Common Sense Spirituality

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Common Sense Spirituality

The Essential Wisdom of David Steindl-Rast

This collection of David Steindl-Rast’s essays directs us back to the true authority—our inner core of knowing. An invitation to reconnect with the wisdom that grounds us, draws no limits, motivates moral actions, and makes us exhilaratingly alive.

These essays span more than thirty years of Brother David's evolving thought about what he has come to call Common Sense Spirituality. His words illuminate our understanding of three important themes:

  • Our peak or mystical experiences—an essential part of our spirituality that helps us find our own "firm basis of knowing."
  • The sacred traditions that are expressions of our spirituality—flawed but nevertheless with the potential to be lifelines to faith, hope, and love.
  • Our response to our spiritual experiences—our willingness to let them define who we are and to shape our lives meaningfully and with gratefulness.

Essays include: Spirituality as Common Sense, The Monk in Us, Art and the Sacred, Sacramental Life: Take Off Your Shoes!, Views of the Cosmos, The God Problem, Shadows, The Mystical Core of Organized Religion, Learning to Die, Paths of Obedience, The House of Hope, The Price of Peace, Giving Thanks for All the Little (and Big) Things in Life, and A New Reason for Gratitude.

Reviews and endorsements

"Parabola magazine refers to Brother David Steindl- Rast, OSB, as a 'bridge-builder between East and West' in the tradition of Thomas Merton, OCSO, and he certainly deserves that accolade. This collection of his writings spans a remarkable range of issues and grounds the reader in what the author calls Common Sense Spirituality.

His expansive definition of the term sets the stage for the wisdom that flows through these essays: 'Our most exhilarating knowing comes . . . from the awareness of a shared aliveness' (26). And, 'Common Sense is more than thinking. It is a vibrating aliveness to the world, in the world, for the world . . . and it becomes a basis for doing, for acting' (27). Steindl-Rast is not afraid to thrust his faith right into the melee created by science and religion, and he struggles along with the reader to make meaning of our complex, technological world. He urges us to ask the big questions and not be afraid of paradoxical answers, as reflected in these simple words from Joan Chittister, OSB’s introduction: 'We want science, which deals with matter, to explain God to us. We want religion, which deals with the spirit, to be an authority on the biological nature of life. In the end, we make a thing of God and a god of science' (8). The fifteen essays include from 'The Monk in Us' to 'The God Problem' to 'The House of Hope.' It ends in two essays on gratefulness, the topic of his classic offering

Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer. Steindl-Rast insists that gratefulness must be diligently practiced if it is to become a part of who we are, rather than what we think. He even includes some time-tested tips for practices that move us from concept to experience and bring lofty thinking into the here and now. Following his suggestions could bear much fruit in the lives of spiritual directors and spiritual directees alike. One of the most intriguing essays centers on the subject of 'Shadows,' which includes 'everything in us that is unconscious, repressed, undeveloped, and denied' (106). The reader is urged to confront those things that do not fit into the neat patterns one might expect and integrate them into the path to wholeness. Steindl-Rast insists that a healthy personality accepts the shadow rather than suppressing it. He challenges us to refrain from exclusive optimism or pessimism, centering instead on realistic hope: 'Today we often cheapen hope to optimism, and so when things don’t work out picture perfect, we get the backlash of wallowing in pessimism and despair . . . Despair blocks surprises from reality; hope paves the way for reality to surprise itself' (108–109). Common Sense Spirituality is full of rich devotional reading and could be a worthwhile tool for digging more deeply into integrated spirituality. Steindl-Rast has a unique gift for bringing extraordinary concepts into ordinary moments, and reading this collection is like sitting at the feet of a master. However, meandering through his distilled wisdom needs to be a stroll, not a marathon."
Linda Douty, spiritual director, retreat leader, and author of How Can I See the Light When It’s So Dark?, Journey to a Thankful Heart, How Can I Let Go If I Don’t Know I’m Holding On?, and Setting Our Souls Free

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"I found Common Sense Spirituality coming across my cluttered desk. Its fifteen essays by Benedictine Brother David Steindl-Rast come from over thirty years; they are personal, wide-ranging, and gently focused. Each is carefully edited and briefly introduced by Angela Iadavaia. Like Pope John, Brother David has a special touch, one that may help you and me get rid of some clutter."
—Review for Religious

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"Common Sense Spirituality offers a comprehensive review of David Steindl-Rast's lifetime of rich writing which develops under three themes: our peak mystical experiences, the sacred traditions that are expressions of our spirituality, and our response to our spiritual experiences.

