In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce contrasts the difference between the sheer gaze of admiration and the distorted, manipulative, and lustful gaze of narcissism. Ronald Rolheiser, a Roman Catholic priest who is the General Councillor for Canada of his order, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, sees the gaze of admiration as a sign of the art of contemplation. This spiritual practice gives us methods to focus our awareness, to purify our hearts, and to renew our sense of wonder.

The author examines the three contemplative traditions within Western Christianity: the mystical tradition, the Protestant contemplative tradition, and the philosophical tradition of theism. Within each of these, the contemporary believer can find ample spiritual resources to combat the three persistent blocks to God: narcissism, pragmatism, and restlessness. In the last section of the book, Rolheiser presents seven contemporary spiritual exercises that can deepen Christian faith including receptivity and gratitude, self-abandonment and obedience unto death, and centering prayer.