Author: Whitney Eddy

Three Days of Thomas Merton – Day 3

No Comments

Day 3: A Few of Merton’s “Seeds”

Thomas Merton, the scholar and monk, was at his core a comtemplative- a deep thinker. He produced a massive quantity of written work in his 53 years. If there was a theme to his contribution it was most likely his efforts to communicate how to live a full and meaningful life through contemplation.  In other words, how to connect to God in a way that transforms a person from who they think they are into the person God created them to be. And no one embodies this personal transformation better than Merton himself.  Agnostic to Trappist monk, no one can deny he practiced what he preached. He shared his wisdom less to persuade his readers to believe his beliefs, and more to plant a seed in a person’s thoughts that require that person to tend to and water.  I love Merton because I believe he believed himself to be less the master gardener that the masses should listen to and learn from and more simply the sharer of his personal gardening experiences and gained wisdom for the purpose to motivate others to become their own master gardeners.  Here are a few of his seeds of contemplation…….

“Perhaps I am stronger than I think I am”

“We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened.  But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen.”

“The BEGINNING of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not twist them to fit our own image.  Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves in them.”

“We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.”

“The least of learning is done in the classrooms.”

“If you want to study the social and political history of modern nations, study hell.”

“When ambition ends, happiness begins.”

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves?  This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless but disastrous.”

“We have what we seek, it is there all the time, and if we give it time, it will make itself known to us.”

“The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt.  The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most.”

“Our IDEA of God tell us more about ourselves than about Him.”


Three Days on Thomas Merton – Day 2

No Comments

Day 2: Who was Thomas Merton…

“We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened.  But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen.”

I’ve shared this quote because, to me, it personifies Thomas Merton, the man.  He was real. He understood and communicated that a spiritual journey is not one that leads to enlightened perfection but rather leads to a real life well lived.  That is the quality that made Merton an overnight “sensation” but then produced a body of work that is still relevant 50 years after his death. His ability to share his deep introspective thoughts in a way that was REAL is interesting and approachable to a broad audience.  He was down to Earth yet wrote on topics that are academic and philosophical (way deep). He was clearly brilliant but was so grounded and secure in who he was and what he believed that his writings show no signs of being conceited or inflated. He wasn’t writing to convince or persuade others to believe what he believed.  He was simply writing to share his point of view…… to share his “Seeds of Contemplation” –his thoughts on how to live life well.  

So who was Thomas Merton?  Born in France in 1915 to two artists, Merton’s upbringing did not carve out the path toward the spiritual enlightenment he would experience and share in his writing.  Void of religion and stability Merton’s youth resembled that more of a vagabond than a monk. His mother died when he was 6 years old. His father often traveled for long periods of time leaving him with grandparents or friends to raise him.  His father died when he was 15 and thus began a season of self indulgence which Merton declared that “I believe in nothing.”

Academically astute, Merton went to Cambridge University but graduated from Columbia in New York. He desired to stay in the world of academia as an English professor, a path which he began walking down not knowing a higher power had another path in the works for him.  As Merton tells his story in The Seven Story Mountain what stands out is the way he communicates his total transformation from agnostic to monk as one that called to him instead of one he choose for himself.  Throughout his story it is as if an external force was calling him to himself; calling him to the path of becoming “the famous Thomas Merton”. As a teenager he traveled to Rome.  He could not shake the beauty of the architecture of the cathedrals and explored many without showing interest in the liturgy. A little later, the interior life of the church began calling and as he explains it, he felt an urge he could not explain to get baptized, but was still firmly secure that his path was in education not religion. 

