James Finley

Discovering our contemplative community

Sometimes compassion compels us to confront, sometimes to cajole, sometimes to be silent and wait, sometimes to do or say what it would never occur to our egocentric self to do or say, for we can never say for certain in advance just how compassionate love may prompt us to act, to see, and accept within ourselves and others. Yet, in our willingness to recognize and go forth to identify with the preciousness of ourselves and others in our collective frailty, we discover our contemplative community in the intimate texture of our daily interactions with one another.

~ from THE CONTEMPLATIVE HEART by James Finley
The Contemplative Heart
By James Finley

A habitual state of compassionate love

The process of establishing ourselves in a habitual state of compassionate love takes place in the context of countless failure to be compassionate.  But this proves to be no hindrance as long as we commit ourselves to being compassionate toward ourselve in our failings to be compassionate.  Even our failures to be compassionate prove to be but new opportunities . . .  This process of yielding to compassionate love unfolds and deepens over a lifetime of learning that when all is said and done, love is the playing field where we most truly meet ourselves and others as we really are, precious in our collective frailty.

~ from THE CONTEMPLATIVE HEART by James Finley, thanks to Liz Stewart
The Contemplative Heart
By James Finley

I can feel everyone in the room waiting for the next note

I once heard the pianist, Arthur Rubinstein, being interviewed. At one point he was asked to share his experience of playing Chopin's Nocturnes. He said in effect, "I do not know what it is. But over and over again I have had the experience of sitting in a crowded concert hall playing the Nocturnes and I can feel everyone in the room waiting for the next note." In this moment of waiting, all present find their contemplative community in their oneness with one another in the boundless mystery that enraptures them.

~ from THE CONTEMPLATIVE HEART by James Finley
The Contemplative Heart
By James Finley

When prayer becomes the one thing necessary

Prayer never touches us as long as it remains on the surface of our lives, as long as it is nothing but one more of a thousand things that must be done. It is only when prayer becomes "the one thing necessary" that real prayer begins. Prayer begins to take on its full dimensions only when we begin to intuit that the subtle nothingness of prayer is everything.

~ from MERTON'S PALACE OF NOWHERE by James Finley

She looks at the child in solitude

And, from THE AWAKENING CALL by James Finley, a word for mothers (outer and inner!):

A mother is at home trying to pray while her small child is playing on the floor near her feet. The child's constant movements, its requests to be helped now with this toy, now with another, are a continual distraction to her. At the level of ego consciousness, the child is an obstacle to her attempts to recollect herself in prayer.

~ from THE AWAKENING CALL by James Finley

The inner self is as secret as God

The inner self is as secret as God and, like God, it evades every concept that tries to seize hold of it with full possession. It is a life that cannot be held and studied as object, because it is not "a thing". It is not reached and coaxed forth from hiding by any process under the sun, including meditation. All that we can do with any spiritual discipline is produce within ourselves something of the silence, the humility, the detachment, the purity of heart and the indifference which are required if the inner self is to make some shy, unpredictable manifestation of presence.

~ from MERTON'S PALACE OF NOWHERE by James Finley

This is what you are to do

This is what you are to do: Love God. Go to a quiet place. Calm yourself. And with a gentle stirring of love lift your heart up to God, loving God not for any gifts, but instead, love God for God's sake alone. Sitting thus, do not think about the presence of feelings that God is near. Do not cling to any thought of God, regardless of how sublime the thought might be. Do not pray for anyone or for yourself, regardless of the immensity of the need. Let your love for God alone be your sole concern. Of course, you will make mistakes, for, after all, you do not know what you are doing. You do not know how to life up your heart "with a gentle stirring of love." The very simplicity and radicality of what you are led to do leads you into the obscurity of the contemplative way. But no matter, led by God's promptings you learn (without knowing how) to listen to God's gentle stirrings of love within you. As the gentle stirring is meek, so, too, is your lifting up of it to God.

~ from THE AWAKENING CALL by James Finley
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