Schroeder (On Social Justice: St. Basil the Great, 2009) offers a guide to a spiritually vibrant existence.
The author draws on his own past as a former Greek Orthodox priest in this enlightening instructional volume. Six spiritual practices form the bedrock of his teachings: “Compassionate Seeing,” “Heartfelt Listening,” “Intentional Welcoming,” “Joyful Sharing,” “Grateful Receiving,” and “Cooperative Building.” Regarding the first practice, he urges readers to be more curious about others: “Compassionate Seeing allows us to view the world in sharp definition, without the distorted lenses of our judgments.” To develop heartfelt listening, Schroeder recommends using the phrase, “Please tell me more.” Acknowledging people’s feelings, he says, is another form of heartfelt listening. He introduces the Greek term “acedia,” defined as “numbness, a state of unfeeling, disconnection from our deepest self.” This condition can be dangerous, he says, as some people will do anything, even if it’s self-destructive, to feel alive. Tuning in to one’s emotions, he asserts, can allow one to find more peace and joy. In the section on intentional welcoming, Schroeder demonstrates healthy boundary-setting and saying “yes” only to things that matter most. To share joyfully, he says, one must give gifts of time, energy, and attention without obligation. He advocates focusing on intentions rather than expectations and on accepting failure as part of the process. The final section about cooperative building focuses on community: “Strength…is inviting others to help us improve on our ideas,” he writes. Schroeder’s writing is clear, tight, and comprehensive. He illustrates each principle with parables and examples, though many of the scenarios involve parenting (“Say, for instance, I have a young son who is playing on a softball team, but is afraid of being hit by the ball”) or take place in office environments, which may not resonate with all readers. His simple, effective mantras, however, allow readers to immediately apply the book’s principles to their lives (such as “I accept everything I see” or “I receive the gift that is offered”). He recognizes the challenges of change but he effectively reminds his audience that this book contains ongoing practices—not pinnacles to be reached.
An engaging and valuable book about living a more loving and purposeful life.