Later Merton was prompted to visit the Abbey of Gethsemane and begrudgingly went. The life within the walls of the monastery could not have contrasted more to Merton’s extroverted life and personality. The Trappist monks he encountered inside vowed to live a life in silence and strict discipline. Merton was not one bit interested in this way of life, until well…. he was.  The next visit he made to Gethsemane was a permanent one. After the prompting of a senior monk to share his story, he wrote and later published his autobiography and his life of silence took a sharp turn as his ultimate path proved to be one that combined his earlier love of teaching with his new passion, God.  The teaching he had a solid grounding in while the God part, he was quickly learning. The year following the publishing of his autobiography he became an ordained priest and officially began his season of the act, writing and sharing of his contemplation.

The reason that Merton speaks to me so deeply is that he was a “seeker” not a “knower.” He shared his thoughts. He didn’t persuade others to believe his thoughts. I’d guess his goal was to light a fire of contemplation in each of his readers that encouraged them too to seek knowledge and wisdom about what it means to live a life well lived.  For it is one thing to be spoon fed information and something entirely more rich to discover it on our own. That is what his words do for me. And his path also deeply speaks to me. It is unexpected, one Merton himself couldn’t dream up. One that called to him as he listened and dared to follow.  What is the path God has for us that we can’t ourselves think up. The path that would surprise us just as much as Merton’s surprised him. Maybe when we plan out our life and hold tightly to that vision we miss out all together on another, more epic story that is wanting to be told? Maybe that unknown path begins with some contemplation?  And if one wants to learn about contemplation, I know of a man that wrote lots and lots on the subject.

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.” – Thomas Merton

Three Days of Thomas Merton – Day 1

Day 1: An Introduction

“In the last analysis, the individual person is responsible for living his own life and for ‘finding himself’.  If he persists in shifting his responsibility to somebody else, he fails to find out the meaning of his own existence.” – Thomas Merton

There are few historical people that I admire more than Thomas Merton. The catholic priest, Trappist monk, social activist, mystic, and scholar is interesting for our purposes here at Whølehearted not only for his body of work on faith, but also for the story of his life.  Merton is unique in that it was his story, his autobiography, that catapulted him into the spotlight to become what he would call with a bit of annoyance, “the famous Thomas Merton”. At 31 he wrote an autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, that put him on the radar.  Hugely successful he would then continue to write 60+ additional books and hundreds of poems and articles before his death 50 years ago today at the age of 53 (December, 10, 1968).  

It’s unusual that a autobiography would proceed a brilliant career instead of conclude it.  So what was it about his beliefs that made him one of the most influential modern spiritual thinker; one of four “great Americans” that Pope Francis singled out in a message to Congress in 2015?  And what was it about his story that made him famous BEFORE anyone knew all that much about his beliefs? This week I’d like 3 days to share a bit about Thomas Merton. Today, this simple introduction.  Tomorrow, his story. The last day, a few of his “seeds of complempation”.


Richard, Mark and a But

No Comments

“I am the one thing in life I can control”
lyric from “Wait for It” from the Hamilton soundtrack


I recently read a story of two brothers: Richard and Mark.  To summarize, Richard was the older of the two and got by doing what was necessary to get by.  Mark, the younger, was honest, loyal and hardworking. Friends as kids, as the brothers grew older they grew apart.  Mark appeared to the outside world to be the more privileged. His accomplishments always seemed to trump his older brother which fueled competition between the two.   Despite the efforts of their parents who desired for their sons to be supportive of one another their relationship deteriorated over time until it came to a breaking point.  Richard had enough and one day he killed his younger brother in a fit of rage in an empty field. Instantly, full of grief, he left his parents and his home to start his life over again alone.  And that is the end of this story.

We hear this story and it is shocking and tragic.  It is also a timeless story we have all heard before.  Heard before but maybe haven’t connected with. It is the story of the first two siblings: Cain and Abel.  I did read this story recently, and I read it in a new light. Read it as an actual story of two actual brothers.  Brothers that could be real people living now, like say….. Richard and Mark. Bible stories, whether we grow up in or outside of the church come with a stigma.  And some of the most well known stories have become so familiar that we can discount them as not having useful knowledge still for us as adults because we learned their lessons when we were kids.  Sometimes I have to read these stories ‘a-new ‘ to see if there are lessons buried inside that I haven’t tapped into yet, and when I recently reread this story I found a few ah-has thinking about Cain and Abel as Richard and Mark.

