I’m Tom Bushlack – a teacher, guide, mentor, coach, and – most importantly – a spiritual friend for anyone seeking to deepen their spiritual or contemplative practice.
I do this by journeying with people of all backgrounds, helping them to learn simple contemplative practices, and then gently guiding them to integrate those practices into a full and meaningful life of work & career, family & friends, community involvement & rest.
The power of contemplative practices is found in their simplicity. Contemplative practices have developed from thousands of years of human experience and wisdom traditions. Thanks to developments in modern science, we now understand their benefits to individual and collective health and healing even better.
Clients are often shocked to learn (by firsthand experience) how such practices – when applied intelligently and consistently, with the support of a competent guide – contain unlimited capacities for personal and communal transformation. Spiritual practices offer healing for the individual practitioner and for our broken, divided, and often violent communities (local and global).
When you embark on the journey of personal healing, you are also healing the collective fabric of life and connection to which we all belong.
Below are just a few of the benefits experienced by my clients who are courageous enough to embrace the journey of inner transformation:
- A more intimate relationship with God, a Higher Power, or one’s true Self
- Greater compassion for oneself, others, and all of creation
- Creative energy and inspiration to work and engage with the world in ways that expand conscious connection, compassion, and joy
- Elimination of chronic stress and feelings of being overwhelmed by the pace of modern life
- Deep and lasting healing from lifelong emotional wounds and/or traumas
- Clarity about one’s true purpose in life (I call this your “Root WHY”) and enhanced ability to live aligned with that purpose in daily decisions and relationships
- Certainty and courage regarding next steps to take in life (both personally and professionally)…combined with
- An enhanced ability to tolerate unknowing, ambiguity, and paradox
- Increased appreciation for how one’s life and purpose improves the lives of others and one’s community
If you desire a direct and personal experience of this divine transformation, then you’re in the right place. Below you can find more information about my professional credentials, teaching lineage, and the ethos and ethic that guides my work as a spiritual friend.
Credentials & Lineage
I hold a Ph.D. in Theology and Ethics from the University of Notre Dame, and I currently serve as Vice President of Mission & Formation for Mercy Health. Mercy Health is a faith-based healthcare provider located in four states with over 45,000 employees, originally founded by the Sisters of Mercy (who trace their roots to their foundress, Catherine McAuley in Ireland in the 1800’s).
In my teaching, coaching, consulting, and speaking I have helped thousands of executives, business owners, and busy professionals get in tune with and lead from their center of wisdom and purpose – all in service to the common good of their organizations, families, and communities.
Before moving into healthcare mission alignment and coaching, I spent ten years as a university professor of Theology and Ethics. I was a founding co-director of the Project for Mindfulness & Contemplation at the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN). I served as co-director of the Ashley-O’Rourke Center for Health Ministry Leadership at the Aquinas Institute of Theology (St. Louis, MO).
I also created the Centering for Wisdom® assessment (CWA), which is now available as the Wisdom Profile™ quiz. The Wisdom Profile™ is an important tool I use with clients to integrate contemplative practices into their leadership style and capacity for influence.
Understanding a teacher’s lineage, tradition, and training is an important part of choosing to work with a spiritual guide. I was baptized and raised in the Roman Catholic Christian tradition. In my undergraduate studies I was introduced to the contemplative-mystical practices and dimensions of the Christian tradition by the Benedictine monks and sisters at St. John’s Abbey (Collegeville, MN), St. Benedict’s Monastery (St. Joseph, MN), and the Colegio Sant’Anselmo (Rome, Italy).
After graduate school I received mantra initiation into the Himalayan yoga tradition through Dr. Stephen (Stoma) Parker at the Meditation Center in Minneapolis, MN. Stephen is a student of Swami Veda Bharati and Swami Rama, two Himalayan masters who shared their teachings with Western students. My Benedictine mentors have passed from this life, and I remain in contact with Stephen as my guide and teacher.
These two lineages form my “meta-lineage” as a student and teacher. Despite their distinctive histories, philosophies & theologies, and external forms of cultural expression, both of these contemplative paths guide the sincere student on a path of devotional practices and refinement that leads toward liberation from suffering and enjoyment of infinite bliss in union with the Divine.
I also serve as a Trustee for the Trust for the Meditation Process. I am a commissioned presenter of Centering Prayer through Contemplative Outreach, Ltd., an Oblate of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, MN, and a certified HeartMath® Coach. I live in St. Louis, MO, with my wife and three children.
Ethos & Ethic
Embarking on the contemplative journey of transformation requires tremendous amounts of trust, courage, and vulnerability – not only for my clients but also for me as a guide. As these practices introduce students to methods for expanding human consciousness, wisdom, and connection to Divinity, clients may encounter obstacles, fears (and ocassional terrors) that can arise from the gradual detachment from the defensive structures of the ego that accompanies genuine spiritual growth.
Because of this, it is important to uphold an exceptionally high standard of trust, confidentiality, transparency, and integrity. Whether listening to one of my guided meditations or seeking coaching services, these principles are foundational to everything I offer.
My work is based in a core belief that every single person possesses an innate, natural, and interior core of goodness, wisdom, healing power, and connection to God. In the Hebrew Scriptures (also revered by Christians and Muslims), every human being is made in image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26) and possesses inalienable dignity. In the yoga philosophy this is represented as the true Self (in Sanskrit, the Atman) – the indestructible and eternal point of union with Divinity.
