A Listening Heart
Brother David Steindl-Rast
Our heart is that center where we are one with ourselves,
with all others, and with God.
In a lifelong process the discipline of listening teaches us to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God without discrimination. We learn this by "giving thanks in all things". The monastery is an environment set up to facilitate just that. The method is detachment. When we fail to distinguish between wants and needs we lose sight of our goal. Our needs (many of them imaginary) keep increasing; our gratefulness (and so our happiness) dwindles. Monastic discipline reverses this course. The monk strives for needing less and less while becoming more and more grateful.
Detachment decreases our needs. The less we have, the easier it is gratefully to appreciate what we have. Silence creates the atmosphere for detachment. Silence pervades monastic life in the same way in which noise pervades life elswhere. Silence creates space around things, persons, and events. Silence singles them out and allows us gratefully to consider them one by one in their uniqueness. Leisure is the discipline of finding time to do so. Leisure is the expression of detachment with regard to time. For the leisure of monks is not the privilege of those who can afford to take time; it is the virtue of those who give to everything they do the time it deserves to take.