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Alumni Newsletter — May 2017

Alumni Newsletter
May 2017

A Note from the Director

What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action. —Meister Eckhart

This line reflects the mission of the Living School. We are encouraging the transformation of human consciousness. This transformation takes hold through a rhythm of life which leads to action through contemplative solidarity.

Living School students are in the process of developing a “Rhythm of Life” that includes three components: contemplative prayer/meditation, study, and community. Contemplative prayer is a commitment to a daily practice (such as centering prayer, chant, breath work, movement, art, or another form of meditation) that draws a person into an ever-deepening awakening to union with Divine Love. Contemplative study is a commitment to studying one or more teachers whose work embodies the mystical way and gives trustworthy, solid guidance toward awakening. Contemplative community is a commitment to one or more people that share the student’s desire to be on a path of spiritual awakening. Community serves to energize and encourage one another and inhabit spiritual oneness through mirroring and supporting each other.

Through prayer, study, and community we are drawn toward solidarity, responding to suffering with tenderhearted presence. We do not seek spiritual awareness to help us escape our own pain but to open ourselves to the pain of the world and live in solidarity with it through lament, presence, service, and other acts of justice and compassion.

May we all plant the seeds of love and service in the soil of contemplation so that we may reap a harvest of healing!

Peace and Every Good,

Tom Eberle
Director of the Living School

Faculty Reflection — Cynthia Bourgeault

Suffering Hope: A nondual perspective on contemplative engagement

As we consider all the changes on our planet, questions emerge for Living School alumni and students: What do these changes mean and how do we come to terms with a future that suddenly feels much darker and more precarious? What is the right stance of contemplative engagement in which our hope is neither engulfed by despair nor “glosses over” our human and planetary suffering?

I’d like to suggest that we begin by examining the yardstick with which we often measure change. . . . Our perspective has grown increasingly myopic, disconnected from the greater (and slower) story of evolution in which we participate.

Teilhard de Chardin, however, reminds us that “deep hope flows over deep time.”

I want to make clear that I do not see this “deep hope” as an excuse to relax our vigilance in stewardship for the planet. . . . For sure, we need to fall on our knees every morning and pray for guidance. . . . But our real task at this evolutionary cusp is to learn how to tenderly keep our hearts open with active concern for the suffering on our planet, while not losing sight of the vision of our common humanity that is indeed “groaning and travailing” to be born.

(Click here to read Cynthia’s full reflection.)

Cynthia Bourgeault's signature

Cynthia Bourgeault

Alumni Director Reflection

The Woman Who Lost Her Music

I saw her immediately as I entered a restaurant. She was leaning over several books which held musical notations, utterly absorbed in her work. . . .

“Are you an organist or choir director?” I asked. She laughed.

“Neither.” And then she unraveled this amazing story.

“I come from a long line of musicians from England—church musicians or members of really good orchestras. . . . I could play piano before I could talk. . . .

“Then when I was twenty-five, doctors in Boston found a tumor pressing on the part of my brain where the music lived. The tumor was operable, but when I woke up the music was gone. . . . So I had to rebuild those neural pathways.”

She went on to tell of two other life-changing, brain-altering conditions that affected her musical ability. Each time she began again to develop musical skill and memory as a beginner would. (Click here to read the full story.)

I listened and loved her, this woman who would not live without music. It seems to me this is what faith is: hanging tenaciously to what gives life to our spirit, practicing it even when we don’t fully understand, simply because we cannot imagine being without it.

Carolyn Metzler
Alumni Director

Alumni Spotlight

Teresa Pasquale Mateus (‘15)

Image of Teresa Pasquale Mateus, Living School Alumna, Class of 2015 With increasing urgency over the last ten years, exploring the contemplative path, I have increased questions about the absence of people of color (POC) in contemplative communities, conversations, and teachings. . . .

I founded The Mystic Soul Project nonprofit along with fellow POC contemplatives Jade Perry and Ra Mendoza to center the voices, wisdom, and identities of POC at the intersections of contemplation, action, and healing. . . .

The project began with a retreat in March with eleven POC leaders of faith and justice and will continue with our inaugural conference in January 2018 in Chicago.

