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Contemplatives in the Desert

June 23, 2014

Hilton Big Horn

Hilton Big Horn

I was privileged to spend the weekend with a group of about 170 people who came from all over the country to a conference on the Spirituality of Healing taught by James Finley.  The group included many mental health professionals and teachers who were earning credits in continuing education in their professions.  Many were members of churches with meditation/prayer groups.  I was new to the genre, but felt right at home in he congenial student group. I saw an ad for this in a local paper and followed up with some research into James Finley.  I ordered a couple of audio books he wrote and signed up for the conference.  The resort where it was held is where the Dalai Lama taught in September of 1993, so I have very fond memories of the place.  The Hilton El Conquistador was turned into the the El Comtemplador for a couple of days.  The hotel is dog friendly so my partner and dog could come along for a staycation away from home.  It was a remarkable experience.  I did not photograph the sessions or the participants because I did not want to distract myself from the teaching.  I am happy I made that decision because those photos would add little to this post.

Dr. Finley is very generous with free resources on his website, His teaching in person is designed to pack the time spent together with dense, rich, profound, yet simplistic and practical ideas.  His background allows him to use language of psychotherapy as well as religious language to explain his concepts. He is a brilliant speaker, but the style of presenting really enhances the message he brings.  First of all, he establishes silence in the hall where the conference takes place.  There is time and space outside the room to talk.  On the second day the group broke bad and got noisy, so he asked that we reestablish the silence in the room.  He uses humor to make his point many times, and refers to  patient/clinician dialogs to shed light with specific examples.  In his opening remarks he lets the audience know that trauma is a difficult and personal subject to address.  He encouraged each person to leave the room, move around, take breaks as needed.  He repeated several times, “To thine own self be true.”  This was good for me when I decided the chairs were not sized so well for me, so I took up a spot against the wall where I had support from the wall for sitting or could even lie down.  The sessions covered in sequence his Seven Steps of Spiritual Healing, which logically build upon the preceding steps. He speaks for a little over an hour to cover the material and then a 15-20 minute discussion is opened with the students.  A short break for everyone is followed by the next lecture.  The time is very well ordered and managed to the greatest advantage of the students.  I must say the staff at the resort could not have been more pleasant and helpful, which was icing on the very tasty cake.

He shows the highest regard for the integrity of the students in his assignment of homework.  He gave us several exercises to do on our own that will require a great deal of time and consideration, and then moved on to his core curriculum. If you practice you reap the benefits of practice.  If you don’t, you don’t.  Dr. Finley drives this point home in dramatic and impressive ways in his teaching.  Not only is the task of enlightenment or healing our own responsibility, but we are doing it as a microcosm of all that is.  We can only  put ourselves in the position of least resistance for our desired outcome, and then let go.  Deep meaning, philosophy, poetry, art and love are contained in each precious moment, available to us, and being created by us.  We have all heard such statements somewhere in our past, and may believe them.  What Dr. Finley offers is a system, a practice, a devotional idea to stabilize the consciousness in a state of pure love.  It requires diligence and patience.  He ended by giving us homework for seven years.  It was the perfect wrap up for this conference. He showed how to use lexia divina, discursive meditation, and practice to move into and through the seven steps.  He assigned us a step each week for seven weeks, then do that seven times (49 weeks) after a short break we were to take it up again from the steps, one step a week , repeated 7 times.  Of course, after a break we are to start at the beginning, until we have done this practice for 7 years.  I am sure some kind of heavy duty breakthrough would have to take place if we were all to do our homework.  I love his optimism in assigning it.  If you have a chance to study with these contemplatives, take advantage of it.



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GREAT post Pam.. I wish I could have seen that… but then again….. maybe not. I love the 7×7 series. That makes real sense. By the end of the 7×7 .. you would have it thoroughly engrained.


Stevie Wilson (@LAStory)

June 24, 2014

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