The New Contemplatives Initiative is a container of vocational support and development opportunities for emerging spiritual companions in their first half of life. New Contemplatives enrich the SDI community with new forms and paradigms of spiritual care, bringing their voices to the center of the organization and the broader field of spiritual companionship. Together, we work to weave a web of intergenerational wisdom and practice, and to seek answers to: what is spiritual companionship for our times?
Nathan Bettger is a board-certified hospital chaplain and spiritual director from Oshkosh, WI, where he lives with his wife (Kat), his two sons (Brendan Arthur and Owen Raine) and his Welsh Terrier (Wendell). Nathan is committed to nurturing connection and community, through our relationships, our bodies, our sense of self, the land that we live on, and our experience of the Divine. Deeply grounded in contemplative and mystic Christianity and nature-based spirituality, Nathan seeks to consistently invite others into more unitive and loving life, whether it be through spiritual companioning, caring for those in the hospital, advocating for more natural earth keeping, caring for his honey bees and his garden, or writing. Nathan has led community groups for many years focused on spiritual integration, conversations on death and dying, grief support, and men’s spirituality. He received his Masters in Divinity from Bethel Seminary in St Paul, MN and Certificates of Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Direction from George Fox Seminary in Portland, OR. Nathan served on the founding board for the men’s spirituality non-profit, Illuman and is a graduate scholar of the Orphan Wisdom School, led by teacher, story teller and author, Stephen Jenkinson.
Beloved Sara Zaltash
Beloved Sara Zaltash, M.A., is British-Iranian artist, diviner and public mystic. Sara spent her formative years inspiring audiences and growing communities as a performance artist, singer and host, cutting her teeth at the radical, political, grassroots end of showbiz. Sara’s life was transformed in 2011 when she began offering her own unique adaptation of the Islamic call to prayer in unusual contexts all over the world. Self-ordained as Beloved Sara Zaltash, a non-denominational minister for a world in crisis, Sara is dedicated to using her gifts as an artist, performer, poet, singer, facilitator, teacher, space-holder, ritualist, diviner and community organiser to catalyse the Great Turning of our shared Being. Her initiatives Approaches to Embodied Islam, Ministry of Us and Divination for Justice are examples of ways that Beloved Sara is currently entwining her skills with the values of justice, honesty, courage, glory, power, humility, integrity and inquiry. She is inspired by her ancestors, the stars, the land and the birds, and all of their pathways of faith and persistence. Beloved Sara is a Fellow of the Schumacher Institute, Associate Fellow of St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace.
Meisaan Chan runs a Meetup group in Chicago for people who are, like herself, Spiritual But Not Religious, and works intimately with people who exist in liminal spaces of religion and race. She is also a compassion activist, translating Spirit into a vernacular for people who are committed to actualizing the equality of all humans. In her work of spiritually walking with others, she has been expanding her prayer language to include body prayer for other SBNR folks, which is a fusion of movement therapy and contemplative spiritual practice, offering this language to them as well. Meisaan has a spiritual haiku blog at www.curvingtowardthecenter.com and is currently delighting in creating spoken word meditations that riff off of the Divine voice she hears. Meisaan is mixed race and for her spiritual activist work, she goes by her Chinese name. She is also a published author for Simon & Schuster, a regular on Wisconsin Public Radio, and is a justice activist on Facebook; for these activities, she goes by her English name, Crystal Chan. She is passionate about making space for all the facets people bring with them, and even more passionate about making space for the infinite facets of Spirit.
Ufra Mir is a peace-psychologist from Kashmir/the Sub-continent, She is passionate about the need for peace and psychological and overall wellbeing in a conflict-zone like Kashmir. Over the years, she has presented her analysis on the Kashmir conflict, conducted workshops on her pioneering Peace-psychology work & received recognition from international forums including the World Economic Forum (Shape South-Asia Summit, India), Nobel Peace Prize forums (USA), the Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative (USA), the Swedish Institute (Sweden), the Campaign for US department of Peace (USA), and TEDx talk (India). Currently, she works with a social-change management organization transforming education systems and focused on women-empowerment, peacebuilding and empathy in different states of India. Ufra is also the volunteer co-director of a non-partisan think-tank focused on research and dialogue to impact public policy, The Kashmir Institute; along with being the founding executive director of her own NGO, Paigaam: A Message for Peace. Her main area of interest is to work with youth in the context of peace-psychology exploring wellbeing, healing, mental health, changemaking, peacebuilding, empathy, spirituality, youth empowerment, leadership & human rights.
“I am a lover. Life has taken me down many roads, and I have shown up on each of them with fervor, skepticism, creativity, resilience, and humor. At this point I see that life has been training me to understand and embrace fear. The role fear plays in my own heart and the heart of the communities around the world that I care so deeply about. I am becoming a lover with fear. I am studying the skin and patterns of fear, and changing the common story-line associated with fear from protector and problem child, to guide and beloved. In my work as a Vajrayana Buddhist practitioner and integrative trauma psychotherapist, I see distinctly how our old notions of fear are no longer useful in our embodied life. We must evolve. Fear signals. Fear alarms. Fear wakes up our most precious vulnerabilities and strengths. We can make the choice to embrace the sometimes harsh lessons that fear brings to our doorsteps, and/or we can turn away from the precious qualities that fear illuminates in our being – the divine qualities of choice, empowerment, interdependence, impermanence, non-identity, courage etc. I am a lover of transformation and healing, and I believe that one of my soul’s primary purposes is to facilitate the necessary and urgent transformation of how fear is used and perceived in our global culture. This work is at the intersection of spirituality and healing. I hold individual, family, and group therapy, as well as special retreats. I am in the process of launching Healers Hive, LLC, a psychotherapy private practice that is dedicated to restoring healers around the globe.”