For more information (sign up for our newsletter for updates as they come) visit mysticsoulproject.com.

(Read Teresa’s full reflection here.)

Alumni Retreats Update

The May Alumni Retreat is a sweet memory in the hearts and minds of our six participants. Mark Lee Robinson shared a contemplative approach to conflict. Tonita Gonzales, a current Living School student, is a traditional Mezo-American healer and offered a temazcal—a traditional Mexican sweat lodge—at her home in Albuquerque. Cliff Berrien, our brother in CAC Customer Service, led us in an evening of drumming and chanting. I reflected on wilderness spirituality, showing images of a beautiful canyon where I spend three weeks in solitude every fall. We walked, met in sacred circle, and spent time resting, reading, conversing, and exploring contemplative visual expression.

The June 6-8 retreat is still on! Only six people have registered so far. We need about fifteen registrants to make ends meet; however, we are committed to holding the retreat regardless of the level of participation. I am very hopeful more will take advantage of this powerful time together. Please consider joining us to offer and receive the wisdom and love of your brothers and sisters! Come and be strengthened, encouraged, grounded, and cherished. After registering, consider leading a contemplative practice during the retreat (watch your registration confirmation email for more information).

I hope to see some of you soon!

Carolyn Metzler's Signature

Carolyn Metzler
Alumni Director

Alumni Newsletter — February 2017

Alumni Newsletter
February 2017

A Note from the Staff

At CAC’s monthly staff meeting, we’ve instituted an agenda item where one staff member introduces themselves. When it was my turn to share, I spoke about my role as one of tending the container of transformation that is the Living School. I came to the Living School with six years of experience as registrar for another institution that nurtures spiritual transformation. There I learned that loving and prayerful attention to details can create a structure for deep spiritual exploration; this encourages vulnerability, allowing our real self to peek out from its hiding place.

In this newsletter you will find support and inspiration for your continued spiritual exploration and openness to vulnerability. Risking being seen opens the door to solidarity with the vulnerable. Richard offers a reflection on what draws students to the Living School. Carolyn Metzler gives an update on the alumni retreats. We feature Ellen Haroutunian in our alumni spotlight. And finally, some news from the Living School and its parent organization, the Center for Action and Contemplation.

Gigi Ross, Administrative Coordinator for Education

Gigi Ross, Administrative Coordinator for Education

Faculty Reflection — Richard Rohr

It is exciting and affirming that so many people are seeking something—usually at considerable cost to themselves—that might seem esoteric, optional, or dangerous to some. As so many theology schools, seminaries, and retreat houses have been closing in the last decades, we are often asking ourselves “Why?” Why do they want to come here? Why would they trust us?

The only answer we can come up with is that people go where the Spirit chases them! You did not choose us, we did not imagine you; we have both been chased into one another’s arms. It is anything but a bother.

(Click here to read Richard’s full reflection.)

Richard Rohr Signature

Alumni Spotlight

Ellen Haroutunian (’16) reflects on her experience at Standing Rock Reservation in Cannonball, North Dakota.

I had planned to go to Standing Rock long before the soul crushing results of the election. Afterward, the choice to divest oneself of comfort and safety, to stand with the marginalized and affirm their dignity, seemed more important than ever. That has always been the Christ path, but perhaps we are now going to be awakened to it with more urgency. But no matter the outcome of political machinations and the strivings of empire, there is a quiet stream of loving resistance that values the true riches of the Kingdom of God—the poor, the vulnerable, the oppressed, the marginalized. It is the way that leads to Life. . . .

 “Water is life!” the Lakota elders shouted, and the crowd called back, “Water is life!” Then “Water is life” was called out over and over in multiple languages, including many Native American languages, Ukrainian, Dutch, Farsi, and even Hebrew. Water is life, and all of what is happening in this far, cold corner of the world is so much bigger than any religion, government, or institution can manage or legislate. The river is flowing and growing, down to the sea, we sang. There’s a larger flow that carries us all onward.

Read Ellen’s full reflection here. Also of interest is Mark Longhurst’s (’15) interview with Teresa Pasquale Mateus (’15) on her trip to Standing Rock.

