The School for Contemplative Living
Saturday, September 25, 2021
Listening in Stillness, Serving in Joy!
A great way to keep up with our unfolding life as a contemplative community is to follow William Thiele's blog on "A Contemplative Path." It is also posted on our SCL Facebook page. Friend us and follow us there too.
Below are some earlier forms of unfolding in the School.
March 20, 2012
Dear friends of the School for Contemplative Living,
     "So many opportunities, so little time." That's the way many of my emails look. I list a lot of different places and ways to connect with the Divine. If you look at all this as an American church-goer you could easily think, "Am I supposed to get involved in all of this?" We all tend to "do" way too much and even still we often feel guilty for "not doing enough."
     Well Enough does NOT work that way. Enough is simply a Loving Presence drawing us into our own little ways of knowing our Oneness. Maybe our best way is holding a grandchild until they fall asleep! If so, let's not get caught into that old and wrong belief, "My way is wrong." And in that spirit, notice the following collection of opportunities as simply some ways to choose the Way together
William Thiele
 Dear friends of the School for Contemplative Living,
     "So many opportunities, so little time." That's the way many of my emails look. I list a lot of different places and ways to connect with the Divine. If you look at all this as an American church-goer you could easily think, "Am I supposed to get involved in all of this?" We all tend to "do" way too much and even still we often feel guilty for "not doing enough."
     Well Enough does NOT work that way. Enough is simply a Loving Presence drawing us into our own little ways of knowing our Oneness. Maybe our best way is holding a grandchild until they fall asleep! If so, let's not get caught into that old and wrong belief, "My way is wrong."
 In ways of your own choosing, come choose this Way together,
William Thiele

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, calling all contemplatives,

     Story: "In the Arms" - An 8 year-old girl attended church for the first time today with her mom. Her mom said she wanted her daughter to at least be exposed to some religion. The girl looked up at the stained glass window of the sanctuary and asked me, "Who is that man?" After being in church since I was a child, it never occurs to me that someone could see a picture of Jesus holding a lamb and not know who that is. The worship service was just starting. Without time to think I said, "That is Jesus holding the lamb. Some of us like to think of ourselves as being like lambs who Jesus loves."
     A contemplative seeks union with God, living "in the arms". It is our passion. It is our great need, as we do not want to go through life without being "in the arms" of a Presence Greater than ourselves. First we practice the presence of God. Then we bring Presence with us as we serve in the world. And sometimes, usually without warning, we get to voice the essence of our faith experience: "We are in the arms of a Great Love."
     As a contemplative community we are on that kind of journey together. We don't have it all figured out. But this we can do: practice  being "in the arms" of the Presence, bring the Presence into service in the world, and if a moment is graced, we might even get to share the presence we experience with words.
Blessings on your own journey toward the Life "in the arms",

WilliamThiele, spiritual director
The School for Contemplative Living
January 2, 2012

Dear friends of the School for Contemplative Living,

The new year is upon us, so why wait on our first gathering of the SCl community? We are offering a community-building experience called: "A Community of Soul"
We will not be studying a book but will be practicing reading a living human document - our own lives. Surely this is one of the hardest texts to decipher, and most of us could use the help of others to learn to follow the soul's clues. What is your soul and Life saying to you these days? What messages would you prefer to ignore? What would happen if you let your Life speak as Parker Palmer coins the phrase? Or as John Wesley's classes used to like to explore: How is it with your soul lately?
Further: How do you see your spiritual journey? What transformations are you noticing? What is it like for you to seek to follow the Way of Christ? What does that even mean for you? And how are we to be fully human as we also embrace our divinity - the very presence of God within us? If you don't have all these answers - please consider coming to form community with us. We have centering prayer groups all over the region if you are ready for a weekly or monthly contemplative community. See our website and link to "Our Groups" for details.
Blessings in these days,

William Thiele


October 13, 2011
Dear SCL friends, 
Another story: Yesterday six of us gathered at a Methodist church in Metairie for a centering prayer group. One of the lay members uses a meditation chime app on his i-phone to begin and end our twenty minutes of contemplative practice. As we finished he mentioned that the app also shows the names and times of practice by others around the world who were meditating as we were (at least those who registered their times). The list went on and on. Josey in Spain, 8 minutes, Donald in the U.K. 20 minutes, etc. Ever feel alone on the spiritual journey? Ever wish you could be a part of a world-wide community of practitioners? You are! Come discover the transformation waiting for you in one of our contemplative groups spread around the city at various times and places. (If this is your time, go the the website and click the link to Our Groups for locations and times).
As you pray, stick around for a few minutes. You might receive the guidance you have been waiting for,
William Thiele

