Finley says (pp. 21-22), “The underlying thesis of this work is that Merton’s whole spirituality, in one way or another, pivots on the question of ultimate human identity. Merton’s message is that we are one with God….
We can now say that a more specific purpose underlying this book is that of prayerfully exploring Merton’s critically important yet little-appreciated notion of ‘the true self in God’ as opposed to ‘the false self of egocentric desires.’ The task before us is a prayerful asking of Who Am I not relative to this or that aspect of my being, but rather who am I ultimately before God?”
This is a profound teaching that requires each of us to spend some time sitting with the idea. Merton says that underneath all of our roles as children, as parents, as life partners, as workers, and so on, underneath all of those there remains the “true self,” which God created when our existence began. Finley says (p. 22), “Even my parents, though the causes of my biological existence, did not create the unique core of my being, but rather discovered me as a newly unfolding mystery in their midst.” As a parent myself, I can affirm that children are indeed a mystery to be unfolded. Don’t you agree?
Contemplative Practice: Centering Prayer
“Centering Prayer is a receptive method of Christian silent prayer which deepens our relationship with God, the Indwelling Presence … a prayer in which we can experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself.” – from https://www.contemplativeoutreach.org
The steps are:
- Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
- Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
- When engaged with your thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.
- At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.
Do not be discouraged if you find yourself engaged with thoughts; this is our normal “monkey mind” leaping about from tree to tree. Simply smile at yourself and return to your sacred word. You may do this many times during a prayer session. Each time you are choosing to turn yourself toward God!
You may want to set a timer to determine the time you spend in prayer. The free Insight Timer app for your phone has some nice bell sounds to choose from. If you are a beginner, start with 5 minutes. The website says the minimum time is 20 minutes, recommended twice per day. I, for one, need to work up to that!