Finding Myself

Along with my 37-year career as a trial attorney for injured victims of someone else’s negligent or purposeful behavior, I have been a mediator primarily helping divorcing couples reach agreement without lengthy costly litigation.  My mediation center, CivilAgreement Mediation Services, Inc., focused on reducing tension and hostility between two adverse parties while helping them reach a “win-win” they both could live with.

After a brief introduction about the mediation process, I meet privately with each of the parties and simply ask them, “tell me your story of how the two of you got to this decision to end your marriage.”  I can’t tell you how many times I heard one party say something along the lines of “everything was perfect for X number of years, and then he/she said, ‘I have to get away to a place where I can put energy into finding myself’.” 

The ”finding myself” announcement was often followed by anger and usually included “you are my wife/husband and the mother/father of our kids, that’s who you are! Stop it with all of this finding myself garbage/stupidity.”  I can’t tell you how many times my receptionist who handled the initial intake call would say, “Steven, another 19-year-marriage down the drain!”  Over one five-year span, every couple I saw had “been fine” until the kids went to college.  The empty nest meant that they had to interact only with each other, something they had not done since their courtship! 

So, when I first encountered The Merton Prayer’s “nor do I really know myself,” I more easily understood the plight of my mediation clients.  Who am I really, when all the exterior superficial trappings are dropped? The Merton Prayer’s clarion call, while not explicitly stated as such, is this:  one cannot regularly and honestly pray this prayer and remain superficial.  Not in your relationship with others.  Not in your relationship with God.  Superficiality bequeaths more superficiality.

Finding myself” is a prerequisite for a successful partnership or a covenantal relationship (such as marriage).  Unfortunately, the human psyche is too often focused on the urgent needs of the daily routine so that quiet, focused, introspection just does not easily occur.  I love the spiritual discipline known as “Centering Prayer” and it has become a regular part of my walk with God.  For many years I was part of a group of people who once a week spent time together, alone, in total silence, just listening for God and trying to rid ourselves of the distracting clutter.  Post-pandemic I spend quiet time alone and hope to rejoin a group in the future.

Practitioners of “Centering Prayer” suggest that one adopt a code word which will allow me to climb out of distracting thought patterns such as:  making a mental list of the groceries I need to buy later, an idea for a work project which needs my attention, etc.  My code word is the Hebrew word shalom which most commonly is translated “peace” but which is far richer and deeper in its meanings of “health, wholeness,” things we all need much more of and much more often!

The next time you pray The Merton Prayer, linger a bit on “nor do I really know myself” and ask yourself, “How am I doing at finding myself?”

Leave a comment, if you wish, regarding this post or how you found The Merton Prayer and why it is important to you.  Thanks for visiting!

3 thoughts on “Finding Myself

  1. The best gift anyone gave me was the right teaching that a spiritual practice is anything that creates space for us to interact with God. That came at a time in life when I started running extremely long distances and that time alone was allowing my mind to settle, as if you put muddy water into a clear glass… Running isn’t so much a spiritual practice anymore, but that’s what I love about the “centering prayer.” It’s being creative about how we experience god. good work Steve


  2. It is a sad commentary to watch people wander from the faith & from relationships that grounded them for many years. It can and does happen to all of us in some fashion. We are “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” The practice of the centering prayer, the daily office, and spending regular time in silence along with time in the Word have been a key for my wife and I. As we begin retirement, your post is a good reminder to continue in those practices that have grounded us because I am still prone to wander. Thanks for this post brother!


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