Here is an expanding annotated bibliography…
This is a great book about vocation. It talks about how to think (and, importantly also, not think) about vocation. He talks about his own experience with depression, and how that led him to understand is path, and follow it.
I think the primary reflection I have from this book is really about asking about who I really am. The poem in the beginning of the book, with the line “Ask me whether what I have done is my life.” It’s a reminder to deeply notice, and deeply accept who I am, and let that be the guide to what I do. My life is not only about what I’m good at – it’s also about my limitations. And paying attention to both of those is important.
The deepest vocational question is not “What ought I to do with my life?” It is the more elemental and demanding “Who am I? What is my nature?”
What I thought of a lot as I was reading this book is about what I call “juice” – it’s faith, worship, piety – attention to God and the things of God and the people of God that is an important part of my spiritual life and path.
I also appreciate his attention to mysticism, and the ways in which the desire to understand the mystical, what is not understandable, or knowable, is an important endeavor. I felt deeply moved by his writing, even at the same time as I kept tripping over the gender pronouns. But somehow, in the end, it didn’t matter so much.
Compassion, the love of life and the love of people—these are difficult things to comprehend and to attain. It takes a great deal of inner cultivation to attain real love and real compassion. It takes also a new conception about the relevance of beauty and the marvel and mystery of everything that exists.
This is a very good, in-depth description of Centering Prayer. It delves into the basics of the practice, the relationship of it to other meditative techniques. It dives into really interesting theological territory – where does the practice fit into contemplative Christian tradition? It has some very nice answers to that question. It delves into the psychological as well.
Virtually every spiritual tradition that holds a vision of human transformation at its heart also claims that a practice of intentional silence is a non-negotiable. Period. You just have to do it.
Philokalia is “The love of the good, or beautiful” in Greek. This is a compilation of writings of early Eastern Orthodox monks, from 4th to 5th century. It’s a very interesting collection, with a lot of attention to two things: what they call “watchfulness” and cultivation of stillness. Along with quotes that talk about the heart-opening process of stillness and ceaseless prayer, there is a lot of discussion of battle with evil, and Satan, and a lot of attention to ascetic practices.
There is a lot to like in the Philokalia, although some of the writers focus more on prayer and stillness than others.
Watchfulness is a spiritual method which, if sedulously practiced over a long period, completely frees us: with God’s help from impassioned thoughts, impassioned words and evil actions. It leads, in so far as this is possible, to a sure knowledge of the inapprehensible God, and helps us to penetrate the divine and hidden mysteries. It enables us to fulfill every divine commandment in the Old and New Testaments and bestows upon us every blessing of the age to come. It is, in the true sense, purity of heart, a state blessed by Christ when He says: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’ (Matt. 5:8); and one which, because of its spiritual nobility and beauty – or, rather, because of our negligence – is now extremely rare among monks. Because this is its nature, watchfulness is to be bought only at a great price. But once established in us, it guides us to a true and holy way of life. It teaches us how to activate the three aspects of our soul correctly, and how to keep a firm guard over the senses. It promotes the daily growth of the four principal virtues, and is the basis of our contemplation. … Attentiveness is the heart’s stillness, unbroken by any thought. In this stillness the heart breathes and invokes, endlessly and without ceasing, only Jesus Christ who is the Son of God and Himself God.- St Hesychios the Priest