‘When a sudden rain shower is no longer just an inconvenience but a surprise gift, you will spontaneously rise to the opportunity for enjoyment. You will enjoy it as much as you did in your kindergarten days, even if you are no longer trying to catch raindrops in your wide-open mouth.’
Grateful Living community (founded by David Steindl-Rast)
David Steindl-Rast on Faith, Mysticism, and Prayer
Documentary about Rudolf Steiner Part 1
Documentary about Rudolf Steiner Part 2
A conversation between David Steindl-Rast and Thich Nhat Hahn
Essential Writings (2010)
David Steindl-Rast
In Summary

Powerful quotes from the mystical mind of David Steindl-Rast are here assembled in one place, providing fodder for the thoughtful, succour for the poet and an expansive, global vision for those seeking to engage with traditions beyond their own.


When David’s parents divorced, his father abruptly sent him away to boarding school. His mother, enraged, essentially kidnapped David from school and whisked him off to a village in the Alps. There they were safe from his father but not from Hitler. Germany soon annexed Austria, causing David’s teenage years to be overshadowed by Nazi rule. Drafted into the German army in 1944 and trying to downplay his Jewish heritage, he managed to hide away just long enough to avoid both combat and camps.  

Amid the chaos, David witnessed a few men of the cloth who were willing to publicly stand up to the Third Reich, even though it led to their execution. These spiritual leaders lingered in his mind long after the war, beckoning him to the monastic life. He tried to flee the call – receiving a doctorate in experimental psychology and then moving away to America – yet this was one reality he could not hide from forever. Eventually, in 1953, he took his vows and became a Benedictine monk.  


For Steindl-Rast, the beginning and end of faith is gratefulness. We must continually return to the surprise that anything exists at all, rediscovering – like children for the first time – the beauties and joys of the everyday that we’ve glossed over or taken for granted. After all, the universe of time and space and matter might never have happened; the gift of life is not a given.  

Even the most horrific events usually yield some surprising opportunities for hope, growth, joy and gratitude. In order to notice these buried treasures, we only need to stop, look around, become aware of our mind and body, be attentive to the hidden power of words, sayings or poetry and be prayerfully open to the unexpected and joyful way things will reveal themselves. Even deprivation and asceticism are not primarily about pain but unexpected pleasures and gratitude; food tastes so much better on long-fasting lips.

We should appreciate the subtle revelations of each moment. Every hour is like a new season of the day, blowing in new rhythms of rest, leisure, work and play, if we are willing to celebrate them. Anxiety keeps us looking forward to the future and backwards to the past, but faith trusts that all will be well and that all will be made well, and so rejoices in the present Now. It asks not what something is useful for, revelling rather in the abounding excess of beautiful and pointless things that enhance the present, rather than filling storehouses for an imagined future.  

The saying ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ reminds us that it is not either ‘me’ or ‘others’ but that the two are somehow linked. Life is not atomised nor love compartmentalised; the individual is always bound up in the community. Relationship is woven into the fundamental structure of nature, humanity and God. This relational dance overcomes and underlies our apparent differences, begging us to reconsider our ecological and psychological abuses. We all belong to the earth, and the earth belongs to us and we belong to each other as brothers and sisters in the divine household. This limitless belonging is the heart of mysticism.


With over a dozen or so of his books in print, it could be hard to know where to start with Steindl-Rast. Readers may therefore feel ‘grateful’ that his core ideas and sentiments have been collected into one place for easy access. They have also been organised under thematic headings such as ‘Grateful Living,’ ‘Time,’ ‘Love’ or ‘The Living Voice of Poetry.’ In addition, Clare Hallward’s introduction situates the quotations within a broader sketch of Steindl-Rast’s life and thought.  

Within his thinking, Steindl-Rast essentially bridges two worlds. He helps those raised within the West to see horizons beyond their own, and those raised outside it to realise that the riches of the Western tradition have not all been lost nor looted. Merging Buddhism and Christianity, poetry and prose, mysticism and home-spun wisdom, Steindl-Rast integrates multiple realities; for perhaps only in the paradoxical meeting of opposites can human understanding give way to faith. Indeed, as he insists, even the most confusing and quarrelsome of situations can yield opportunities for joy, gratitude and dialogue.

Further Reading By This Author

David’s first and most well-known work was Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer. It was followed by a dozen others, including The Way of Silence, The Music of Silence, Deeper than Words, as well as Belonging to the Universe (which he co-authored with Fritjof Capra).  

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