 October 5, 2011
Dear friends of our School for Contemplative Living,
     Is your spiritual life feeling at all drab? Is your life catching the frenzy of the American way like a bad cold? Is your body plain old tired and needing some rejuvenation? Peruse these opportunities for enlightenment of body/mind/spirit, listen to whatever your soul calls for, and answer the call! There are so many ways to experience oneness with the Divine.
     A story: Mary returned to the sacred yoga class again this week. She's back on the streets after the last housing situation fell through. Just before we turned on the beautiful, lullaby-like music, Mary mentioned that she was pretty sleep deprived. By the second posture while lying on her mat, with arms stretched out in a sign of the cross, she was fast asleep. I carried on for the hour of course, and when we were done gently mentioned her name. She stirred and said, "That was great. Just what I needed." Perhaps a safe place to sleep for an hour was a better gift than stretches or words about relaxing into God's presence. Can even sleep be sacred?

September 20, 2011
Dear friends and supporters and partners of the School for Contemplative Living,
     Tonight we get to participate in the birth of a new Christian meditation/centering prayer group at Holy Name of Jesus church with Janet Warner facilitating. Janet is a great example of a contemplative missionary. She made the contacts with her pastor, did the follow-up, waited patiently for a time and place to be available, followed-through, and tonight the birthing happens at 7 p.m. at 6220 LaSalle!
     If you are also a contemplative missionary, you are simply seeking to practice a more contemplative life, in community, as best you can, and seeking to support the creation/building of contemplative communities. Your simple motto might be like ours: Let Love Lead! Your heart is like ours - seeing the desperate need in homes, churches, retreat centers, hospitals, non-profits, and even businesses for people to be gathered and trained in Heartfulness: a long lost art in America.
     If you want to be our partner in this mission, you can come join us for any of our multiple gatherings of contemplatives around the region (see the website at and/or can offer prayer and financial support for this mission: creating contemplative communities, where heartfulness is lived and Love truly leads.
     We could use the following support to grow even further in our mission:
1. $1000 to start groups at the Volunteers of America program for homeless veterans (who often have mental illness and/or addictions);
2. $500 to start a new group for retired people at a Catholic retirement center;
3. $500 to support the creation of a new centering group for staff members at a New Orleans hospital;
4. $1000 to start groups in centering and sacred yoga for local juvenile offenders in a New Orleans school.

     These are some of the opportunities before us, and we could use your partnership. Step forth in person, prayer, or giving and live out your own calling to be a contemplative missionary in your own way. Checks may be made out to Parker UMC, writing "SCL" on the byline, and mailed to us at 1130 Nashville Ave. New Orleans, LA 70115.
     Come join the order of contemplative missionaries today,
William Thiele, spiritual director
The School for Contemplative Living