See additional Alumni Spotlights at https://cac.org/category/alumni-spotlight/. We welcome your news and reflections (500 words or fewer)! Email us at [email protected].


Alumni Retreats Update

A Trinity of Gatherings!

As I write, we are three days away from welcoming the first twenty-nine hardy souls to the Bosque Center for the first gathering of Living School alumni in contemplative retreat together. They come from all over the United States and Canada for three full days of deepening community, for exploring contemplative practices together, worship, and open times of rest. Seven alumni will be facilitating contemplative practices that have been meaningful to them. These practices include:

  • Exploring the volcanoes above the city of Albuquerque (the only place in the world  where the words “cute little volcanoes” can be used in the same sentence!);
  • Contemplative photography;
  • Deepening meditation and mindfulness;
  • Starting contemplative groups in your area;
  • Discerning the Holy through the creatures that share our lives;
  • Exploring the mindfulness practices of Bernard Lonergan;
  • Opening ourselves to our own contemplative creativity through creating art pieces.

The beautiful Bosque Center is ready and eager to receive them. By the time you read this, it will all be history.

But despair not! There are two other opportunities to participate in similar gatherings: May 1-3, 2017, and June 6-8, 2017. These retreats are three full days, so plan to travel on the days before and after. You will be receiving an invitation soon with more information and registration for both retreats. After registering you will have the opportunity to submit an application to offer a contemplative practice that has been meaningful to you.

These are all pilot programs, from which we expect to learn much about how to continue best supporting you post-Living School. Please consider coming! Find yourself in community again for mutual support and joy-making. And please consider sharing some of the deep wisdom you have accumulated in the course of your journey.

In peace,

Carolyn Metzler Signature

Carolyn Metzler

Alumni Newsletter – August 2016

Alumni Newsletter
August 2016

A Note from the Staff

“There is a line of poetry, a sentence in a fable, a word in an essay, by which my existence is justified; find that line, and immortality is assured.” —Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night

For the last twenty years or so, I’ve carried with me a small vade mecum. This constant companion—literally a “go with me”—is a collection of meaningful ideas and thoughts that I’ve come across. Before I read the above quote from Manguel, I had been unwittingly acting on the impulse, searching and remembering in a little black notebook. I harbor a hope that I will never find that elusive, redemptive line of poetry or word in an essay because the discovery of yet another line or word is always a taste of immortality, just enough to keep me looking.

I have the privilege of being the CAC’s librarian and specifically working in the Living School to help all of you, both current and former students, discover or remember bits of a line that may help you on your way. As alumni, you have been honored with an abundance of knowledge, whether or not you remember all of it (and that’s certainly not the point). But, if Manguel is right, then a line or word here and there is enough.

I hope you’ll find a few words in this newsletter to carry with you–in your inbox, on paper, or simply in your heart. Read on for reflections from Cynthia Bourgeault, Carolyn Metzler (on the Alumni Retreat), and alumni Cleve McIntosh.

Lee Staman, Systems Librarian signature

Lee Staman, Systems Librarian

Faculty Reflection – Cynthia Bourgeault

Think Globally—Act Nonlocally!

As you receive this in your email box, the Living School will shortly be gathering for its fourth annual Symposium (can you believe?) and to honor and congratulate our second class of “sendees.” Our ranks of alumni have just doubled, and we on the core faculty and staff offer those of you in the 2016 cohort our heartfelt congratulations and gratitude.

On momentous occasions like this, there is often a bittersweet component to the mix. Along with a justly felt pride and elation, there can also be a deep feeling of grief for what seems to be the end of our common life together. Sometimes this underlying separation anxiety can express itself in a slightly-too-frantic effort to nail down regular ongoing gatherings and projects to keep us all in touch. “When will we see each other again?” is always the shadow side of “consummatum est. . . .”

Meanwhile, out in our restless and volatile wider world . . . things seem to be playing out according to deeper, more archetypal forces than we can rationally understand, let alone manage. . . . In a terrifying way, our planet seems to be spinning out of control.

