Thomas J. Bushlack
Ph.D. in Theology and Ethics
About the Speaker
Thomas J. Bushlack holds a Ph.D. in Theology and Ethics from the University of Notre Dame, and serves as Regional Director of Mission Integration with SSM Health, a faith-based healthcare provider located in four states with over 40,000 employees. Tom works with employees to improve alignment with corporate mission, ethics, and values. He also helps physicians, healthcare providers, and executives deepen mindfulness and meditation practices to reduce stress, prevent burnout, and improve decision-making skills.
In his public speaking, consulting, and coaching programs he enjoys helping leaders in business, healthcare, non-profits, and education lead from their center of wisdom and purpose.
Tom spent ten years as a university professor of Theology and Ethics. He was a founding co-director of the Project for Mindfulness & Contemplation at the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN). He served as co-director of the Ashley-O’Rourke Center for Health Ministry Leadership at the Aquinas Institute of Theology (St. Louis, MO). Tom also created the Centering for Wisdom™ assessment (CWA). This tool helps leaders identify triggers that can lead to poor decision-making. Feedback from the CWA is used to teach leaders how to remain centered, focused, and aligned with a higher purpose.
Tom also serves as a Trustee for the Trust for the Meditation Process. He is a commissioned presenter of Centering Prayer through Contemplative Outreach, Ltd., and is an Oblate of St. John’s Abbey. He is currently pursuing commissioning in the 12-step Centering Prayer tradition. He lives in St. Louis, MO, with his wife and three children.
“Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, ‘Abba as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?’ then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, ‘If you will, you can become all flame.”
The Sayings of the Desert Fathers
How Did I Catch This Flame?
At St. John’s Abbey with my beautiful family
Even as a kid I was reading sacred texts, philosophy, and theology from many traditions. And doing yoga poses in my room. You know, normal stuff! My passion for contemplation was ignited by the Benedictine monks and sisters at St. John’s Abbey and St. Benedict’s Monastery in Minnesota. Their example of “prayer and work” ignited within me a gentle but persistent desire for a daily contemplative practice and discipline.
My last visit with Mr. Mark
In the classroom Sr. Mary Reuter, OSB, introduced us to lectio divina (a Latin phrase meaning “sacred reading”) and Centering Prayer. Centering Prayer (20 minutes twice per day) remains the foundation of my daily practice. Fr. Mark Thamert, OSB, introduced me to spiritual direction, the Enneagram, the mystical Islamic poetry of Rumi and Hafiz, and Rainer Maria Rilke, the Buddhist teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, cooking with enough garlic to kill a village of vampires, and the finer details of tasting Scotch whiskey. Essential life skills!
Sant’ Anselmo, Rome, Italy
Meditation awakened within me an intense desire for God and communion with others. My daily practice has been a stabilizing force that has kept me (relatively) sane through struggles with anxiety, addiction and 12-step recovery, and commitments to my wife and kids, career, and community activism.
In college I studied theology and art in Rome. I took classes at the Dominican school of the Angelicum and lived in the Benedictine Monastery and College of Sant’ Anselmo. After college I worked in outdoor/experiential education with Voyageur Outward Bound School (Ely, MN) and with a YMCA Adventure Learning Center. I spent one year with the Catholic Charities Volunteer Corps in St. Paul, MN. I briefly considered becoming a monk at St. John’s Abbey, but I felt a strong calling to marriage and family.
Dr. Stephen Parker & Myra Rucker
Two more teachers, Myra Rucker (at the YMCA) and Stephen (Stoma) Parker (at the Meditation Center, in the Himalayan yoga tradition) introduced me to the practice of yoga. The embodied practice of yoga – focusing on breath, posture, and meditative focus (Samadhi) – helps get me out of my “head,” and is the best way I have found to deal with severe anxiety.
In August 2017 I attended the New Contemplative Exchange (NCE) in Snowmass, CO. We were gathered together by the “Four Founders” – Thomas Keating, OSCO (Contemplative Outreach), Richard Rohr, OFM (Center for Action and Contemplation), Rev. Dr. Tilden Edwards (Shalem Institute), and Laurence Freeman, OSB (World Community for Christian Meditation). They encouraged us to work to continue their work of living and teaching the Christian contemplative tradition among our (younger-ish) generation – outside the walls of the monastery.
Group photo from the NCE in Snowmass, Colorado
After the NCE I spent 5 days solo backpacking in the mountains. The combined energy of our retreat and deep immersion in nature unleashed an intense desire to share the fruits of my practice. My goal is to make the wisdom of contemplative practices and traditions accessible and practical to persons of any background, for personal growth and professional leadership development. I want to help others live from their Divine Center, so they can feel calm and focus on what matters most to them.
“Be who you were meant to be, and you will set the world on fire.”
– St. Catherine of Siena
The Contemplative Movement
Recently, I was humbled to be asked to be part of a collection of essays that was published and I am proud to share with all of you. “This collection brings together the diverse voices who have emerged as new leaders of the contemplative movement. Exploring a multitude of themes, such as silence, imagination, meditation, embodiment, community and social action, this volume introduces the new voices who reflect globally on the gifts, challenges, differences and commonalities of Christian contemplation today for communities and people of faith.”
CLICK HERE for more information on Contemplation and Community from The Crossroad Publishing Company.
“Spiritual, specific, special, and sacred all describe my incredible deep-dive learning experiences with Tom Bushlack. I highly recommend him as a coach for those who aspire to be a life-servant-leader.”
Julius B. Anthony
President, St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature and The Believe Project