Book Review- Stand On Your Own Feet: Finding a Contemplative Spirit in Everyday Life by Natalie Smith

by Mark Votava

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This is a great book by Natalie Smith!  The title of the book is taken from Thomas Merton’s presentation at a conference in Thailand the day before he died.  He said that others should stand on their own feet instead of allowing the prevailing religious structures of the church to shape who we are becoming as a people.  Merton knew if individuals were going to live into their true selves and find an authentic path, they would have to go to a deeper level of wisdom than the church could offer.

Natalie Smith uses this idea to inspire us to cultivate a contemplative spirit within ourselves in everyday life.  She emphasizes that all of life is an expression of contemplation.  The book draws from such themes as solitude, living gracefully, attentiveness, simplicity and seeing all of life as sacred.

  • The contemplative rhythm of creation

“The challenge for us, as contemplatives, is to stay in step with this contemplative rhythm of creation by relishing Jesus… in all things and in every person without disruption.  In other words, when the Jesus dwelling in us is truly appreciating the Jesus in the world, this present moment of union is a kind of contemplation.”

  • Growing in awareness

“In time, if we are graced and persevere, we may obtain a greater cognitive awareness that Christ is operating in us, in all people, and in all things and events.  As we grow in this awareness, we will experience an even greater appreciation of the true value of Jesus living in every person.  We will be mindful that in every situation, in every occupation, every religion, there is an element of virtue, an element of Jesus, and element of grace and contemplation taking place…”

  • Solitude is necessary

“Periods of solitude are usually necessary for us to experience a deeper sense of God’s peace.”

  • Physical activity can be a wonderful form of meditation and reflection

“Jogging, weight lifting, swimming, golf, and other sports that are usually performed alone can be a wonderful time for meditation, as well as a great opportunity for reflection, that is, if we can participate in these activities in a relaxed manner.”

  • Breaking the consumerist habit

“Without drawing any undue attention to ourselves, we should try to live as simply as possible in reference to clothing, cars, housing, and the like.  Simplicity does not mean that we do not buy quality items that we need.  It means that we try to break the consumerist habit of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ and simply buy what we truly need according to our situation in life…”

  • The commitment of stability to a place

“Stability means that we are committed to a place and to the people who inhabit that place…”

  • As unique as our fingerprints  

“Our individual path is as unique as our fingerprints.  There are no two paths exactly alike.  If we stay on our unique path and accept it as such we will have discovered true solitude…”

How can we cultivate a contemplative spirit in everyday life?