The concept of spiritual generativity . . . reminds us that the real channels of exchange in this universe, the greater wisdom holding and shaping the course of this world, operate on the imaginal plane, not just the physical one. There are deep, invisible ley lines crisscrossing space/time through which flow the energies of compassion, wisdom, intention, prayer, and hope. . . . (Click here to read Cynthia’s full reflection.)

Cynthia Bourgeault signature

Cynthia Bourgeault

Alumni Retreat

Dear friends,

Forgive me if I think of you all as the “grandparents” of the Living School! Your work, feedback, suggestions, donations, and prayers have made possible the extraordinary gathering which the Living School now is. I am so grateful for each and every one of you and will miss the Pancakers at the upcoming Symposium.

I must admit you astonished me with your response to my “Save the Date: Alumni Retreat” email (sent a few weeks ago; if you didn’t receive it, let me know!). O me of little faith! We’ve already had almost 90 responses. Alumni in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand want to arrange retreats in their regions. More on that as it develops. If anyone in Canada, Central and South America, Europe, or Africa would like to organize something in your area, let me know and I will support your effort!

Here’s the latest regarding the New Mexico retreat: We will take the first 50 people who have signed up for the February 6-8, 2017, retreat in Albuquerque. Thirty-eight people can stay at the Bosque Center, and others can join us for the day program. Participants should plan to arrive in Albuquerque on Sunday, February 5, and depart Thursday, February 9. I will share more details-including who the first 50 are!-and reach out to those who expressed interest in leading a contemplative practice by early September.

I have also arranged two other retreat times with the Bosque Center: May 1-3 and June 6-8, 2017. I anticipate a similar format for each retreat: alumni leading lesser-known contemplative practices. I will shortly be sending out a way of choosing which retreat draws you.

If you haven’t yet filled out the retreat survey, please do so before the end of August by clicking here. If you are interested in one of the later retreats, indicate the dates in the comments area.

Thank you for your support, ideas, offerings, and prayers. We really are creating the map even as we walk it. Let our hearts be broken open for larger life and for deeper communion.

With love,


Carolyn Metzler, Spiritual Life Coordinator

Alumni Spotlight

Cleve McIntosh is living action and contemplation in his medical practice in South Africa. For his integration project, Cleve grew a plant whose active ingredient prevents malaria; he then processed the plant to make capsules to distribute. He is now cultivating 5,000 more plants to begin the next round of producing the medicine.

Cleve also incorporates mindfulness into his practice. He reports: “Today I had an elderly lady whose life has been paralysed by severe anxiety, to the point that she looks like she has Parkinsons (but does not). So I offered to teach her a ‘2 minute breathing exercise to manage her stress better.’ She reluctantly agreed. And she loved it. She asked for another 2 minutes, and then after that still didn’t want to open her eyes. Her son and husband noticed that her leg, which usually has a tremor, stopped shaking completely while she was meditating. It felt like a sacred moment, as they stared on speechless while their usually anxious mother and husband was a picture of calm. Very exciting! I feel very encouraged.”

See additional Alumni Spotlights at https://cac.org/category/alumni-spotlight/. We welcome your news and reflections! Email us at [email protected].

Andrej Rublev's famous icon showing the three Angels hosted by Abraham at Mamre. Psalm 3*8

(Between Maccabees 4 and Thessalonians)
by Dale Lange
Holy Creator, Word, and Spirit,
The One.
In the darkest of nights,
You tame the hardest of hearts
and quell unstoppable tears . . .
With the day’s bright light,
You shower even closed eyes
With the softest light to imagine
Your Majesty.
While I have not uncovered Your Countenance
Yet in the parting of the veil of death
For only a moment in a dream, I heard
You, the Word,
the Spirit,
Dance to the Tambourine,
the cymbals,
the lyre,
A dance of Joy,
a dance of Oneness
a dance of LOVE As Creator your love permeates all existence;
The hard and soft: molecules, rocks, plants, animals,
planets, stars, black holes, the unknowns of the universe.
And humanity. As Alpha, before the Beginning,
You, the Word spoke Your assurances of love,
Undertook Your actions of redemption
As emanating from the Creator;
As Omega Christ,
You are the fire of the unending Universe. As Spirit, You transform and translate love
From Creator and Word through Your hand
Pointing to the Universal, including ALL.Preceding the close of death’s veil,
The hand of Spirit, Pointed my direction,
My feet joined the Dance of Oneness
To the rhythms of the tambourine, cymbals, and lyre
In Joy and LOVE.
Notes: Maccabees is the last book of the Apocrypha, just prior to the beginning of the New Testament. Marcus Borg assumes Thessalonians to be the first book of the New Testament (see Evolution of the Word: The New Testament in the Order the Books Were Written). The image above is Andrej Rublev’s famous icon showing the three Angels hosted by Abraham at Mamre.

