In this series of blog posts, Life lessons from a Trappist Monk, I share the wisdom of my late friend Brother Rene, who was a monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani for over fifty years. For many years we corresponded by letter, and here I share excerpts from his letters.

Keep your trust in God. What is at the core here is your relationship with God. A mother experiences her baby as an extension of herself. God is Mother. You are baby. You are His extension in time. He treats you as he treats himself. So trust fully and use the only words you know. He understands better than you do what you mean. –-from letter Brother René, February 25, 2003.

These days, I feel I am in a three-ring circus—busy with students in the library, busy with my teaching and spiritual direction, busy trying to find some time to exercise, and busy taking care of my home, cooking and maintaining some order! Something doesn’t feel right, because I am noticing a pressure building up. I find myself caught up in a cycle of go, go, more, more.

I am grateful through the years to have built up a steady habit of prayer and reflection– even if it’s fractured at times. And through the awareness that comes through these practices, I can hear the call to pause, to stop, and to relax. As full as my life is right now, I recognize the need to stay empty. How do I listen and act upon what I am hearing below the surface? (You might want to read my Sacred Practice on listening.)

The other night, I was tired and discouraged, so I decided to watch a few videos on the monks at Gethsemani. It was touching to catch a glimpse of the late Brother René at the monastery. I saw him working in the fudge factory, as well as bowing in prayer during one of the prayer periods.  As I watched these images, I was reminded of his words, “What is at the core here is your relationship with God.”

I began reflecting on this question—and when I brought it forward during prayer, I sensed how important it was not to lose my intimate relationship with the Divine. I heard the words echo in my heart: Don’t lose Me. How do I hold the active and the contemplative? As illustrated in the life of Brother René, who worked in the fudge factory and attended to daily prayers, the sacred is in all aspects of our lives. His life showed me that my spiritual life is formed by how I relate to my daily life–to myself, to others, and to the Divine in the course of the circle of my days. The essence of everything is the dynamic of my relationship to it. And that is my sacred core.

As I reflected on this, I heard a simple prayer come forward:

  • Teach me how to Be, and not lose my intimacy with You, My Love.
  • Show me the way to Be, to stay continually connected to Your Source.

Some questions for reflection:

  • How can you stay connected to what is essential for you?
  • What do you need with God now in your current life?

If you would like to read more from my correspondence with Brother René, check out my forthcoming book, which contains excerpts from our letters: Seeking Surrender: How my Friendship with a Trappist Monk Taught me to Trust and Embrace Life (Ave Maria Press, April 2015).