine.
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.

The CT Chapter is holding another Centering Prayer Presenter Training class over the four days of May 26, 27 and June 2, 3, 2023. This class is currently full.

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:

If you are a Prayer Group facilitator and want to connect to other Prayer Group facilitators on a quarterly basis over Zoom, please contact Patricia Wildes, who leads the CO-CT Prayer Group facilitator support team! The winter Quarterly Zoom meeting was held on January 29, 2023.
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:
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 including suffering from the extreme weather events that so many have recently experienced.

May our witness to the loss of all life and destruction prompt us to renounce violence and hatred and bring us to 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 forces behind it.

May we also work for greater understanding of one another and a transcendence of the polarization in our own Country that is itself turning more violent.
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!

Blessing and Prayers for a meaningful and enriching Lenten Journey,
                                                                                          Mike Smoolca
Copyright © 2023 In Via Lumen LLC, All rights reserved.

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