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Two groups in Crook County are meeting weekly to participate in a centuries-old practice of silent praying

JASON CHANEY - Centering Prayer facilitators Chris Waller (left), who oversees the Powell Butte group, and Kathi Bumblis, who leads the Prineville group, demonstrate the practice prior to a Monday session at Prineville Presbyterian Church.

Psalms 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God."

This is the ultimate goal of two local Centering Prayer groups in Crook County. One group meets in Prineville every Monday afternoon and other in Powell Butte on Wednesday evening.

Kathi Bumblis, facilitator of the Prineville group, said the origins of the silent and receptive prayer practice can be traced three Trappist monks and is based on a 14th Century book titled "The Cloud of Unknowing." She explains that the author is anonymous.

"No one ever found out who wrote it," she said.

Around 600 years later in 1984, Centering Prayer was again embraced when group called Contemplative Outreach began encouraging people to turn to the practice. Bumblis said the network of communities and individuals seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit was created "to work on the renewal of the Christian-based contemplative tradition that had been kind of dropped over the centuries."

"It's a nonsectarian in nature and can be embraced by anyone. There are no requirements to join or beliefs you have to have – other than a belief in God," Bumblis says of Centering Prayer. "It's considered a receptive method of silent prayer where we experience God's presence within us."

Bumblis stresses that it is not intended to replace other kinds of prayer, but it instead intended to emphasize the personal relationship with God.

The Centering Prayer groups in Prineville have been meeting for at least 10 years, says Bumblis, who became a facilitator three years ago. The Powell Butte group, facilitated by Prineville member Chris Waller, was launched this past fall. They join several others meeting throughout various Central Oregon communities.

The groups are typically small and intimate by design with anywhere between three and 12 people participating at different sessions.

"Basically, it is an individual practice and the groups are there to support the individuals," Bumblis explained. "We do the practice once or twice a day and the groups usually meet weekly."

Though the groups are small, new members are welcome and will be brought up to speed on the practice prior to the first session.

"There will be instruction we give at the beginning of the sessions, so we would ask people to come 10 minutes early so that we could do that," Bumblis said.

The idea behind Centering Prayer is to flush all of the concerns and ongoing responsibilities that typically keep the mind racing with thoughts and focus on God.

"The first step that we ask people to do is pick a sacred word of one or two syllables. Examples are peace, love Jesus or God," Bumblis explains. "Nobody ever knows what your word is, but the word is actually a symbol of your intention to consent to God's presence."

People are then asked to sit comfortably with their eyes closed then say their sacred word silently.

"It is a symbol of focus. What we are trying to do is clear your mind, to shut off all of the noise in your head," Bumblis said. "And anytime you become aware of some thoughts – that could be an image or a to-do – we ask you to go back to your sacred word. The way it is always said, which I have always loved, is 'Return ever so gently to your sacred word.'"

The group sits in silent prayer for 20 minutes, relying on a timer to alert them when the time has passed.

"There is no wrong," Bumblis says of the practice. "There is just your intention to be quiet and to have God work within you."

At the end of the prayer time, the group remains in silence for couple more minutes as they gradually open their eyes and regain awareness of their surroundings.

Bumblis acknowledges that Centering Prayer isn't for everyone. It takes practice to shut off the rush of mental noise that typically occupies people's minds throughout the day

"But what we say is if you are seeking a deeper relationship with God, it's worth trying this particular discipline," she said, adding that even people with a busy "monkey mind" can master the discipline with regular practice.

"It kind of provides a peace," Bumblis adds before offering a metaphor the group typically uses to explain the impact of Centering Prayer. "Think of yourself on the shore of a river. As these thoughts come to your head, think of them like they are little boats and let them go. It's letting go and letting God handle it."

Sidebar

The Prineville Centering Prayer group meets on Mondays at Prineville Presbyterian Church from 3:30-4:30 p.m. For more information, call Kathi Bumblis at 408-406-9033.

The Powell Butte Centering Prayer group meets on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. at the Powell Butte Community Center. For more information, call Chris Waller at 541-233-6261.


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