Monasteries of the Heart

Monks in Our Midst: David Steindl-Rast on being anchored in silence


Brother David Steindl-Rast (born 1926) is a Benedictine monk and renown teacher. In his book A Listening Heart, he draws our attention to the senses and how they invite deeper presence and spiritual experience.


“Once our heart is anchored in silence, we will be able to listen even while we are speaking. During one of the formal teaching sessions at Sonoma Mountain Zen Center, a sparrow started chirping outside. Stopping in mid-sentence, the Roshi put his palms together and bowed in silence, thanking for the bird’s song. Not to be so wrapped up in our own talk that everything else becomes an annoying distraction – that takes practice. 

Silence will make us hear appeals which noise drowns out: the sights of devastated forests, the groans of lab monkeys with wired skulls, the sobs of mothers with babies at their emaciated breasts. We will begin to hear the truth that sets us free. As long as one creature in this world is oppressed and exploited, oppressor and victim alike lack freedom.” 

Source: A Listening Heart: The Spirituality of Sacred Sensuousness (1999)


Reflect with us: What does this reading bring up for you? How has silence opened up your attention in new ways? 


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