"These three spiritual gifts — all originating in God — are deeply and integrally linked. If I want to be more prayerful, begin by trying to be more generous in my prayer. If I want to be more trustworthy, begin by praying. And if I want to me more generous, one important step would be to simply take the risk of trusting." So writes Carl McColman, a mystic who has mastered the art of writing about often arcane theological and devotional subjects in an accessible prose style.

He is a member of the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, a contemplative community under the spiritual guidance of Trappist monks. In the foreword, Brian McLaren praises the author for writing in Chapter 2 "one of the best descriptions of spiritual experience I've come across, one that tries to capture in words something that, obviously, can't be." He is also happy that McColman has created a short book on what usually is discussed in laboriously long books.

Calling himself "a slow learner," McColman probes some of the stages of his spiritual journey: books and spiritual teachers that had an impact on him and his meaningful encounters with silence, his inner voice, trust, and grief. One of our favorite passages is the one on prayer as kissing (see the excerpt).

With the good cheer that emanates from every chapter in Unteachable Lessons, McColman concludes:

"Read good books — but then put them down. One of my first prayer teachers used to say, 'Reading about prayer is one of the sneakiest ways we have of actually avoiding prayer.' Please keep that in mind. So do your homework: get to know the mystics and contemplatives of Christianity and of the world, and get to know what the explorers ahead of you have to say about their journey. But then the time will come when you need to close the book and go on beyond zebra with only your heart as your guide."