To Begin Again – 11 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The Sign of Jonas

by Mark Votava

41sdg2pPluL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. How good is it to be alone, in silence

“But even with your eyes and your head spinning, how good is it to be alone, in silence.”

2. Our sense and experience of God

“How true it is that our knowledge and sense and experience of God is sometimes so much sharper and cleaner when we are uncomfortable and hot and physically cramped and suffering than when we are cool and at rest…”

3. A deepening of the present

“Solitude is not found so much by looking outside the boundaries of your dwelling, as by staying within. Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it.”

4. New and unexpected places

“…the contemplative life – is a continual discovery of Christ in new and unexpected places…”

5. Not really the same person, except in appearance

“If I were the same person I was ten years ago, I certainly would be astonished. But I am not really the same person, except in appearance…”

6. The desire for solitude

“I have only one desire and that is the desire for solitude…”

7. To live for God

“…the important thing is not to live for contemplation but to live for God… As soon as obedience is tempered with conditions, the mind becomes unfit for contemplation…”

8. As if it were the work of somebody else

“The way I have adapted myself to the fact that I am an author is to forget that I am one, to act as if I had never written a book, and to treat The Seven Story Mountain as if it were the work of somebody else…”

9. To be moved and led by the love of God

“To be led and moved by the love of God: indifferent to everything except that. This is the source of the only true joy… It is the foundation of all vision. Without it, even what you know to be true is of no use to your soul because you are divided from the truth and armed against it.”

10. To begin again

“We are blind, and subject to a thousand illusions. We must expect to be making mistakes almost all the time. We must be content to fall repeatedly and to begin again…”

11. The time I would have lost in complaining

“Two and three and four years ago when I complained bitterly that there was no time in my life for contemplation, all these demands on our time and energy would probably have upset me considerably. For now it is actually a fact, and not a fancy, that we get very little time to ourselves. But it no longer upsets me, and I find that I am not tempted to waste time in complaining… So now, the time I would have lost in complaining is spent in something more like union with God.”

Do you have a desire for solitude?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist