Q: Dear Brother David, Thank you for Being here. I have not been able to focus on a mission, impairing the use of my talents for service to self and others. Depression impairs my focus even more. How can I develop habits to focus and unleash my passion. I read your reference to my favorite film Ikiru where the man discovers his passion for life as he is dying. I would like to unleash my passion but I don’t want to wait until I am dying. — Dennis

A: +You were right in remembering Ikiru
— surely one of the best films ever made — in the context of your current life challenge. In Kurosawa’s film, the colleagues of Mr. Watanabe call him “the mummy,” because he is more dead than truly living. Only the sudden realization of his mortality makes him come alive. This model might apply to any of us. For all Benedictine monks, myself included, “to have death daily before one’s eyes,” as the Rule of St. Benedict puts it, is a trigger to deeper awareness. This is by no means a morbid practice, but something eminently enlivening.

Applied to your situation, it could mean asking yourself, “What would i do if i found myself in Mr. Watanabe’s situation and had only weeks to live? What would i want to accomplish in my life before i die?” This thought might help you focus on what is really important to you. It might also strongly incite your passion for life.

Such focused aliveness may even lift the fog of your depression. It could be, however, that the depression is at the root of your difficulties. If the depression persists, you will need to tackle that problem directly by seeking out professional help and advice.

It is no coincidence that Ikiru is your favorite film. As you know, the title means “to live.” To see this life as the clearly delimited gift it is provides an unequaled incentive for grateful living.

— Your Brother David

This Q&A was first posted in 2008.

Br. David Steindl-Rast
Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB

Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB

About the author

Brother David Steindl-Rast — author, scholar, and Benedictine monk — is beloved the world over for his enduring message about gratefulness as the true source of lasting happiness. Known to many as the “grandfather of gratitude,” Br. David has been a source of inspiration and spiritual friendship to countless leaders and luminaries around the world including Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Thomas Merton, and more. He has been one of the most important figures in the modern interfaith dialogue movement, and has taught with thought-leaders such as Eckhart Tolle, Jack Kornfield, and Roshi Joan Halifax. His wisdom has been featured in recent interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Krista Tippett, and Tami Simon and his TED talk has been viewed almost 10,000,000 times. Learn more about Br. David here.