DVD Review of
Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate

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Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate - DVD front cover

 
Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate is a “must” watch.   I know you guys have a tight schedule, but please carve out space for Finley.  He's our kind of guy-comedian! But an in-depth, absent-minded professor who comes across with a serious goofiness!  Since you guys are contemplatives, you will sense a oneness with his interior spiritual message as he becomes an echo of your own experience of intimacy with God and a sounding board that lights up your life.  We never expected such a pleasant surprise as Finley for Advent. We see him mimicking Merton in his own unique way.  What a blessing he has been to us!  We find that unless true contemplatives make the DVD's or CD's, they do not resonate because they are not born out of experience.  They only give us more information that we don't need.  This is why a guy like Finley is so important to us.  He gets it … the inside scoop!
 
At this stage in our life, we are centered on our own Christian contemplative tradition that so needs to be revived and embraced as the heart of Christ's “Good News”.  As Keating says, the Gospel is not the Gospel (Good News) without the contemplative experience, which is nothing less than living out the 1st Commandment to the full.  When we are totally in love with God, we fulfill his most fervent desire = “I want you to be one with the Father as I am one.”  This is the only reason we exist.
 
Recently in Advent, it hit me again smack in the middle of my gut when Merton's “dynamite” exploded and I “re-awakened” to Finley's simple, uncomplicated kindergarten message on Mysticism (contemplation).  The essence of Christianity is our intimate love relationship with God that pours itself out to others in whom we see God.  I bet I have watched all of his in-depth conferences about 15 times, and I'm still excited and getting more and more out of them.  The Spirit is alive in them communing with us who are open.  Finally, someone who gets it!   Finley has been a special blessing for an “old beginner” who can't get enough of God's intimate tender and personal lovin'! Contemplation is not self-serving because, in becoming aware experientially of how loveable we are to our good God, we automatically love him in return.  When we love God, we simultaneously love the whole human family in God.  Love for God and love for others are not two loves, but rather two manifestations of one and the same Love.
 
When I watch Finley, he serves as a stimulus to open my awareness to God's loving and intimate Presence living in me as me, where we are “Oned”.  My one desire is simply for more of this awareness, awareness and intuitive awareness, since it is Love and that is who God and I am.  Each of us is a unique manifestation of God.  This is the gift of our Divinization (Divine Indwelling).  It is the only reason God has gifted us with a share of his own Divine existence and brought us into being.  God doesn't live outside of us or like “next to us”, but is the only one who exists and we exist in him.  Only “God Is” not a being, but “Being Itself”.  And when we are in this love relationship with God, we are also loving the whole human family with whom we are spiritually interconnected.
 
Our intimate love relationship with God in contemplation is what we are made for, and the only thing that completely fulfills us.  We are powerless to awake to it by ourselves, but God is chasing after us incessantly and we are not going to be able to outrun him!   As Finley said, at death, it will all become clear.  We will see (our loveableness) as we are seen by God face to face.  But why not start “now”?  St. Catherine said, “Heaven is all the way to Heaven.”  She used to run through the streets of her town yelling, “God is me”, “God is me”, and never got a call from the Vatican!
 
Unfortunately, most of us are programmed to think that our best chance to experience our loveableness comes from other people, who either tell us or show us concretely how loveable we are.  The love we receive from people is usually “conditioned and limited love” mixed with ego needs.  That is how reward-punishment living develops.  If we are good little boys and girls, then we think and feel our parents, teachers, etc. reward us and love us more.  If early on in life, our parents and family, and later on our teachers, the culture, etc. don't manifest our loveableness to us, we go into a funk, unhappiness, depression, sadness.  Some people are so down the tube that they wonder if their life is worth living.  Few people (including most religions) have told us our loveableness does not come from, and have its source in, people, but is gifted to us directly from God who is our own True and deepest Self at the moment of our conception in our Mom's womb.  Any limited love we receive from people comes from God living in them as them.  God himself is always the source of our loveableness and that's why we can never, in reality, be unloveable.  But our mind and emotions can think and feel we are unloveable, and then we try to substitute all sorts of other stuff to get some lovin' like the love a pet dog gives us because we feed and play with it, or if we buy more possessions, we think they will make us feel more valuable and loveable.  Our accomplishments and successes also can give us the imaginary impression that we are loveable.  Our ego so yearns for love that it becomes satisfied with superficial “conditional love”, rather than none at all.  We become attached to living miserably, looking for love in all the wrong places.  The human family has to know the source of our loveablenss is God alone living in us as us from the moment of our conception.  Experiencing him personally as our True Self is what makes him and our loveableness real, rather than a mere idea, good thought, or feeling.  Even the limited love people give us comes from God living within them, but we know that will never satisfy us because God made us for infinite Love.  We cannot expect from others what is impossible for them to give us.  If we impose the “impossible” on others, we run the risk of becoming co-dependent.  Psychologists inform us that perhaps 85% of married people are co-dependent on each other.  Our broken ego's are still dominant and, by nurturing them, we continue to wound ourseleves and others, so that it is difficult to wake up to the love we already are.
 
No person and no event, weal or woe (i.e., good or bad), can give us or take away our innate loveableness.  It is God's unearned gift, just by bringing us into existence.  We can't even steal it from ourselves by denying our loveablenss or by getting on our own case.  Even if everyone in the whole world hated us and our name was Hitler, God is going on within us and loving us beyond our wildest expectations because he sees and loves himself (his image) within us, where he embraces us as if we were his one and only child.  Each of us is special to God and, even if our Mom forgot us, God could never forget us in whom he intimately abides.
 