Each chapter begins with an editor's summary. What follows is a vision of being fully alive in mind, body and spirit. As Joan Chittister observes in the introduction, 'He simply takes us by the hand and invites us to rethink what the great thinkers of all time have posited in their own attempts to be their own, most human selves.'

Each meditation calls readers to be open and completely present to where they are because through inner attitude and deliberate living each experience is the greatest mystical experience.

In section one he explores art and the sacred as well as the sacramentality of seeing all with the eyes of the heart. Section Two explores religion, discovering the Sacred at the core of all things from ourselves to the cosmos. Section Three examines how we live our spirituality focusing on our growing and how we live and die each day. He notes that we belong to an 'underdeveloped nation' with regard to meaningful living. We fail to realize that 'Love is our heart's creative "yes" to the design of being to which we belong—a universal choreography, a dance . . . relationship.'

He also focuses on the price of peace and our failure to create a peaceful world, gratefulness for all things in life or learning to find the gift within every gift.

The book calls readers to find their sacred core and to be the mystics they are meant to be."
Ann Lynch, SSJ, Catholic Library World

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"David Steindl-Rast has earned a reputation as a bridge-builder between East and West in matters of religion and is considered by many to be the foremost bearer of the standard of Christian ecumenism laid down by Thomas Merton."
Parabola

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"David Steindl-Rast, one of our Living Spiritual Teachers, is the author of many books and the founder/adviser to the worldwide 'Network for Grateful Living' that comes together at the interactive website gratefulness.org, a sister site of Spirituality & Practice. The 15 essays in this paperback—previously published articles, interviews, and transcripts of talks—cover 30 years in the development of his common sense spirituality. They explore three essential themes:

• Our Peak or Mystical Experiences

• The Sacred Traditions that Are Expressions of Our Spirituality

• Our Response to Our Spiritual Experiences

In her introduction to this collection, Joan Chittister commends David Steindl-Rast for giving substance to faith and reason for hope: 'He refuses to be obscure. He resists being dogmatic. He disdains being simplistic. He is unwilling to be obscurantist. He himself is the epitome of "common sense spirituality."'

Steindl-Rast offers us a rich and deep take on spirituality. He writes about the vibrancy of true aliveness in everyday life; he suggests ways to bring out 'the monk in us'; he ponders the delights provided by the link between art and the sacred; he reveals the benefits of living a sacramental life; he probes the mystical core of organized religion; he affirms the integration of shadow in Christianity; he explores the value of learning to die; and he revels in the spiritual practices of hope and gratitude. This paperback delivers on its promise of sharing the essential wisdom of David Steindl-Rast. Here are two examples:

On Play
'Leisure is doing your work—doing anything you do—with the attitude of play. That means bringing to the moment at hand what is most important about playing, namely, that you do it for its own sake and not just to get it done. The monastic attitude is to do anything we do with wholehearted attention—with openness to meaning.'

On Hope
'To have hope is not to seek the surprise of a Hollywood happy ending, which is unrealistic optimism. To have hope is to remain open to the possibility of surprise when everything turns out worse than we could ever imagine. Despair assigns reality a deadline, whereas hope knows that there are no deadlines. This is how hope truly thrives in the midst of hopelessness.'"
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Book Review


Awards
9780824524791
Paperback / 192 pages
Dimensions: 5 3/8 x 8 1/4
CROSSROAD, 2008