"Unfinished Lives:" Session No. 4 -- from Ch. 4, "Unfinished Houses"

Opening words:

[In] Paul’s words: “we know that if the earthly house we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” . . . On some level all religious feeling begins with the sense that our true home lies elsewhere, however we may choose to define elsewhere: as psychic wholeness; as life in the beloved community; as a place of justice; as a harmonious relation to the natural world; as union of our spirits with the Divine. . . .

The unsettling news is that we’ll never reach that elsewhere of our longing as long as we remain in this life . . . Heaven has its place, but in our desire always to be elsewhere than here, we can lose what measure of heaven may be ours on earth.  When our fantasies of a better life consume us, when our memories of past hurts bind us and fears of pending calamity drive us, we are robbed of the only gift—the greatest gift—we can be sure of possessing: the present moment.

Preparation (distribute pencils and paper or note cards):

1.  List some tasks from today or this week that you haven't finished.

2.  List some tasks that you did finish.

3.  List some of the larger tasks from your life that you consider finished.

4.  List some of the larger tasks from your life that you consider unfinished.


1.  When you were remembering your unfinished tasks, what feelings arose in you?

2.  Were those feelings different for the small unfinished tasks than they were for the big ones?

3.  How much does having "unfinished business," whether small matters or large, bother you?

4.  Has there ever been a time in your day, your week, or your life, when you were caught up with everything?  How did that feel?  How long did it last?

5.  Recall a time when you left something unfinished and it felt okay.  Why in this instance were you able to accept having unfinished business?

6.  Can you recall a time in your life, whether a moment or a stretch of years, when you were able to live fully in the present moment? What does it take for you to be able to do that?

7.  What would it mean for you to live more fully in the present moment from now on?

Closing words:

We cannot summon the future, we cannot remake the past.  The present moment is the unfinished house in which we dwell. ... In each unfinished and imperfect day I struggle to find myself at home in this body, however flawed and failing, in this breath, however labored, in this speech, however halting.  Each day, I work to make my home among the people I find about me.  I write these words to make a sort of house in which you and I may dwell together for a time.  Only in such work, in building a house of peace in the present moment, a house of peace not only for ourselves but for all who may be in our presence or our hearts—only in such work can we be made whole.  We are here, in the unfinished house of the now, for the duration.  The joy is in the building.