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Contemplative Living with James Finley, Ph.D
The Contemplative Way Newsletter June 2008

Why We Meditate

I did not think it would take this long to get out the first newsletter. But now that I have finally done so, I hope I will be able to share newsletters on an ongoing basis in the future. The newsletters will be titled "Contemplative Living". Some will consist of excerpts from my previous writings. Some will be quotes from contemplative sources both ancient and contemporary, Christian and non-Christian. And in still others, such as this one, I will share thoughts that are stirring within me at the time about various aspects of the spiritual path. But always the intention will be to offer encouragement and guidance in our ongoing efforts to live a contemplative way of life in the midst of today's world.

In this first newsletter, I invite you to join me in reflecting on a way of understanding and appreciating why fidelity to some form of meditation is so helpful to us in our spiritual journey. We can begin by reminding ourselves that the realm of the ego is more dense and intense than the realm of the spirit. Though the realm of the spirit is infinitely more real than ego, ego easily overshadows spirit and hides it from our view. We can sit before the setting sun so upset that we just got a parking ticket that we do not even see the beauty of the setting sun. We tend to be so caught up in what happened that we tend not to be fully aware of what is happening. The point being, that if we are not careful we can spend our whole life skimming over the surface rather than entering into the depths of our own life.

In meditation we take a hiatus from hectic, ego-based ways. In meditation we settle into a more interior, spiritual awareness of the previously unrecognized spiritual depths of the present moment. In meditation we set aside our preoccupations with all we need to do, so we might be as present as we can be in a "Here I am Lord" stance of openness to God.

Our ego wants to know how we can justify pausing to be when we do not have enough time to do all we need to do! What we come to discover, however, is that if we do not take time to simply be, our ego-based preoccupations with all we need to do tends to dominate our life. But as we learn to just be in the silent simplicity of meditation we transcend the tyranny of doing over our mind and heart. In taking time to be in meditation we transcend the tyranny of sequential time, which, if you have noticed, we are always running out of and never have enough of.

Meditation lays bare our true nature and in doing so lays bare God's nature given to us as our own nature. This is the extraordinary thing; that God's own nature has been given to us by God as our own true nature. God is Spirit who creates us in the image and likeness of Spirit. As long as we remain caught up in the one-dimensional energy of ego consciousness we continue to skim over the surface of the depths of our own God-given Godly nature. As long as we succumb to the demands of doing, we keep flying right past the eternal now in which our lives unfold. But as we cultivate the habit of meditation we can learn to rise from our meditation without breaking the thread of an underlying meditative awareness in our daily life. In this habituated meditative awareness we can learn to do all that needs to be done in a more grounded, more meditative manner that bears witness to the inherent dignity of life's daily tasks.

We must be patient with ourselves as we devote ourselves to this lifelong, transformative process. Taking the time to transcend the tyranny of time is time well spent. In God's good time, an underlying meditative awareness grows within us to the point of becoming our habitual way of experiencing everything that we experience.


Join Dr. Finley for a
contemplative retreat

Jim Finley

Gospel Metaphors of Spiritual Awakening
Jul. 25-27, Warrenville, IL
Theresa of Avila
Jun. 22, Orange, CA
Trauma and Transcendence
Jun. 13-15, Austin, TX
Sep. 12-14, Fresno, CA
Oct. 30-Nov. 2, Madison, WI
Being in Love with Love,
The Teachings of Blessed Ruusbroec

Dec. 12-14, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

For more details please see Retreat Schedule
To host a retreat please contact Dr. Finley.


"What I got from Merton most of all
was this:
the grace of God utterly and wholly permeates our lives, just as they are in the present moment.
All our failures and weaknesses are absolutely irrelevant in the face of such all-pervading grace."

James Finley

Copyright © 2008 Dr. James Finley