AGM Letters from TCS President and Cynthia Bourgeault

President’s Report

The Contemplative Society AGM, February 22, 2014

When I was thinking about presenting the President’s Report to this year’s AGM the theme that kept coming to me was gratitude. There is so much that I am grateful for and thought beneficial to share. 

I am grateful to TCS Board for their willingness to be fully involved in the life and direction of this Society. The members of the Board put in many hours of volunteer work supporting various TCS projects, retreats, and on-going committee work. The Board is flexible and willing to be responsive as the need arises. I am especially grateful for the steady spiritual practice of silence and surrender which undergirds the work we do and how we relate with one another. We will miss Dorothy Chuhran’s cheerful presence as she retires from the Board and from her faithful role as Secretary. We are delighted to welcome Miranda Harvey and Dorothy Rich to the Board.

I am also grateful to Eileen, TCS Administrator who beautifully holds the Society together by attending to endless details: maintaining financial records, answering the phone and emails, up-dating TCS Facebook page and website, and the multiple other jobs Eileen has to juggle. In addition she balances a fairly unpredictable work schedule depending on the timing of scheduled retreats, workshops, and quiet days.

I also appreciate the local membership and the many volunteers who support TCS. I am  especially mindful of the many hours put into the CD ministry particularly editing.

I too am aware of the legacy we have inherited. The Society began 16 years ago and I am deeply grateful to the founding directors and particularly Cynthia Bourgeault who had the vision for this ministry and spent much time and consideration in bringing the Society together in 1998. I also give thanks for Anne Henderson, who is with us here at the AGM today, and was one of the early presidents of the Society, who always with good humour, persevered even through some very challenging years. I respect her on-going commitment and support of the Society.

I am grateful to the elders among us who have been committed to regular meditative practice and the dedication to a life of spiritual transformation and to those who have been long-time members of the Society and are now emerging as leaders within this community. I was particularly encouraged by the 2 peer led retreats held this Fall and the willingness of participants to share in leading sits, chanting, and lectio. There is a richness we experience when these gifts are shared amongst us.

My deepest gratitude is to the One who guides, sustains, and nurtures us in this spiritual journey toward wholeness. I feel it is a privilege to work with those who recognize that we move forward not by our own efforts but by our reliance upon the guidance of the Divine who resides in us all.

Meditation Group at UVic

Meditation Group at UVic

Tomorrow (Feb 23) Board members, Joyalle and Henri will be leading an Introduction to Centering Prayer workshop at the University of Victoria. Henry continues to encourage students at UVic in their contemplative practices through his work with the United Church chaplaincy. And on June 13-15, Christopher and I will be facilitating a weekend meditation retreat at the Swanwick Centre in Metchosin. Henri and I will also be hosting a Lenten Quiet Day on April 5 (9:30-1) at UVic. And we especially look forward to having Cynthia with us in September to a now fully booked Wisdom School. On Sept. 25 at 7 PM she will be delivering a public talk at St. Aidan’s United Church.

Submitted by Heather Page

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February 19, 2014

Dear Contemplative Friends,

Greetings from the rooftop of the world! I write to you this morning, from Thimpu, Bhutan, where I am finishing up a ten-day, “once in a lifetime” pilgrimage as part of a small delegation of Christian contemplatives invited here by the monastic body of Bhutan for shared practice and dialogue. It has been a rich immersion in an alternative vision of human meaning and dignity, vested in the vision of spiritual evolution as the only human pathway compatible with ultimate happiness, and with the ultimate survival of the planet.

Bhutan

Photo by Cynthia Bourgeault

 Repeatedly—through shared dialogue and shared practice—we have received affirmation from these Buddhist monastic adepts (architects of the celebrated concept of “Gross National Happiness”) that our contemplative work is on the right track. Again and again the note has been sounded that “taming the mind”—i.e., being able to move beyond the compulsive ego-drama and materialism that drive our Western culture—is the key to building a sustainable and compassionate world. The message coming to us from a rich chorus of lamas, meditation masters, and intellectual visionaries is “Keep doing what you’re doing! Teach more people to seek for happiness in the values opened up through contemplative living.” I come home from this trip both affirmed in the work we have been doing and inspired to embrace it with even more seriousness of purpose.

Back here in North America, it has been a very good building year, both for The Contemplative Society and for a growing North American contemplative network. Thanks to a generous grant from the Vermont-based Narthex Foundation, the Contemplative Society has been able to strengthen still farther its already stellar role as keeper of the website and of my engagement calendar. People from all over the world regularly frequent the website and Facebook page for timely postings, links, video clips, blog posts from myself and others, and a variety of other imaginative and attractively packaged resources to help nurture a contemplative presence worldwide. As always each year, one of my most pleasurable duties in this letter is to gratefully commend the extraordinary work of Eileen deVerteuil (TCS Administrator) in allowing my turning world to remain well anchored at the center!

Speaking of sturdy anchors, I have also been overjoyed to once again be able to work closely with Heather Page (TCS President) and feel her wise, gracious presence guiding every step as The Contemplative Society continues to grow and mature. It has been a reunion and a blessing beyond measure.

My own work in the past year has been blessed by no big writing projects. With the Trinity book out of the way, I am deliberately leaving the decks clear for the time being, to bring more attention to the inner work and a deeper attunement to the question of “what’s next?” Thanks again to the steadfast support of The Contemplative Society, I have been able this year to slough off a good number of “bread and butter jobs”—weekend conferences and retreats at large institutions—in order to concentrate on more sustained work with advanced students and deeper immersion retreats. The Wisdom School network is shaping up nicely, with a remarkable group of regional coordinators beginning to emerge, to ensure continuity and variety in what is becoming a Wisdom formation path. New teachers are beginning to emerge within this network, fully formed and eager to spread the work. And as this happens, I am beginning at long last to see “white space” opening up on my calendar for deeper personal retreat and solitude. The long-delayed hermit vocation is at last beginning to re-emerge!!! After my return from Bhutan and a round of early March teaching, I look forward to nearly three weeks of Lenten solitude on Eagle Island, where I will at last have time to begin to listen more deeply to wherever it is that the Spirit is leading. I am deeply grateful.

And so, dear friends, while I will not be with you “in the flesh” at your meeting on Saturday, know that we are knit together in a widening and deepening network of the heart which is fast turning into a worldwide “morphogenetic field.” From the rooftop of the world, the monastic Sangha of Bhutan sends you greetings and commendations as we walk together toward the reclamation of values essential to human purpose and dignity, and the life of our planet. This is important work. Let us embrace it once again with renewed commitment and hopefulness.

In one heart and spirit,

Cynthia

 

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