September 9, 2011
Dear friends of the School for Contemplative Living,
     Men's Soul Work: This Friday evening, 9-9-11, at 7 p.m. Parker UMC will be the place for a program shared by some friends of the New Orleans Men's Center (like Dr. Jim O'Neill and Dr. Francis Coolidge) called "An Introduction to Men's Soul Work." The former title was "Out of the Male Box" meaning a series of gatherings to help men get out of their stereotyped roles and into using their masculine energy for serving their missions in this world. I highly recommend this evening which welcomes men and women.
     A Film and some insights will be offered at Parker UMC on Tuesday, 9-13-11, at 6-9 p.m. created by the Jung Society. The film is The King's Speech. Two Jungian analysts will facilitate the insightful discussion. The cost of $10 is for non-members.
     A Book on Creativity and Artistry of Life
will be offered in the new fall classes to be held at Rayne UMC (3900 St. Charles Ave.) beginning Wednesday, 9-14-11, 6-7 p.m. Gather in the fellowship hall and RSVP ahead to join the 30 of us who have signed up so far at 899-3431. Books are $12 and need to be ordered immediately if you are coming next week. The title of this one by Julia Cameron is Walking in this World. Rev Callie Crawford and I will facilitate.
     An additional class on Faith and Film will be offered there beginning that evening from 6-7 p.m. and facilitated by Dr. David O'Donahue. RSVP at 899-3431 to learn about the first film.
     The third of five new centering prayer groups will be launched at an Ochsner hospital near you in September. Are you growing frustrated with the pace of your life and seeking a place and time to re-center yourself with a spiritual community each week? We have a place for you most anywhere in the region. Watch for details of group number three in a hospital near you. Or connect with an existing group by going to the SCL website at and linking to Our Groups.
     Sunday, 9-11-11, at 11 am at Parker UMC (1130 Nashville Ave.) you will be treated to the first anthem of the fall season by the Parker Mass Choir, a poem by our own Don Downey, (filmmaker, writer, poet, and friend), and a worship theme of "Now Is the Moment" on meeting our emptiness beyond the usual ways of avoidance, distraction, and faux filling. 10 years after the first 9-11 we would love to go back to sleep and believe we are invulnerable, all-conquering, all-powerful. But are we? How do we move from entering the emptiness into transformation? As we have explored recently, isn't "going through" death/loss/change mandatory to being born again and again? Come explore the challenging art of entering transformation.
     And Sunday at 10 a.m. also at Parker UMC we will resume our study of The Spirituality of Imperfection.
All of you are welcome to connect with our many different ways of being in contemplative community in the fall, and more ways are coming soon. Whatever Way speaks to you, join us in finding the inner sanctuary of the soul, where the Divine lives inside us and woos us into closer communion.

August 25, 2011

“She stayed back…”

She came in late for the hospital’s new centering prayer group and slipped in quietly onto a wooden chapel seat. She seemed to easily connect with our little island of stillness in the midst of a busy and bustling hospital, and settled with seven of us practicing the presence of God together. It is what some of usdo these days in some New Orleans hospitals – we practice being.

The lighting in the chapel was low, the faith symbols on the walls could just be seen, but we weren’t really there to see the room. There was no choir music or sermon, no scripture study or vocal prayers, but we weren’t really there to listen to words. We were in fact seeking an inner room with no symbols or sounds or words – right there in the midst of the American healthcare system.

Molly, I’ll call her, didn’t even get the little introduction to ways of practicing the Presence. She just began. And like the rest of us she probably had rambling thoughts. It’s just what the mind likes to do. But I think she also found that place beneath thoughts where we can just breathe our way into the inner sanctuary. She was not fidgeting. In fact, no one was. Seven people resting in their own inner sanctuaries together, in a noisy hospital. Amazing!

She stayed back to talk after the centering group ended. She needed to really connect, as is so often true after hospital staff members have a few minutes of quiet intimacy with God in community. She wanted to know about the chaplain and his background and ministry. She wanted to share a bit of her longing to be with other “believers” in the place where she works to help people overcome the effects of strokes and brain injuries. She was tired of feeling alone as someone who wants to integrate their faith and their service.

Molly’s needs resonate with why we even formed a School for Contemplative Living. We just want to unite our prayer and work, (referred to as ora et labora by St. Benedict). We want prayer and service to become one. But we cannot stay on that contemplative path alone. We simply need each other. We need contemplative community.

So watch out for us Molly-types of people in some hospital chapel, or church, or home near you. We are contemplatives in community. We seek to center our service in the ground of our being where we believe the living God dwells. Maybe you will slip into one of our little contemplative communities and join us sometime. You will be as welcome as Molly was today!

Spirituality and Film series: "Of Gods and Men" about French-speaking monks living out their faith in Algiers during a terrorist uprising shows tonight at Parker UMC, 1130 Nashville Ave., NOLA 70115 at 7:30 p.m.

NOW, some of you locally and around the country might have come to believe in our SCL mission of creating contemplative communities. You have probably sensed how essential this alternative lifestyle is in your own life, and for people in general, and especially for people called to serve the world in some way. If you want to know how you can support our work financially it is this simple:

Make an online donation here: Online Giving

Rayne United Methodist Church has been supporting our mission from the beginning with monthly donations. Many individuals have done the same. Others have made occasional donations as they are able. Others have made a contribution as they attended one of our gatherings. As we expand our mission to include "Heartfulness in Healthcare" in regional hospitals and prepare to offer trainings in several area churches can you help us find the funding to sustain this ministry?

Blessings on your own journey,

William Thiele