In January, 1991 I was at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California for a month work-study program. The Gulf War was raging, but we were studying peace. Along with training in Esalen massage, meditation, group dynamics, and other Human Potential explorations, we were graced with the presence of visiting scholar Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk and interfaith teacher. He gave us several talks and was “on campus” for other teachings and private hang outs. .
I would join him in the lodge for lunch when I could. He was always gracious and a quiet eating companion. I loved his “Grace.” So many of us were saying long prayers as grace…thanking the plants and the animals for the giveaway of their lives that we might eat/live. And then we would start to include the farmers, the truck drivers who brought the produce, the people who made the tires for the trucks, etc.
Not Brother David. His Grace was “Thank you for the food.” Said it all! I adopted that. If it was good enough for a Benedictine monk and Buddhist teacher, it was good enough for me.
When he came to talk to our group, describing his journey from living under Nazi rule in Austria to his present reputation as a “Benedictine-Buddhist” teacher, he spoke of his core teaching, Gratefulness. His book, Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, had been publish some years before. And when he spoke of Gratefulness, he said…basically: People say that when they are happy, they will be grateful. No, no….when you are grateful, you will be happy. I so clearly remember him saying that. And since that time, I have quietly put that idea into the center of my being. Not that I am always successful, but it hums along as an underpinning to my life walk. It is a very popular idea, now. I find that encouraging.
One of my best memories from that month at Esalen was when I found myself sitting with Brother David one night in one of the famous Esalen hot tubs, perched on the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We sat in silence and listened to the night sounds under a full moon.
Grateful? Oh yes. For my life, for my teachers, for all the remarkable beings who have touched my life. So nourishing. Thank you for the food.