Return to Contemplative Way Home Page
Contemplative Living with James Finley, Ph.D
The Contemplative Way Newsletter June 2009
Little Things that Fill the Whole World
When I sent out the first newsletter I did not think it would take this long before I would be writing to you again. But several deadlines in a row have prevented me from writing until now. The first of these deadlines consisted of writing a book on contemplative living, which I am giving the title Little Things that Fill the Whole World. I will share with you here a brief excerpt from that book. This excerpt is a poetic passage intended to evoke a sense of the conscious oneness with God, others and all things that we seek in attempting to live a contemplative way of life.
* * *
A magician fans out a deck of cards face down on a table and says, "Go ahead; pick a card, any card." It does not matter which card you choose, and then bury facedown, back into the deck. The magician will unexplainably bring it forth from your shirt pocket or perhaps from behind your ear.
Now imagine you are out walking on the beach and God says, "Go ahead, pick a grain of sand, any grain." No matter what grain of sand you choose, God is present in it. Since God is not subject to division or diminishment of any kind, God is completely present in that one little grain of sand. And since the whole universe flows from God, is sustained by God and subsists in God, you are holding in your hand a grain of sand in which you, along with the whole universe and everyone and everything in it is wholly present.
Surprised by such an all-encompassing oneness, you begin to get a little weak in the knees. Then God moves in to finish you off by suddenly expanding this awareness of realized oneness in all directions. "Go ahead," God says, "Pick a place, a situation, a circumstance in which you might find yourself." If you choose a wooded area, you see yourself in your mind's eye surrounded by trees. God is there, inviting you to reach out and pick a leaf off one of the low-lying branches. As you do so, you realize you are holding a leaf in which the totality of reality is wholly present. If you choose your own home, God is there, inviting you to choose something, anything at all: The teakettle on the stove or perhaps a chair in a corner of the living room. No matter what you might choose, you realize you are choosing something in which God is wholly present, loving you and all people and all things into being.
Then God invites you to reflect on any aspect of yourself. No matter what aspect of yourself you focus on, God is there, wholly present in each breath, each thought and feeling, each turn of your head. You realize as you sit, God is present as the ungraspable immediacy of your sitting. As you stand, God is there as the ungraspable immediacy of your standing. As you laugh, God is there as your laughter. As you cry, God is wholly present in each tear that falls from your eyes.
It does not matter what little thing you might choose within or around you. It might just be the thing that awakens you from your fitful dream of being separate from God, who is the reality of yourself and all that is real. May each of us be so fortunate as to be overtaken by God in the midst of little things. May we each be so blessed as to be finished off by God, swooping down from above, welling up from beneath, to extinguish the illusion of separateness that perpetuates our fears. And may we, in having our illusory, separate self slain by God, be born into a new and true awareness of who we really are one with God forever. May we continue on in this true awareness, seeing in each and every little thing we see, the fullness of God's presence in our lives. And may we be someone in whose presence others are better able to recognize God's presence in their lives, so that they, too, might know the freedom of the children of God.
* * *
There is no ready-made method by which we might learn to live in habitual awareness of God's oneness with us in all things. But in this book I try to clarify how our daily life, our faith, our meditation, prayer and the teachings of the mystics help us find our way. I will announce in a future newsletter when this book will be published. It may be a while before this book is released, because just as I was starting the final chapter, two other projects have caused me to set aside Little Things for now.
One of these projects is yet another book presently titled Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate. I will be presenting this material in several upcoming retreats that are listed on my website. One, next week in Bath, England. Then, in Palace Verdes, California in December and then at a major weekend retreat in January of 2010 with Richard Rohr in Albuquerque New Mexico in January.
The other project is a new audio set on the spirituality of healing that I recorded last month with Caroline Myss. This audio series, to be published by Sounds True, is titled Transforming Trauma: A Seven Step Process for Spiritual Healing. I will be sharing more about these projects in these newsletters and on my website
Jim Finley
Join Dr. Finley for a
contemplative retreat
Jim Finley
Retreat Schedule
Four Noble Truths of the Buddha for Us All
Jun. 26-28, Orange, CA
Little Things That Fill the Whole World: Gospel Metaphors of Spiritual Awakening
Jun. 26-28, Chicago, IL
Contemplative Living in Today's World
Jun. 26-28, Tatamagouche, Canada
Jesus and Buddha
Jun. 26-28, Cleveland, OH
Little Things that Fill the Whole World: Gospel Metaphors of Spiritual Awakening
Jun. 26-28, El Cajopn, CA
Transforming Trauma: Taking the 7 Steps of Spiritual Healing
Jun. 26-28, Burlingame, CA
Jesus and Buddha: How the teachings of Jesus reflect the four noble truths
Jun. 26-28, Dallas, TX
Seven Steps to Spiritual Healing
Jun. 26-28, Findhorn, Scotland
Following The Mystics
Jun. 26-28, 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 © 2009 Dr. James Finley