I think this is why they say God loves sinners (who we really are), but not our sin (ego mistakes) which have consequences and hurt us if we do not use them to get closer to God and depend entirely on his mercy and compassion.  He loves us (our Being) despite our brokenness (our Behavior).  The Gospel is all about an intimate love affair with God, and not about our moral behavior; and when we know we are loved unconditionally, as is, we start behaving better.  When other people knock us down or we load ourselves up with negative self-depreciation and self-destructive thoughts and feelings, these ego judgments have nothing to do with our real indestructible loveableness, which is not about us (ego), but about God living in us as us (True Self).  He is smitten and madly in love with each of us.  When we realize (experience intuitively) how much he loves us, as is in our brokeness, we start thinking and feeling better about our ego-personality self!   Our “best ego” self might be extremely likeable, but it is not our True Self, which is not an idea or feeling about ourself.  I doubt if God is worried about our likeableness (personality).  He wants us to know what really counts is our loveableness.  He is madly in love with each of us, whether we are likeable or not.  Our loveable True Self is both birthless and deathless because he and we in him never had a beginning and will never have an end.  When we realize experientially how loveable we are to God, as is in our brokenness and fragility we also start liking our ego and other people's ego better, so that we are not very concerned whether other people like us or not.  This detachment actually make us more likeable.
 
If we depend solely on “people love”, rather than the gift of Divine Love, we will come up short and we will spend most of our life looking for happiness in all the wrong places.  Keating names some of these wrong places as power (control), prestige (affection-esteem) and security (possessions).  We usually are encouraged to enter into people relationships which are concrete and tangible, rather than a direct love relationship with an invisible, incomprehensible God.  This leaves us with “half a glass” because “people love” is so mixed up with ego stuff that it ends up being conditional love and limited.  Finley points out that that kind of love, even if motivated by an “unconditional lover” is never enough;  yet, our ego wants to believe that is is enough.  Merton said his ego was where he lived a lie.  He expressed it this way “I not only make mistakes, but I (ego) am a mistake.”  But by admitting he (ego) was a mistake, he also knew it was this very brokenness that attracted God's mercy to him, and so he used his constant failing as a positive means to grow closer to our compassionate, tender God who is smitten with us in our moral miserableness and spiritual poverty.
 
Why do we cling to our ego?  Our ego says to itself “Everyone else lives on this superficial ego level, which is so familiar and acceptable to everyone.  It makes me feel normal and gives me a sense of belonging when I center my life solely on trying to love others.”  We cannot knock this because this desire is good, but just not good enough.  If we do not go beyond it to our direct love relationship with God, it is easy for us to be “content with our discontentedness”.  Without a direct personal love relationship with God in contemplation, we usually end up loving other people at 10% of our potential to love them.  Then, what bewilders us is our attachment to the miserableness that this causes for us.  We take comfort in knowing that most everyone else is involved in this same mess we create for ourselves.
 
St. Paul had it right “Who shall heal me of this dilemma but the grace of God.”  Fr. DeMello knew this was happening in his own life.  He saw himself standing in a cesspool up to his nose and, instead of yelling for help to get out of there, he said “Please don't cause any waves”!   We cling to our problems and then deny we are doing it.  That's why the Buddha said – “No self (ego), no problem.”  After Fr. DeMello matured, beyond his psychological knowledge, he expressed his experiential contemplative Wisdom this way “Everything is a mess (ego world), but all is well.”  God is loving us even in the mess we create for ourselves, so we can be at perfect Peace with whatever is happening, weal or woe.  This surrender of our ego is what heals us so we don't mess up so much.  We then also use the very messes we create to bring us closer to God by trusting wholeheartedly in his Mercy, tender compassionate Mercy, and more Mercy.
 
Our direct experiential contemplative love relationship with God is a must.  Christ came to earth not only to tell us, but show us the way to this intimate love affair with our Daddy (Abba).  That loving consciousness is what Keating calls “The Kingdom of God” (Heaven).  The Kingdom, which was the heart of Christ's Sermon on the Mount, is a “state of consciousness”, not a geographical location or institution.  Christianity better start revisiting and reviving her own beautiful mystical (contemplative) tradition, or the human family will continue to stagnate in immaturity and will do little to heal itself of this “egoitis” disease that is eating us alive!  [Note: The “Disease of Egoitis” is a term that I coined to describe what Keating called the “sickness of humanity”.  For St. Augustine, it was “Original Sin”.  The ignorance caused by confusing how we think about ourself (ego self-concept) with our True Self (God abiding in our pure consciousness).  Our over-identification with our ego becomes the biggest obstacle to intuitively experiencing who we really are. = Union with God.]  God is so smitten with us.  All we have to do is wake up to our unconditional loveableness in our nothingness, spiritual ineptitude, moral failures and fragility.  God desires with desire to touch and heal our “hurting place” deep inside us with his compassionate tender and gentle outreach, communing with us unceasingly in an intimate love affair that will never cease to be.
 
Be sure to watch Finley at least a 100 times! If you get him, you got it!  He has his finger right on the pulse of our intimate love affair with God, and God is using him to give each of us an intuitive glimpse of the Truth of our union and loveableness to our good God, pouring himself out into our consciousness where he lives in us as us.  Experiencing our Divine loveableness is what transforms our lives and is our happiness “par excellence”.
 

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