Finding The Still Point: A Spiritual Response to Stress

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Topics: Spiritual Exploration & Practice. Ages: Adult. Resource Types: Books.

Review & Commentary

One thought on “Finding The Still Point: A Spiritual Response to Stress

  1. Review

    The breadth and depth of this book expands as the reader advances. The first pages seem simply to offer a reworking of the idea that meditation practices assist people to cope with fast-paced modern life. A problem with the book is that the reader is likely to conclude, after the opening chapters, that, in terms of its theme, we’ve “been there, done that.”

    The fourth chapter, “Health for What?” introduces the wider horizons to come. Harpur praises the widely used concepts of Jon Kabat-Zinn (Full Catastrophe Living). Helpful though Kabat-Zinn’s techniques and secular ideas are, especially in such settings as cancer clinics, Harpur insists they suffer from a serious deficit: the lack of any religious dimension. Reduction of stress is not an end in itself, Harpur argues. Meditation, walking labyrinths, and other spiritual exercises do more than help people cope; they are ways of identifying and strengthening that of God in each of us.

    The horizons continue to expand. By examining the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, and by looking into the sacred writings of other major faiths, Harpur is able to show that the search for the spiritual center is the common theme of all widely practiced religions. Not only stress within individuals, but also stress between individuals and between cultures can be lessened by searching for that Still Point at which all people of faith connect with the Divine.

    This reader found special excitement in Harpur’s exploration of the role of Jesus. Harpur dismisses any unique godliness in Jesus. Instead, Jesus’ role was to model a life so firmly attached to its divine center that no amount of external stress could disrupt it. Jesus saw his task as calling forth from others a similar strength. We all contain the capacity to live as part of the Kingdom of God, and we each carry the power to spread light and healing. Jesus was, indeed, the son of God, but we are all children of God. Harpur uses his impressive expository skills to build his case for this understanding of Jesus. While he does not refer to Walter Wink, (the two books were published at essentially the same time) his understanding of the role of Jesus is similar to concepts Wink develops in his recent The Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of the Man .

    Progressive Christians have concluded that they can no longer embrace the rigid dogmas that were important to many of our spiritual ancestors. So, what is left? Tom Harpur addresses this crucial question. Harpur demonstrates that rejecting tired and irrelevant dogma does not mean rejecting our tradition. What remains is the heart of that tradition, the rock-solid foundation of religious faith. What remains is the challenge to identify and strengthen the point of contact between the human and the divine—the Point that provides ballast and meaning for the individual. What is left is to recognize that divine reality in all other humans—a necessary ingredient in any worthwhile effort to build communities of peace and justice.

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