Monasteries of the Heart

Monks in Our Midst: Thomas Merton on Freedom of Soul

Thinking deeply of Santi Deva (eighth-century Buddhist monk) and my own need for discipline. What a fool I have been, in the literal and biblical sense of the word: thoughtless, impulsive, lazy, self-interested, yet alien to myself, untrue to myself, following the most stupid fantasies, guided by the most idiotic emotions and needs. Yes, I know, it is partly unavoidable. But I know too that in spite of all contradictions there is a center and a strength to which I always can have access if I really desire it. And the grace to desire it is surely there.

It would do no good to anyone if I just went around talking - no matter how articulately - in this condition. There is still so much to learn, so much deepening to be done, so much to surrender. My real business is something far different from simply giving out words and ideas and 'doing things' - even to help others. The best thing I can give to others is to liberate myself from the common delusions and be, for myself and for them, free. Then grace can work in and through me for everyone.

Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk at Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky and the author of more than seventy books that include poetry, personal journals, collections of letters, social criticism, and writings on peace, justice, and ecumenism. Learn more at

Do you have a center and a strength to which you always have access? Can you describe how you gain access to it and the impact it has on your spiritual journey toward freedom?

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