This is a memoir that many people have been awaiting from master spiritual teacher, James Finley. Here are stories, some of which have been told by Finley in his workshops and retreats, but never as fully, and for purposes of healing, as takes place in these pages.
Finley’s audio programs have long been popular. We have reviewed some of them here. But he has written relatively few books. This is also a reason why this memoir has been long-awaited.
Finley is a clinical psychologist, a former novice monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky who knew Thomas Merton. He is an experienced spiritual director and a core faculty member at the Center for Action and Contemplation in New Mexico. He tells stories of learning from many great teachers, especially Merton, in these chapters.
He also tells of painful moments of brokenness in his life, including being the survivor of a violent and alcoholic father. Also, of his own marital strife and divorce, and mistakes he has made in relationships. Finley tells of pain received at the hands of others, as well, including a monk who was his superior (not Merton) and sexually abused him in those early years as a novice.
Each chapter ends with the words “Amen. So be it.” These come after beautiful summations of wisdom Finley has gleaned from these various experiences. See “Finding our way along the healing path” — the excerpt that accompanies this review — for a sample of one of these.
Another example comes at the end of chapter 9. After telling of experiences accompanying a man who had also experienced much pain, through to his own death, Finley offers: “May each of us at our own pace and in our own way continue to find our way along this path, this way of life, in which we are learning from Love how to be healed from habits of our minds and hearts that compromise and do violence to Love.”
The Healing Path is a treasure for all who find themselves seeking love and compassion to heal the fragility and brokenness of life. Finley makes an ideal guide.