Trying To Swallow The Sky – 9 quotes from James Finley’s book – Merton’s Palace of Nowhere: A Search for God Through Awareness of the True Self
by Mark Votava
1. Infinite possibility of growth
“…our deepest freedom rests not in our freedom to do what we want to do but rather in our freedom to who God wills us to be. This person, this ultimate self God wills us to be, is not a predetermined, static mold to which we must conform. Rather, it is an infinite possibility of growth. It is our true self; that is, a secret hidden in and one with the divine freedom…”
2. How can we give birth to the true self?
“How can we give birth to the true self? How can we emerge from our falsity and assume our true identity devoid of all illusory self-seeking? The question reveals the supreme practicality of the spiritual life…”
3. Detachment from our own progress
“The mystic knows little or nothing about mysticism in the sense of concerning himself with experiences and techniques. Rather the mystic is simply one who sees things as they are; he sees all of life as coming from God, sustained by God, and returning back to God. Only with this detachment from our own progress, and only in freedom from all techniques that feed the birds of appetite, can we hope to find our true self in God…”
4. A surrogate for being present to life
“The great risk of all spirituality is that it so easily becomes a surrogate for being present to life…”
5. A potential symbol
“…everything becomes a potential symbol making communion with God possible. A single sentence read in silence, a single word, a lone bird soaring aimlessly through a cloudless sky, a child stirring the water with a stick – anything, anything at all can bring us to the insight of the true self…”
6. Trying to swallow the sky
“We will never have this insight into the true self as long as we try to ‘have’ an insight and then cling to what we think we have. Trying to have the insight is like trying to swallow the sky. The insight is that we are the insight. The insight is that there is nothing to acquire, for there is no one to acquire it. There is no insight other than the self we always have been, yet did not recognize. We suddenly realize that we had it all along.”
7. Communion with others
“Solitude, if it is genuine, brings us to a most profound communion with others in their deepest reality grounded in God.”
8. A whole syndrome of lies and illusions
“The false self is a whole syndrome of lies and illusions…”
9. True solitude
“…true solitude draws us into communion with others and true communion with others draws us to solitude… The vocation of people in the world is to find solitude in the midst of others. The true self embraces both solitude and others. The false self rejects both solitude and others. It turns solitude into ego-centered isolation, and communion with others into the mindless ‘mass man’ that feeds on exploitation and the externalization of consciousness.”
Have you searched for God through awareness of your true self?
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