When I signed up to the Living School run through the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque I did so because I knew the work of Richard Rohr, and I had just discovered Cynthia Bourgeault. I knew nothing at all of James Finley.

When I first encountered Uncle Finley’s teaching it took me a while to recognise that I needed to treat it a bit like music – just let wash over me and trust that what I needed to remember would stick.

Nearly two years on, I can safely say, that James Finley’s teaching was the reason I needed to be part of the Living School. His words have washed over me again and again and again. And in the repetition I have found deep healing.

Several days ago I found another of his videos – in this one he is talking about the writing of Thomas Merton (You can find it below). Near the end of the formal talk before the question and answer session he quotes Merton:

I’m coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to become what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself. And if I accept myself fully in the right way, I will already have surpassed myself. For it is the unaccepted self that stands in my way and it will continue to do so as long as it is not accepted. When it has been accepted it is my own stepping stone to what is above me, because this is the way man has been made by God. Original sin was the effort to surpass oneself by being like God, that is unlike oneself. But our Godliness begins at home. We must first become like ourselves and stop living beside ourselves.’

I think I’ll be chewing on this for a while yet!

6 thoughts on “Self-acceptance

  1. Life-giving stuff! Our desire to be like God while we lived in the garden of naive unconsciousness (Eden) is both a saving and damming impulse – saving in that it drives us out of our state of unawakened naivety but damming in that it as we grasp our independence and awaken, so we find ourselves outside the garden, adrift and as Merton says, ‘besides ourselves’ discovering that this ‘independent-self’ (that we fought so hard to create) is not who we really are… oh dear, what now? And so the journey starts, a journey of both (false)self surrender and of (true)self-acceptance – until we begin to find out who we are… a slow but grace-filled pilgrimage into the field of wholeness…

  2. I have a similar reaction to Brother Finely (my age makes the title “Uncle” a bit of a stretch!). He is a longtime hiking partner who points out to me the true nature of the obstacles that line my path.

    Together, we have covered much ground in the Pacific Northwest, from the Columbia River, to the high Cascades and on the Pacific’s rugged shore. I do most of the walking, he does most of the talking via ear buds and iPhone. Each time I listen anew to a Bro Finely Living School lesson, I too breathe in the centering hope of healing. After a typical walk-about, I arrive back at the trailhead balancing the beauty of being deeply humbled and greatly empowered for the all-encompassing precious gift of the moment.

    All is well…

  3. It is so difficult to accept myself as I am and yet if I reject myself, then I am rejecting one of God’s creations. Thank you for the reminder!

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