For much of his adult life, William Thiele has been on a journey, a long journey seeking a more contemplative way to live.
“In 1986, I went to Calcutta because I wanted to spend time with the Missionaries of Charity, the religious organization founded by Mother Teresa,” Thiele said. “I wanted to be around people who, to me, found and practiced a contemplative meditative lifestyle day in and day out, praying throughout the day while they cared for the very sick, the very poor. And of course, I wanted to meet Mother Teresa.”
Thiele did meet Mother Teresa, but prior to meeting her, he said that out of the blue, he heard a voice inside his head say, “You are here for your own transfiguration, not to just meet Mother Teresa.”
“It was a life-changing moment,” Thiele recalled. “And I began to wonder, how do I bring what these nuns do each day into the service of the world? And how do I begin to live a more contemplative and meditative life?”
At 7 p.m. on June 26, Thiele will talk about his life-changing moment and lead a discussion and demonstration about ways to meditate at the East Bank Regional Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie. He will also discuss his first, newly published book, titled “Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture.”
The program is free and open to the public.
Thiele said he has found the right path but continues to seek ways each day to meditate and lead a quiet, more contemplative existence.
“You have to work at it every day,” said Thiele, a licensed psychotherapist, who has a Ph.D. in psychology and counseling from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans. “A few years ago, I felt a very strong tug inside of me to visit abbeys. So I went to France and Italy to learn from the monks living in abbeys, because I knew I wanted to be connected to that centered, spiritual life.”
“People often tell me they don’t have time to meditate, don’t know how to meditate or that they can’t sit still for very long. All of that is myth because meditating isn’t always just about sitting down and being still. There are a million ways to meditate, to find an inner stillness. Some will find it through gardening or by reading a book. Others will find the time by walking or jogging. And some may find it by relaxing on a porch or patio. The goal is to find your own way to meditate and make the time to do so each day in order to feel God’s presence.”
Thiele, pastor of Parker United Methodist Church in New Orleans, also is a pastoral counselor in private practice, an adjunct professor at Loyola University in New Orleans and the founding spiritual director of the School for Contemplative Living in New Orleans.
“The mission of the School of Contemplative Living, as well as my own mission, is to create contemplative communities who practice the presence of God for personal transformation and radical engagement with the world,” Thiele said.
In the near future, Thiele will begin work on a documentary about meditation and contemplative living. He said the tentative title is “Oneness: A Contemplative Path.”
“It’s not an easy task to commit to daily mediation and to live a contemplative life,” Thiele said. “But it can be done with God as the center of our lives and with the help and encouragement of others who feel called to the same commitment.”