Book of the Month: The Way of the Heart

Week Three: The Roots of Compassion

way-of-the-heartAccording to Henrí Nouwen, judgment prevents us from ministering to others, while compassion makes all ministry possible. Compassion comes from the practice of solitude where God can ministry to us with mercy.

Once we have experienced God’s compassion and mercy for us, we’ll be able to share the same with others. Here are Nouwen’s thoughts on solitude from his book, The Way of the Heart:



“Compassion is the fruit of solitude and the basis of all ministry.”


“We have to give up measuring our meaning and value with the yardstick of others. To die to our neighbors means to stop judging them, to stop evaluating them, and thus to become free to be compassionate.”


“Solitude molds self-righteous people into gentle, caring, forgiving persons who are so deeply convinced of their own great sinfulness and so fully aware of God’s even greater mercy that their life itself becomes ministry.”


“When we are filled with God’s merciful presence, we can do nothing other than minister because our whole being witnesses to the light that has come into the darkness.”


Read more in The Way of the Heart.


For Reflection



Saturday Prayer

“Why should I want to be rich, when You were poor? Why should I desire to be famous and powerful in the eyes of men, when the sons of those who exalted the false prophets and stoned the true rejected You and nailed You to the Cross? Why should I cherish in my heart a hope that devours me—the hope for perfect happiness in this life—when such hope, doomed to frustration, is nothing but despair?”

-Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

Why We Need Solitude, Especially for Creativity

Solitude and giving ourselves short breaks throughout the day for our minds to wander aren’t just healthy for our spiritual practices. They can also help us with our creative work. The following article from LifeHacker explores the research behind creativity, and the ways that we can nurture creative thinking.

The short version is that taking a walk can be extremely good for both your prayer practices and for your creative project!


“What Barron found was that the most creative thinkers all exhibited certain common traits: an openness to one’s inner life; a preference for ambiguity and complexity; an unusually high tolerance for disorder and disarray (and vodka and orange juice if we’re talking about Capote); and the ability to extract order from chaos.”


“From a social, cultural, and scientific standpoint, creativity seems to come more freely when we’re able to utilize the parts of our brain that are less connected to reality and more free flowing in nature.”


“In almost every ‘system’ of creativity devised, the most important part of the process involves a letting go of your consciousness to let the deeper parts of your mind come in and make connections. Without incubation—that space away from direct thought—there is no Eureka!”


“One of the traits that Barron found during his creativity study was that creative people are more introspective. But not only in the sense that they have an increased level of self-awareness, but that they also have a familiarity with the darker and more uncomfortable parts of their psyche.

You’ve probably read about the creative benefits of daydreaming, but one of the things that is rarely mentioned in these essays is the importance of uninhibited daydreaming—not letting your brain filter the thoughts coming into your head.”


Read more…


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