It is so interesting to think that this is the FIRST family in the bible and this is the story told of them.  The one story told. Fascinating. The first human family and things were not easy and effortless. Quite the opposite, the first human sibling relationship ended with murder and death.  Why, I don’t remember that being a focus in Sunday school? So what is the take away? Well, as I see it this story teaches that 1- sibling rivalry is real and always been “a thing”, 2- families are complicated, and 3- conflict has and always will exist in relationships – both sibling and beyond.

As grown ups the vast majority of us have not physically killed our siblings but it does seem that many adult sibling relationships are strained.  But thinking beyond siblings, I wonder if maybe this story is less about the sibling dynamic and more about the human relationship dynamics whatever it may be: husband/wife, parent/child, friends, neighbors, co-workers.  What led Cain to kill Abel was unresolved conflict between the two and conflict appears in all relationships, not just that of siblings. And no conflict doesn’t often lead to physical death, but maybe conflict, fueled by comparison and rivalry, IS the killer of relationships.

Whether in a relationship, whatever type of relationship it may be, we identify more as the Cain/Richard or as the Abel/Mark when conflict arises we nearly ALL identify as the victim with the other as the one to blame. Basically we are all like Cain in this way in that we assume the conflict is the fault of the other. And what is even crazier is often we are totally unaware of this. Think about it. Think about an issue that has you in a tizzy with someone currently.  Is it your fault? Are you to blame? OR does the blame fall in the other person’s corner. If they weren’t so difficult or irresponsible or judgmental or passive or assertive or busy or available or whatever then things would be okay and the conflict would be resolved.  Basically, if the other person was just way more the way we need them to be in the relationship then we could live happily ever after.

Of course, we all do realize that we have our own flaws and faults BUT we breeze over this in our assessment of the situation and camp out on the faults of the other as the real source of the relationship problem. Basically in conflict the real root of the problem lies not in our hands but in the other persons. Two friends fighting over hurtful things said and done, one might think, “I know I haven’t always treated her as well as maybe I could, BUT what she did was downright unacceptable.  And then we camp out on everything that lies after the BUT. We tell our friends, our spouse, anyone that will listen to all the juicy details that fall after the BUT and don’t give all that much thought to what becomes before the BUT.

What if for a period of time, a month or two, we were committed to focusing 100% of our attention on what comes before the BUT.  What if we were willing to see and own our part and leave it at that. “I know I haven’t always treated her well”. And that’s where I am going to camp out for awhile.  No BUT. Oh but it it so much juicer to focus on someone else’s falls from perfections than our own. But as I can see it there is really no other way. No other way to mature beyond “Cain level”  and we’ve learned that Cain is the historical relationship killer.

For. . . . .

1- I am the only person I can control

2- I try and do my best to love others well but

3- I am imperfect- I will always be imperfect

4- I will screw up

5- When I screw up I hope I have people in my life that will see beyond the messes I make and forgive me and love me in spite of myself

6- So maybe I should aim to see beyond the messes others make and and be more forgiving and loving

7- To those around me that screw up

8- And fall short of perfection and will always fall short of perfection

9- But do genuinely try to do their best to love others well

10- That are not the only person I can control

This all seems to make logical sense to me but logical sense can be incredible hard to implement in the real world.  Best of luck to us all on this!

See Genesis 4




What do you believe?

No Comments

“The outer conditions of a person’s life will ALWAYS be found to reflect their inner beliefs.”  James Allen

Are there more powerful words when genuinely delivered than, “I believe in you”?  Saying these words has an impact, but it is our actions that really communicate them.  What are we really communicating by way we speak, act, and react to those closest to us: I believe in you or I don’t really believe/trust in you?

This is something worth thinking about.

