A simple conversation . . . with Brother David Steindl-Rast

With no expectations

There were no expectations as I had prepared for my meeting with Brother David Steindl-Rast. After all, I was simply grateful to meet with him. This was his private time, the time when he retreats to his Benedictine lifestyle, to the monastery, away from the whirlwind of interviews and hubbub he normally encounters when he is on his lecture circuit. The ‘few minutes’ he originally offered me, grew closer to an hour. We talked about my work. I share with him my doctoral work, my life’s dedication to gratitude, my children’s book, and my idea of developing self-help groups in communities using the tools and techniques found in positive psychology. He has something similar focused on grateful living. He likes the idea. “What is that called again? Let me know more about that”. It’s called People Owned Psychology and I am thrilled.

I have brought a copy of my children’s book ‘The Gratitude Gang and The Goats’. He thumbs through it, appreciating the photos. I tell him the premise of the story; kids collecting money to help a school in Africa build a goat farm, and our goal of making that a reality through a campaign. He mentions he has received similar books, but this one seems to have . . . and he raises his hand in a fist. “Send it to me when it’s done and I’ll put it on my website. We talk about mindfulness. I share with him my focus on ‘paying attention’. “Hm, that’s good”, he says, “I like that”. His approach of is much gentler. Our roads are laid with different stones, but they both have led us to similar conclusions.

He continues on “You should meet Oprah, she likes gratitude”. “She’s not currently in my address book” I laugh. All in due time. My meeting with Brother David Steindl-Rast has left my heart overflowing with appreciation for the man, his life, and his work. I am grateful for his words of encouragement.” I had not expected accolades, my goal had been merely to share. He mentions that he knows many people whom He could introduce me to, but “You have to finish your doctorate first”! and in a similar vein “send me your book when it’s done” “let me know when you’ve put it together” all ring in my ears, as if coming from the parent he could have been. He speaks to my heart. My first words of encouragement from the outside world. He has watered the seeds I have planted with his words.

As I took leave of the monastery, we paused by the dining room again, this time I was offered apples, which I thankfully accepted. As we paused to enter the chapel, after dipping his fingers in the holy water, he graciously toughed his fingers to mine; sharing the symbolism of purity and grace that unites us in faith, as we are similarly united by gratitude. We greet my husband and his mother. He gives us each a candle that we light and then he asks “Do you have a song that you would like to sing”? I know he is asking for a traditional prayer, the Benedictine life is one of prayerful song, but the only song that comes in my mind at this moment is ‘Morning has broken’ of which I only know the beginning lines. We say The Lord’s prayer, and he takes his leave as graciously as he came, with a simple wave as he leaves through the chapel doors.

I am left with a full heart. A heart full of appreciation for a life that has led me to this meeting, and for the wonderful opportunity to experience, study, and share gratitude. A part of my heart now belongs to this encounter. It has colored my life with a hue, a pastel created by gentle knowledge garnered through careful intent through time. Thank you Brother David.

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