The goal – to the extent that there is any goal at all – of contemplative practice is to systematically and scientifically remove all obstacles to living in awareness of our connection with our soul, Self, and conscious union with God. We do not embark upon this journey alone; we receive grace when it is needed in order to help us surrender the obstacles generated by the ego.
Swami Satchidananda describes this process as moving from the small “i” – that is, the small and fragile ego that we identify with in this life, and which is the root cause of all our suffering – toward the big “I” – the Self: “All [contemplative practices] are just to remove that dot.”
Healing is the natural result of removing and surrendering the ego’s obstacles and coming back into harmony with our bodies, our thoughts and emotions, with others, with the natural world, and with God. As a guide, I do not heal anyone. Rather, what I offer is a safe space, a structured environment, and a trusting relationship where you learn to access your innate healing capacities and to share them with the world.
I have found the Code of Ethics for Spiritual Guides, developed by the Council on Spiritual Practices, to offer a helpful framework for my work. The basic principles of this ethic are outlined below, with my own annotations in italics:
Intention. Spiritual guides are to practice and serve in ways that cultivate awareness, empathy, and wisdom.
Serving Society. Spiritual practices are to be designed and conducted in ways that respect the common good, with due regard for public safety, health, and order. Because the increased awareness gained from spiritual practices can catalyze desire for personal and social change, guides shall use special care to help direct the energies of those they serve, as well as their own, in responsible ways that reflect a loving regard for all life.
Serving Individuals. Spiritual guides shall respect and seek to preserve the autonomy and dignity of each person. Participation in any primary religious practice must be voluntary and based on prior disclosure and consent given individually by each participant while in an ordinary state of consciousness. Disclosure shall include, at a minimum, discussion of any elements of the practice that could reasonably be seen as presenting physical or psychological risks. In particular, participants must be warned that primary religious experience can be difficult and dramatically transformative.
Guides shall make reasonable preparations to protect each participant’s health and safety during spiritual practices and in the periods of vulnerability that may follow. Limits on the behaviors of participants and facilitators are to be made clear and agreed upon in advance of any session. Appropriate customs of confidentiality are to be established and honored.
Competence. Spiritual guides shall assist with only those practices for which they are qualified by personal experience and by training or education.*
*I am not a mental health professional. Clients who require additional support from a mental health professional are encouraged to seek treatment and support from a competent professional.
Integrity. Spiritual guides shall strive to be aware of how their own belief systems, values, needs, and limitations affect their work. During primary religious practices, participants may be especially open to suggestion, manipulation, and exploitation; therefore, guides pledge to protect participants and not to allow anyone to use that vulnerability in ways that harm participants or others.
Quiet Presence. To help safeguard against the harmful consequences of personal and organizational ambition, spiritual communities are usually better allowed to grow through attraction rather than active promotion.*
*I use forms of advertisement and marketing (such as social media and email) to inform others about the benefits of contemplative practices, and to invite them to consider working with me in various formats. I consider these ways of informing and inviting those who might not otherwise know how or where to seek out a spiritual guide for deeper transformational work.
Not for Profit. Spiritual practices are to be conducted in the spirit of service. Spiritual guides shall strive to accommodate participants without regard to their ability to pay or make donations.*
*I offer products and services on my websites (thomasjbushlack.com and centeringforwisdom.com), on social media, and in third party apps that are sold for profit, as part of how I support myself and my family financially. There are always free offerings available to all, with paid services for those who seek deeper levels of engagement. All pricing is public and transparent.
Tolerance. Spiritual guides shall practice openness and respect towards people whose beliefs are in apparent contradiction to their own.
Peer Review. Each guide shall seek the counsel of other guides to help ensure the wholesomeness of his or her practices and shall offer counsel when there is need.
These are the experiences, professional credentials, ethos and ethic that guide my work. If you wish to learn more about how I came into this role of spiritual friend, some of the key life experiences and teachers who have guided my journey from “i” to “I” are described below.
“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 and yoga meditation practices remain 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 (samyama leading toward Samadhi, or Divine union) – 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 – 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.
“Today’s knowledge-creating company, we believe, must metamorphose into the wisdom-practicing company of tomorrow. That demands a new kind of leader.”
(Nonaka and Tekeuchi, Harvard Business Review)
“In a world desperately in need of wise leadership and decision-making that benefit all people and the common good — including our planet and natural environment — we hope that the CWA can make a small contribution to enhancing this virtue of contemplative practical wisdom.”
(Thomas Bushlack and Tonia Bock 2018, p. 21)
“I found myself in leadership roles that I didn’t feel qualified to have. I now feel completely empowered to take on the leadership roles I am in. My whole mindset is shifting in how I see myself and how I want to live my life, with confidence and boldness!”
“After attempting to piece together my own contemplative practice with little success, Tom’s program provided a solid foundation for a lifelong, life-altering centering meditation practice. Since embarking upon this journey, I’m discovering a new level of peace and compassion in my life.”
"Working with Tom has given me deeper insight into my own behavior, and more compassion and understanding of the behavior of others. Working with Tom was like having a warm cup of tea on a cold day. He is brilliant, insightful and the perfect guide for someone who is looking to accept or manage the chaos of life."