Many years ago, novelist and critic Doris Grumbach had "a heart-churning" experience during which she felt the presence of God. "I was filled with a unique feeling of peace, an impression so intense that it seemed to expand into ineffable joy, a huge delight." This epiphany happened when she was without a formal religion or faith. Grumbach attended church for fifty years, looking for that vibrant overpowering sense of God but it never happened again.
In this very important book for seekers of all stripes, the author describes her three-year experiment with contemplative prayer divorced from communal worship. Along the way, Grumbach endures a pain-filled year-long battle with shingles and struggles with what she calls her "sinkhole ego." Her spiritual guides include Thomas Merton ("Prayer means yearning for the simple presence of God."); Simone Weil ("One does not seek for God, one waits for Him."); Quaker Thomas Kelly ("Lead a listening life."); and The Cloud of Unknowing ("You are powerless to grasp Him. Be still.").
The author is correctly skeptical of those who tell her that the only path to God is within a Christian community. She perseveres, reading widely and gleaning insights from Dag Hammarskjold, Meister Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, George Herbert, Anthony Bloom, James Hillman, and others. In her private hermitage, she savors the Psalms, reveres mystery, and refreshes her faith. Doris Grumbach gives freelance spirituality a good name in this profound and prophetic book.