James Finley is a clinical psychologist, popular retreat leader, and author of Merton's Palace of Nowhere. Drawing on Christian and Buddhist sources, he has divided this philosophical handbook into four sections: a contemplative vision of life, find your contemplative practice and practice it, find your contemplative community and enter it, and find your contemplative teaching and follow it.
Living the contemplative life, according to the author, is learning to dance with the depths of divinity in everyday life. Each chapter is a dance lesson. Finley discusses the various elements of meditation and challenges readers to find their own contemplative practices whether prayer, reading the scriptures, writing poetry, gardening, or walking. All can serve as an arena for self-transformation and realizing the divinity of the present moment.
One of the hindrances to cultivating a contemplative heart is "homelessness," which Finley creatively defines as an "inability to dwell in a safe, nurturing way in the concreteness of (our) own lived experience." He also comes up with the following illustrative text that beautifully conveys the value of meditating with others: "The Zen Master Teish Eisho has observed that one log burning in a fireplace does not burn as easily and as intensely as several logs burning together. For when several logs are burning together each log contributes to and draws from the collective flame that unites all the logs as one."