But before that, what about the way we speak, act, or react to ourselves?  Are we communicating, “I believe in you”, to ourselves? It is also worth spending some time thinking about this.  And thinking about this not the guilt way than makes us feel bad that we are not nicer and more supportive of ourselves.  But instead through simple honest curiosity. Because the truth is that none of us always believe in ourselves or treat ourselves the way we deserve to be treated.  Feeling guilty about beating ourselves up may inspire us to be kinder in the short run, but this quickly becomes another item on the to-do list that we don’t get around to and then feel more guilty about.

But considering this way we speak to ourselves void of guilt or judgement, or the feeling that this is a foolish exercise and a waste of time. . . . We may ask: Do I believe in me?  Why? Why Not? Do I really believe in me? And who do I really believe in? Why?

Simple questions to think about if one is willing to take the time to sit with and dive into it.  Pretty profound insight can come when we just make time for it to. Profound sometimes yes, or tiny subtle insight.  But that is not to be discounted either…… tiny seeds can produce quite a harvest.

Matthew 13: 31-32

The kingdom of heaven is like a tiny mustard seed, which man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.  

A Great Story

No Comments

“Some people long for a life that is simple and planned – tied with a ribbon. Some people won’t sail the sea ‘cause they’re safer on land – to follow what is written. But I’d follow you to the great unknown…..” Lyrics from: Tightrope, The Greatest Showman

A Great Story

The heartbeat of whølehearted is great stories. And to be more specific, connecting people to great stories. We all love connecting to a great story through reading a book or watching a movie, but what about thinking of our own life as a great story? Do we like that story? I would venture to guess many of us accept our story, while fewer like or love it and even fewer see it as epic or timeless. Why is this? Life happens. It is complicated. We settle, we drift, we survive, we get distracted, we get taken out and years pass and we begin to accept our story as less than maybe we dreamed it could be.

I believe hardwired in all humans is the desire to be a part of a great story, one that is larger than us. It is also my belief that there is one major roadblock that collectively stands in our way. We all want to tell an epic story with our life. Yes. BUT. . . We all want to do so comfortably and safely. We want that epic outcome with an easy path if possible. Yet I’m not sure epic and easy go hand in hand. I have trouble recalling a great books or movies where the main character’s easy and safe life choices lead to a predictable and comfortable outcomes. Yet that is the life many of us fall into. That is where the current of life often leads.

To tell a great story, which makes life come alive and makes our struggles meaningful and worthwhile requires a few things. Most of all great stories require great risks. Risk requires strength. Strength comes after one has a firm footing and a firm footing requires growth. Growth, personal growth, is the step that people unanimously do not enjoy. It is the core of the process, but it is the hidden step. The risk gets attention, the strength gets admired, the firm footing gets applauded, but it is the growth that makes it all possible.

Sometimes for some people a huge unexpected life event propels them into a story greater than themselves in which they must draw from courage and strength in the face of great hardship. The movies are filled with these stories, but what about the real world?  More often real life’s great stories begin with persistent personal growth.  It can be mundane, raw and not glamorous like it is in Hollywood screenplays.  It requires a certain dedication to grow into the person that we want to become but feel like we are currently inadequate to be.

I have found in my life that this has come from “seeds” maybe more than anything else. “Seeds”: little bits of knowledge or encouragement or words of wisdom here and there that make tiny shifts in the way I see the world and the way I see myself. These tiniest shifts, that are often not even noticeable until after the fact, have turned into bigger seeds and bigger shifts that have made my life more meaningful and fulfilling, and above all else, more enjoyable to live.

Seeds: that is entirely our goal with this blog- tiny seeds. Little bits of thought that could perhaps make the tiniest shift in a person’s life story so that a person can in some tiny degree believe he or she is an epic movie worthy character in their own story. One seed at a time.

Matthew 13: 31-32 The kingdom of heaven is like a tiny mustard seed, which man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.