Saturday, July 3, 2010

Monks and Mystics

Artist: Sassetta

Reader Cathy got me to thinking the other day when she requested a list of books for spiritual reading. From time to time (hmmm... maybe on Saturdays) I propose to tell you about a book that has influenced me in my spiritual practice.

Today I'd like to recommend Ordinary People as Monks and Mystics by Marsha Sinetar. There's no particular reason for having chosen this one first except that it jumped out at me as I was examining my bookshelves for something with which to begin. I read this one shortly after it came out in 1986 and studied it with some care as I was in the process of discerning my vocation at the time. Here's how Sinetar begins the introduction:

My bias is this: ordinary, everyday people can and do become whole. They can and do live in ways that express their highest and most cherished values - values which also happen to be those most prized universally and collectively throughout human history. People who become whole are the ones who find completeness by consciously integrating inner and outer realities. This is a book about such persons, and about the way in which they manage to merge their inner truths with the demands of everyday living. It is for them, and for all who long for their own wholeness, that this book is written and dedicated.
And so, the book is about real people who are actually doing it. Sinetar interviewed a considerable number of people who lived alone by choice and who experienced their lives as devotion and calling. It is quite fascinating to learn of the various ways different people found to order their lives so as to support the yearning for wholeness, purpose and transcendence.

I offer another brief passage here - this one from the chapter on silence and solitude:

From both a professional and a personal standpoint, I have come to believe that adults can build a secure framework out of which to live their lives if - and it is a big if - they are willing to face the necessary work of inner regeneration: the pulling away, self-scrutiny and self-acceptance/self-trust steps which I've outlined... The person who fears his own thoughts, who needs others too much, who is overly self-critical or serverely attached to his own cultural belief systems and values may not be able to do this work.
This book is written in a very accessible way. It is for people who are really having a go at learning to be "in the world but not of it."


  1. oh brilliant Ellie!!! I'm so pleased to see this. I'm going to look into this book right away!!

  2. And I'm so pleased that you're pleased, Cathy!

  3. Ellie, I have had a look at this on Amazon and bought it. Many many thanks.


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