Wayne Teasdale is a lay monk who combines the traditions of Christianity and Hinduism in the way of the Christian sannyasa. In The Mystic Heart (1999), he presented a bold and imaginative glimpse of the dawn of a new age of interspirituality when people of all traditions would be encouraged to explore the spiritual dimensions of any religion. In this second pioneering work, Teasdale draws out the monk in all of us with a multileveled presentation of integral spirituality that can be practiced in the city where most of us live, work, or play. What does it mean to be a monk outside a monastery? Teasdale quotes David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, who says: “If the first thing you think of in the morning when you wake up is God, then you are a monk.”
Spiritual practice lies at the heart of a monk’s life oriented around the presence of God and the service of others. Teasdale discusses his devotional activities: contemplative meditation, lectio divina, the practice of nature (walking and sky meditation), study and reflection, and the nurturance of silence and solitude. Although these are important, he notes that they must be linked with the virtue practices of compassion, mercy, kindness, sensitivity, and love in daily encounters with others.
The inner monk can also be nourished by a close relationship with the good Earth, participation in the struggle for justice and peaceful change, and an appreciation for urban living as a soul-stretching challenge. Teasdale shares ways in which his spiritual friendships have deepened his Christian faith. He talks about lessons he has learned from encounters with homeless people in Chicago. And he makes a good case for the city as a milieu where our moral mettle is tested and our love and patience are given ample opportunities to expand.
Teasdale ably demonstrates that with a daily life bolstered by prayer and compassionate action, the monk in us can explore the full richness of the mystical path of integral spirituality. He discusses his dreams, the ability to read hearts, and experiences of clairvoyance and divine protection. He also reveals how his recent battle with palate cancer taught him the meaning of “tough grace.”
Flying high on a gust of imaginative energy, Teasdale calls upon the Catholic Church, with its rich repository of monastic resources and leadership in interreligious dialogue, “to be a bridge for reconciling the human family. As matrix, the Church could become a nurturer of interfaith encounter, interreligious dialogue, spirituality, interspirituality, work for justice, the promotion of peace, creating sacred culture, and teaching environmental responsibility and economic sustainability.”
If the Catholic Church doesn’t become this kind of divine milieu for giving birth to “globalism with heart,” let’s hope that a universal order of mystics and practitioners from all the world’s religions will emerge to meet the challenge. Teasdale presents his ideas on this possibility and concludes by urging his readers to pursue an intermystical spiritual life as “a pioneer of the Spirit.”