Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal: Journal Entry 213

I loved the movie Late Night with Emma Thompson, one of my favorite actors, and Mindy Kaling, a young Indian-American who also wrote the screen play.
It would make a good discussion for Nuns & Nones groups that are meeting around the country—religious women and millennials who have a spiritual bent but identify with no religious tradition are discussing what communities of the future might look like. In the movie Emma plays a legendary late-night talk show host who has built and maintained a quality, classy, award-winning TV performance for over 30 years. But now her ratings are diving, her guests and jokes getting a bit irrelevant, and the network CEO wants to replace her with one of the new, crude breed of today’s young comics. (Like Emma, I never could figure out why a stream of four-letter expletives, repeated over and over again, is funny.) Anyway, to stay in the game, preserve her show, and give the appearance of being open to diversity, Emma is forced to hire her first woman staff writer, Kaling. The core of the movie is the development of their relationship. And one of the lessons it teaches is the art of listening closely to the young and incorporating fresh ideas into a quality product that needs new life while maintaining some time-honored standards.

One big perk about working with Joan Chittister is that you have access to a lot of free books. Publishers are always sending them her way. But the book I just finished The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life’s Direction and Purpose, ed Oprah Winfrey, came to the office because an excerpt from Sister Joan’s first interview with Oprah on Super Soul Sunday is included. The book is a compilation of wise words from guests who have appeared on the show over the past years including David Brooks, Stephen Colbert, Pema Chodron, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sue Monk Kidd, Mindy Kaling, Thich Nhat Hanh, Robin Roberts, Richard Rohr, Barbara Brown Taylor, Eckhart Tolle…you get the idea.

I especially liked two passages from the book. One was a story told by Oprah about the mega selling author Sarah Ban Breathnach whose book Simple Abundance was on the best-seller list for 119 straight weeks. The book sold seven million copies and made Sarah a multimillionaire. According to Oprah, she promptly hired nine assistants, brought home eight pairs of Manolo Blahnik shoes in one trip, and bought the actual chapel once owned by Sir Isaac Newton.” Given the extravagant spending, a failed marriage to a man who misused her fortune, and bad investments, she lost it all. In no time, she was dead broke.

According to Breathnach, it took her years to forgive herself, but she learned her greatest life lesson when she fell to the bottom. The lesson that she shared with Oprah was, “Guard your heart. Watch your treasures. What is your treasure will be your heaven on earth.”

And the second passage I copied into my commonplace book. It by Buddhist author Jack Canfield who said, “I was with a Buddhist teacher a number of years ago. And he said, ‘Let me give you the secret. If you were to meditate for twenty years, this is where you’d finally get to: Just be yourself. But be all of you.’”
There is nothing new in this wisdom. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also—Jesus of Nazareth. Know thyself—Socrates. Unfortunately, you can’t understand these truths by copying the words in journals, or making them into a poster and hanging it on your study wall. You’ve got to live through it: taste failure to savor your heart’s authentic treasures; put yourself through seemingly ridiculous spiritual practices to find the beloved you that has always been there.

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A blog by Mary Lou Kownacki
A personal journal captures what’s in the heart. Most of my adult life I’ve recorded my notes, brief reflections, poems, reactions to daily events in a journal. It is an ongoing source of monastic formation; the rich and raw material of life that helps shape my Monastery of the Heart. About a year ago, Old Monk began to appear on my journal’s pages. Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB, is the Monasteries of the Heart coordinator.

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