Varied Surroundings

There is more to being human than travelling around the world sampling its many delights, and recent reading has taken me deeper into subjects like philosophy. Though I am a scientist by training, the humanities continue to appeal to me, and various life events have led me to explore them more than otherwise might have been the case. That is now the main thrust of what you find here, along with other things that have a use in navigating life’s journey.

A Continuing Journey

Previously, I wrote something on spiritual reading and this, in many ways, is a follow-on piece because things have been progressing since then. There has been a move towards more experiential material that started with the writings of Richard Rohr. That has not stopped a diversion from Christianity into Buddhism and the Iain McGilchrist's The Master and His Emissary, the latter being a work that occupied much of 2022. It all is building up to an understanding that there is more to experiencing life than thinking, even if A C. Grayling's The History of Philosophy also featured in my reading later in 2022.

The works of Thích Nhất Hạnh have held my attention too since the autumn of 2022. However, mindfulness does feel a little lacking on the relational side, so a desire for Christian prayer life growth caused me to take to James Martin's Learning to Pray as well as books from the 30 Days with a Great Spiritual Teacher series. They came after my working through the meditations in Everything is Sacred, written by Patrick Boland but inspired by Richard Rohr's The Universal Christ.

Returning to the 30 Days series, ones that I have followed include Thomas Merton, Julian of Norwich, Thea Bowman, Frances de Sales and Thérèse of Lisieux. Most have offered some unexpected wisdom, and all but the third one could cause me to return again or to explore more.

Unlike Martin's book Jesus: A Pilgrimage, which I completed quickly enough, his book on prayer is being done far more slowly. For someone with an upbringing that essentially was limited to rote prayers, the variety of prayer types came as a revelation. Ones like the Examen or Lectio Divina have attracted my interest so far, and I am practising the first of these already. There are others like Heart Centring Prayer to come next.

Complementing it was Christopher L. Heuertz's The Sacred Enneagram, which helped me identify the prayer approach that might work best for my personality type. That may prove to be more enduring than Beverly Lanzetta's The Monk Within, with its interreligious and outside of tradition focus, even if it does reference authors like Teresa of Ávila or John of the Cross (The Way to Perfection, Interior Castle and Dark Night of the Soul have been part of my recent reading too, so I am not anywhere near to getting overly confident of my experiences so far). Nevertheless, her A New Silence is also on my reading list, so that impression may get updated.

My journey started with a realisation of absence associated with a desire for peace and healing. The approachability of the divine came later, and the process of building up the relationship side of things continues; the writings of Teresa of Ávila encourage the use of prayer for that. Recent experiences of church liturgy are causing me to wonder now about the community side of things, and that will be something to address as well. Christopher Jamison's Finding Sanctuary recently offered some food for thought on that subject.

Currently, I am making my way through Merton's Palace of Nowhere by James Finley, so the seeking of inspiration continues. Other books of meditations retain their appeal, and there also is the Sacred Space website and apps. The Anamchara website is another one to check. There is no known destination for the road on which I am travelling, yet that will not deter me from continuing along it. There is no shortage of inspiration out there once you know where to look.