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The Seeker's Way

The Seeker's Way: Cultivating the Longings of a Spiritual Life
By Dave Fleming
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005.
153 pages
Reviewed by Sharon Pelton

Spiritual seekers who are open to the landscape of their own soul's longing and a search for their own true authenticity will find in Dave Fleming's book, The Seeker's Way, a systematic sequential outline, or map, for the reader to follow while on the journey toward deeper wisdom. To accomplish this navigation system for his readers, Fleming integrates his own reflections alongside the walking path of seven well known spiritual seekers: Wayne Teasdale, Alan Jones, Phil Gulley, Jim Mulholland, Lauren Winner, Marcus Borg, and Joan Chittister.

Flemming begins by challenging the reader with the question, "Are you willing to show up for your own life? When our essence does not infuse our activity, we lose touch with the present moment, and a hole in the soul begins to form” (p. 37-38). This common ache within the human soul causes the soul to respond to the call, go in search. The six topics that Fleming refers to as longings serve as an aqueduct: carrying life-giving insight for the journey. These longings are: from answers to experience; from activity to meaning; from control to compost; from shadow to substance; from performance to expression; and from segregation to community.

Along with the metaphor of an aqueduct, the six chapters can also be viewed as building blocks. Take for example the fifth longing that traverses from performance to expression. When motivation in a particular action strives to inflate self-importance, seeking only recognition (the shadow ego), the longing becomes a shallow manipulation. It seeks to serve only self which over time breaks down to emptiness. When the soul moves out from that center into seeking an expression of its own originality centered in God, in Mystery, the natural sequence of events, leads the soul from individuation to being for others in community, the antithesis to segregation.

Although this book can be recommended as a whole by a spiritual director to a directee, any one chapter can minister to a directee due to the cyclical nature of the spiritual journey: "The journey is one of sacred creativity, one that brings us from seeking in darkness, through the discovery of our giftedness, back to home and seeking anew. It describes the progression of a spiraling path that we traverse over and over again in the course of our lives as we seek and are sought by the Holy" (p. 23). Fleming emphasizes that it is not so much the seeker's journey to a particular place where one can find pat, concrete answers to questions concerning our life and life in general, but rather the emphasis lies within life lived in liminal space; life lived in the rhythm of holding and letting go, a continuum of no longer and not yet. If seekers are to walk this path, they must be open to the process of transformation that takes place mostly in the Mystery.

Fleming’s book is succinct, and The Seeker’s Way is an easy read in a genre that seems to be redundant in our present times. I would tend to recommend this book to beginners, although there are passages from spiritual guides such as Joan Chittister, Lauren Winner, Phil Gulley, and Jim Mulholland that take you momentarily a little deeper.

Sharon Pelton, an artist and spiritual director, has an MA in Theological Studies. She lives in Houston, Texas, USA, where she is currently developing her own illustrated spiritual book.

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