Alumni Newsletter – May 2016

Alumni Newsletter
May 2016

A Note from Paul Swanson

I worry about a lot of things, but I don’t worry about achievements. I worry primarily about whether there are nightclubs in Heaven. —Tom Waits

This line by the bard of back alleys could have come from the lips of a cheeky Living School alum, for alumni recognize the crowning achievement of completing the Living School is simply taking another step deeper into the Mystery, which is at once ineffable and endlessly knowable and therefore doesn’t translate easily onto a LinkedIn profile. Mix this bottomless sense of Divine intimacy with seeking to serve the world through prophetic, compassionate action, and we get . . . you.

We’ve combed over your survey responses for ways we can empower students to have greater impact in their communities. Based on your feedback we have made some shifts in the curriculum. The most exciting news is that we are beginning to make Core Faculty teachings available in a downloadable audio format for Living School students and alumni. (Hold the phones! Before asking how you too can get a copy of these recordings, know that we will contact you once the recordings are ready for you to access.)

Keep reading this email for additional news about the Living School and the CAC and reflections from Carolyn Metzler, poetry by Gisele Njeim, and a spotlight on Helen Fitzgerald. Thanks for all you do in the world! If our paths don’t cross again on this side of the veil, let’s plan to meet in the back booth of one of those nightclubs in Heaven.

Steady on, compadres.

Paul Swanson signature
Paul Swanson, Director of Curriculum

Faculty Reflection – Carolyn Metzler


And where we are is where we live, And where we serve is where we love, And where we die is where we surrender To the deepest instinct that lifts our uncertain wings to the prevailing winds those which, without fail bring us home.

Dear Sendees of the Living School,

The Sandhill Cranes have flown north now; few remain in the area. . . . But each year they come back to this place, to this river, to this harvested cornfield, the singular particularity of memory guiding them like a homing beacon. I think of you all also, sent out alone but in community to the far reaches of the planet where you do what you do to love the world. Living School faculty and staff have been in exciting conversation about how to best support alumni, given our limited resources and given that we are largely about empowering alumni to create educational and supportive community among yourselves. . . . Click here to continue reading Carolyn’s letter.


News from the Living School

New Venue for Intensives
Beginning in 2017, we will be holding intensives at the Bosque Center, a retreat nestled in the bosque-cottonwood forest-along the Rio Grande in northwest Albuquerque. We hope this beautiful, peaceful setting will allow students to more fully enter the liminal space of Living School intensives. If you visit Albuquerque, you might enjoy spending a few days in this quiet place.

August Symposium
Mary Evelyn Tucker will join Richard, Cynthia, and Jim for this year’s Symposium, August 23-26, 2016, at Hotel Albuquerque. Tucker’s talks will center on the film Journey of the Universe, a project produced in collaboration with evolutionary philosopher Brian Swimme. Jack Jezreel, president and founder of JustFaith Ministries, will speak at the Sending Ceremony, and Living School alumna Alana Levandoski will give a concert.

Second-year Intensives
In 2017, the Living School will hold two optional intensive retreats as an experimental pilot for those in the second year of the program. In California, Jim will focus on living the mystical experience in the everyday, February 17-19. Cynthia will lead a hands-on immersion in Christian contemplative “Wisdom practices” at Glastonbury Abbey in Massachusetts, April 24-28. This is one of the curriculum changes Paul referred to, based on feedback from alumni and students. Thanks for helping us improve the program!

