Thomas Merton:  Spiritual Direction And Meditation
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127 of 128 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2000
As one who recives spiritual direction, I am constantly on the lookout for books that make sense of a discipline that can all too easily be shrouded in a fog of verbiage. This is one of the very few books that fits the bill; it speaks to the reader directly, in simple, straightforward prose, and its content speaks directly to the spiritual needs of beginners in meditation like me. In particular, the chapters on "How to Meditate" and "Temperament and Mentl Prayer" were especially helpful. All in all, this is the best introductory manual on the practice of prayer that I have seen since Anthony Bloom's "Beginning to Pray."
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83 of 83 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2003
This slender but powerful volume is divided into two fifty-page essays. The first discusses spiritual direction and is aimed mainly at the religious; the second covers the practice of meditation and speaks more to the lay reader.
Merton's commentary on direction is incisive as always. He has a nasty habit of confronting me with my human weaknesses just when I think I've made a little spiritual progress. My spirituality must not be compartmentalized, it must encompass my every thought and action: holiness is not simply a matter of going to church every Sunday, it's how I brush my teeth. Further, my spiritual life must not become enslaved to form; it is all about substance. If the essence of my being is committed to the Holy Spirit, if love for God infuses my every thought and action, I will discern my vocation and conduct my life in harmony with His will. Certainly, a lay person may need guidance in this discernment, but for a religious, whose vocation is spiritual "perfection", it is imperative. Without proper guidance, and a lot of it, proper formation is impossible and the result is often a lost soul. Merton explains what a spiritual director should be, and perhaps more important, what he should not be. Very few of us can discern God's will in solitude-most of us need to talk things out, even if, as Merton points out, it is only a matter of hearing confirmation of what we already know in our heart.
Merton's commentary on meditation includes everything from explaining the true goal of meditation (union with God) to teaching the basics (e.g., it's best to meditate when seated). His primer is must reading for anyone interested in meditation, or anyone wishing to improve his/her prayer life in general.
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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
"Spiritual Direction" and "Meditation" have become spiritual buzz words these days. So many books teach the novice how to go about sitting, breathing, visualizing, etc. Merton cuts through the chase and offers a helpful guide to the Christian who really wants to grow through the cultivation of the inner life. But why shouldn't he? Merton's books were teaching generations truths about the contemplative life before the buzz words started to buzz. This short, easy to read book is a joy to recommend.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The best book on meditation I have read. To the point and articulate but what makes it even better is you can see/feel/experience Merton's personality and intimacy with the subject material so it's not just a dry textual paper pile for the mind. I'm not a Catholic, a monastic or an ascetic, just someone in the US trying to have a better and deeper relationship with God. This is in the top 3 books for me along with A'Kempis and Wilson. It's just what I needed at the right time.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
If ever you thought that our God was not in the driver's seat for our lives, then this is the book for you! I read Seeds of Contemplation by T.M. and then had to know more about the author which led me to this book. What a blessing it has been to read it. I will read it again after loaning it to all my friends. In the meantime, I will re-read Seeds of Contemplation. Remember that these books were written before Vatican II so don't be offended by his references to the Protestant faith. I am a Presbyterian but was a Catholic for 27 years; so just a warning but believe me it is well worth your time, your meditation, and your money to read this journey from atheist to a Trappist Monk.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2008
Despite being a very short book Merton has so much nuance to his thought that he packs a great deal of insight into a few pages. A helpful introduction to both topics
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2010
On page 6, in the Preface, the Abbey of Gethsemani writes, "The second part of the book is made of notes on meditation which were written in 1951 as a kind of companion to 'What is Contemplation?' After they had been typed out, they were laid aside and forgotten. They are now being printed with additions and corrections." I've only read several books by Merton and the only 'What is Contemplation?' that I've seen is the first chapter of "New Seeds of Contemplation". That was reason enough for me to purchase "Spiritual Direction & Meditation" and after reading it, I found it was worth way more than the purchase price.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2014
Should be called "Spiritual Directors & Meditation". Regretfully I also think that they deliberately choose a misleading title since Spiritual Direction is currently a hot topic. The first part of the book is written more to monks and nuns concerning what to look for in a Spiritual Director, not so much as to Spiritual Direction itself, so to me there was nothing helpful in these 50 pages and I honestly think it was added on purpose to "beef up" a book that is only 108 pages. The second part on Meditation has some very good advice but nothing worth the $11.95 they are charging. If you want a good book on Christian Meditation I would highly suggest you get Edmund Calamy's "The Art of Divine Meditation " which is about half again as large as Merton's writing. Granted Calamy wrote his book in the late 1600s so you might have trouble with his English but it is by far better than Merton's and can be found for free on the internet so that you can check it out before buying, or downloading.

Note - There is nothing in Merton's writings here that even comes close to Eastern Meditation so anyone who says it does has NOT read it.
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on October 2, 2013
Merton, as always, offers practical suggestions for prayer, both what to hope for and how to go about getting assistance from a
director. The text is very readable and down to earth for those who live in a busy environment as well as monastics. I am grateful
for his suggestions for types of meditation which appeal to different personality types of people and for an encouraging approach
to all of us looking for ways to grow closer to Christ.
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on October 6, 2013
His exposition is excellent. great deep understanding of what is needed in christian meditation, down to earth directions, never misleading (its part of the whole, insigths and writings ,he published.)
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