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Caryl Thomas

Caryl Thomas 

My faith journey has taken me to various dwelling places along the way as I searched for ways to connect more closely with God. I have learned that God — who is love— is with us and in all of creation. But, often my life (and probably yours as well) becomes so busy that I forget how to connect with this God of love.

As a child, I had learned many verbal prayers as I learned to “talk to God.” Now, as an adult, I tried various meditation techniques and mindfulness exercises to try to better “listen to God” in silence. I have yet to hear the audible voice of God (especially one that sounds like James Earl Jones), but I have discovered a way to more fully experience God’s presence.

Unlike The Beatles, who traveled to India to learn meditative techniques, I found the one that works for me right in my own backyard when I discovered Christian Centering Prayer as taught by Contemplative Outreach. Fourteen years ago I learned and put into practice this very simple method to become more aware of God’s constant presence.

Jesus himself told his disciples, “If you want to pray, enter your room, shut the door and pray to your Father who is secret and your father who sees in secret will reward you.” Monks ever since that time have been shutting the door of the world by meditating and praying in monasteries.

In the 1980s, three Benedictine monks helped popularize silent meditation in the Christian West by suggesting a simple silent prayer method that could be used by anyone in one or two 20-minute periods each day in the privacy of her own home. No monastery was needed! In additional to individual Centering prayer, many people find great benefit in a shared experience with fellow pray-ers. Small groups have sprung up throughout the United States and around the world to teach, facilitate and encourage this form of Centering Prayer. Anyone can attend regardless of religious affiliation (or no affiliation). The goal is not to achieve ecstatic experiences but to consent to God’s presence and action in our lives and to “Be still and know God.”

This method of centering prayer is based on four simple guidelines.

1. Choose a prayer word as a symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.

2. Sitting comfortably and with eyed closed, settle briefly, and silently introduce the prayer word.

3. When engaged with your thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.

4. After 20 minutes, pause for a few minutes before resuming daily activities.

Twenty such praying groups meet in the Portland metropolitan area alone, with 19 more meeting throughout the state. Locations of these groups, as well as introductory teaching sessions, can be found on the website for Contemplative Outreach of Portland.

Corvallis Centering Prayer groups meeting weekly include:

• Every Sunday, 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., First Presbyterian Church, 114 SW Eighth St. Contact person: Norman Carlson, ndcarlson@msn.com.

• Every Wednesday, noon to 1 p.m., St Mary’s Church, 501 NW 25th.

An Albany group meets every Tuesday, 7-8 p.m. at St Mary’s Catholic Church, 822 SW Ellsworth St. Contact: Jenny Brausch, livinggreen@comcast.net

I have found these groups to be very welcoming. Perhaps you’ll want to try one as you begin to incorporate Centering Prayer into your personal life.

Rather than struggling to find God, to know God and to love God, just relax, be still and silent. God finds us as we allow ourselves to be known by God, and as we let ourselves be loved by God.

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Caryl Thomas has recently moved to the Albany area where she joined United Presbyterian Church. She earned a B.S. in pharmacy from Oregon State University and an M.Div. from Western Seminary in Portland.

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