Living School on Facebook
The Living School Community group on Facebook is a vibrant, sacred space for sharing everything from personal news to resources to support your continued learning and practice (like this video on Sacred Texts featuring our dear Cynthia). If you haven’t yet joined and would like to participate, follow this link and click the green +Join button (note it may take a few days for us to process your request).

The public Living School Facebook page has gone dormant, but you can still find and share posts. “Like” the Center for Action and Contemplation to receive Richard’s meditations and CAC news.

We Want to Hear From You!

Please let us know how this newsletter might support you as you live the Living School in your everyday life. Send your comments and suggestions to [email protected].

Alumni Newsletter – February 2016

Alumni Newsletter
February 2016

A Note from the Director

Just a few short months ago we–the first cohort of the Living School program–were given “this little piece of paper” at our sending ceremony, affirming we had spent two years integrating the wisdom of the Perennial Tradition within the community of the Living School for Action and Contemplation. The faculty and staff hope the time spent within the formal setting of the Living School has “fallen on rich soil and will bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold” (Matthew 13:8) for you, your family, and those whom you are called to serve.

Now that you have been sent into the University of the Great Unknowing, we want you to know that you are not alone. We hold you in our thoughts and prayers, and we also seek to actively support your continued journey of bringing your unique embodiment of Spirit into a suffering world.

The quarterly alumni newsletter is one way we can stay in touch and encourage each other. In this inaugural issue, Fr. Richard shares a personal reflection with you and Carolyn offers an invitation to submit your own news for our next newsletter. Learn about opportunities to keep learning and growing, as well as connecting with some of the alumni in your cohort. I also encourage you to join the active conversation in our private Living School Facebook group. (If you haven’t yet become a member, log into Facebook and click here; then select +Join. Please note it may take a few days for your request to be approved.)

Peace and Every Good,
Tom Eberle's Signature

Dr. Tom Eberle
2015 Cohort and CAC’s Director of Education

Faculty Reflection – Richard Rohr

Dear Alumnus or Alumna,

This is my first opportunity to address you as alumni of the Living School, and I am honored to do so. I am grateful that you trusted and stayed with the sometimes grueling process and curriculum of the two-year program. We–the faculty and staff–have learned so much from you, as I hope you have also, alongside us.

It surely has been a wonderful experiment in teaching a contemplative way of knowing and living. That is the heart of the matter for us, and it underlies our approach to Scripture, the Big Tradition, and our own inner experience. . . . Click here to continue reading Fr. Richard’s letter.



You may also be interested in Romal Tune’s interview with Fr. Richard on White Privilege. Click here to read the article at Sojo.net.

An Invitation to Share

Dear “Sendees” in the world,

It’s been almost six months since you each walked onto the stage at the Tamaya and had a stole draped over your shoulder sending you back out to be who you are in service to Love in your part of the globe. We want to hear from you about how you are engaging in the contemplative work of loving passionately. Tell us what’s going on in your life and vocation! How have the last two years been a support or a challenge in your interactions?

In future editions of this newsletter we would like to help you tell your story. You might write a brief reflection (under 500 words), record an audio or video segment (under 10 minutes), or send us pictures. We’ll select a handful of stories each quarter to share on CAC’s website, on the Living School Facebook page, and in the newsletter. Click here to take a peek at a few examples and to learn more about how to make submissions. If you would like to offer your story for consideration in the May newsletter, please send your contribution to [email protected] by April 25.

We would also like to hear more about what might be helpful to you in a newsletter. We don’t envision the traditional “Rah rah, Send money” kind of publication, but something really engaging. Please help us shape that. And as you continue to reflect on your Living School experience, if you think there is something that would be helpful for us to know, please feel free to send that also to [email protected]

Please also know that I’m available for conversation and spiritual direction. I welcome opportunities to listen and to reflect with you upon how God is present in your life.

You continue to be part of our Living School family, wherever you may be.

In peace,

The Rev. Carolyn W. Metzler
Spiritual Life Coordinator, Living School
505-242-9588, Ext. 124, [email protected]

We Want to Heart from You!

Please let us know how this newsletter might support you as you live the Living School in your everyday life. Send your comments and suggestions to [email protected].


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