Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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Brother David Steindl-Rast is a Benedictine monk who spends three months of each year traveling and teaching, and the rest of the time in monastic seclusion. He is the author of A Listening Heart and Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer.
We need to learn how to be decent human beings. That is the basis for what we call “religion.” A decent human society brings about spirituality. It brings about blessings and what could be called the gift of God. This is an extremely simple-minded approach. I’m sorry if I disappoint you, but it is as simple as that.
A healthy personality does not suppress the dark side, the shadow, but embraces it, redeems it, and so becomes whole.
What I would like to share with you is something very simple but also very difficult: simple things often are. It is an invitation to pay the price for peace. We all know that peace is an exceedingly high good. But for an exceedingly high good we should expect to have to pay an exceedingly high price.
Surprise is the starting point. Through surprise our inner eyes are opened to the amazing fact that everything is gratuitous. Nothing at all can be taken for granted. And if it cannot be taken for granted, it is gift.
The key word of the spiritual discipline I follow is “listening.” This means a special kind of listening, a listening with one’s heart. To listen in that way is central to the monastic tradition in which I stand. The very first word of the Rule of St. Benedict is “listen!” — “Ausculta!” — and all the rest of Benedictine discipline grows out of this one initial gesture of wholehearted listening, as a sunflower grows from its seed.
In every spiritual tradition life is not something that you automatically have, it is something that you must choose, and what makes you choose life is the challenge of death — learning to die, not eventually, but here and now.