He looked through the eyes of his heart and listened with the ears of his heart, deeply attuned to the lush stillness.

Here in our Stories of Grateful Living, we honor the voices of our community as we invite people to share their personal experiences with gratefulness. Join us in appreciating the explorations, reflections, and insights of fellow community members as we collectively learn what it means to live gratefully.

Cheryl’s Story

Ready to journal as Traveler’s Practice, I prop my iPad on the worn wooden desk and slide open the glass door of my room to invite in the steady sound of surf breaking: the flattened teal sea, dotted with bobbing kelp, releasing its pent-up energy against craggy headlands. A pale grey-green gecko moves stealthily across the balcony and races up the fencepost to freedom while seagrass waves with the wind. Big Sur, in all its sensuousness, easily seduces.

Earlier I had retraced the footsteps of our beloved teacher, Br. David Steindl-Rast, recollecting the afternoon some six summers ago when he had led us film seminarians in a contemplative walk through Esalen’s grounds. At the narrow footbridge, we opened wide our arms in blessing—all is grace—casting off worries and fears, which the vigorous waterfall below seemed to carry away in a rush round rocks and down terraced steps toward the sea. He took us along technicolored gardens, fragrant with flowers and herbs, a scene sweetened by gentle birdsong. We came to a small seated Buddha surrounded by succulents petalled like artichokes, hearts open to the sun. Lingering at the foot of the serenely chiseled statue, we left behind stone offerings like the devotions of pilgrims, peregrinos, on the Camino in Martin Sheen’s film The Way.

Br. David, with his tender smile, softly broke our silence: Did you see the roses? They were glowing. He looked through the eyes of his heart and listened with the ears of his heart, deeply attuned to the lush stillness. Pure presence. Our former Benedictine mystic-in-residence taught us to understand that Word is the tradition of Christianity, Silence, the tradition of Buddhism; that without the Silence, you cannot hear the Word.

We invite you to share a story about yourself or another person, reflecting on the question: “How has gratefulness shifted a moment, an experience, or a lifetime?”


Stories of Grateful Living
Cheryl Andrew

Cheryl Andrew

About the author

Cheryl Andrew is profoundly grateful for summers spent at Esalen—her happy place—in the company of Br. David, Francis Lu and her fellow “seminarians,” viewing and processing spiritually-themed films mindfully, indeed heartfully. The alchemy at play between the Austrian Benedictine monk and Chinese-American cultural psychiatrist made for a truly transformative experience. While Br. David last taught at Esalen on his 90th birthday, Francis Lu continues their work. Lists of favorite films can be found on gratefulness.org.