Book – Bonhoeffer


I encountered Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) many years ago through one of his books, given to me by a friend as I was about to take on my first mission with the Red Cross. I was going to Ethiopia and this friend, who had been in the Red Cross in the 1970s and 1980s, simply told me “read it.

Since, I have read many of his writings along with the stirring biographical novel “Saints and Vilains” by Denise Guardina, published in 1999.

His unfailing faith in and search for human kindness, along with his unwavering sense of good amidst the chaos and violence of the world, resonated with me.

This biography is more than a simple recounting of the events of his life, as we get to understand the complexity and the humility that imbued Bonhoeffer´s life.


Book reference: “Bonhoeffer – Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” by Eric Metaxas, published in 2010 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. 

Rafael Arnáiz Barón (Spanish & English)

“¡Qué necio y pueril es el mundo! ¡Cómo nos alegra un trapo y nos entristece una nube!”

Rafael Arnáiz Barón (1911-1938), Monje trapense español, uno de los grandes místicos del siglo XX. Canonizado en el 2009. Cita de “Dios y mi alma,” su diario.

My translation:

“How ignorant and puerile is the world! A piece of cloth brings us joy, while a cloud brings us sadness!”

Rafael Arnáiz Barón (1911-1938), Spanish Trappist Monk considered one of the great mystics of the 20th century. He was canonized in 2009.

Christian Bobin “La nuit du cœur”

Avec anticipation, je me suis installée confortablement et au son des Variations Goldberg de Bach, j’ai ouvert le livre en retenant ma respiration. Je l’ai lu en entier mais je ne retiens que peu d’images.

Christian Bobin a toujours réussi à m’ouvrir le cœur avec ses écrits simples qui parlent de beauté au fond des jardins et dans les paroles des Saints. Mais avec son tout dernier livre  « La nuit du coeur », j’avoue n’avoir pas compris grand chose. Les mots s’entremêlent, il faut revenir trois phrases en arrière pour identifier le sujet d’un verbe (et je ne suis pas certaine d’avoir réussi), les images parlent leur langage et n’ont pu communiquer avec moi malgré tous mes efforts.

Et pourtant, Bobin raconte son expérience depuis une chambre d’hotel qui donne sur une abbatiale du XIème siècle, et comme j’ai passé une semaine dans une Abbaye Cistercienne du XIIème siècle, également entourer de vielles pierres et de silence, je me suis dit que j’allais comprendre. Ce ne fut pas le cas.

Je vais donc laisser les quelques belles et simples images que j’ai pu saisir me bercer, et je relirais ce livre un peu plus tard; ou peut-être relirais-je un autre de ses livres comme « La grande vie » ou « Le trés-bas » pour ne pas rester sur mon impression.

J’aurais tellement aimé écrire autre chose.

Et vous, l’avez-vous lu?


La nuit du cœur” par Christian Bobin, Gallimard 2018.

Bodhicharyāvatāra – Shanti Deva

I wanted to write something about language. Good language. These days, it seems vulgarities are thrown in all directions, and no one even flinches. These days, public shaming seems a favorite pastime, and many have forgotten to simply stay quiet and wait to take a person aside and speak with a kind tone. These days, the notion of humility is no longer spoken about, nor taught, most equating it with weakness; while notions like strength, pride and winning are taking the forefront -even when it comes to children.

Yet, I found myself lacking words or to be more precise, I found myself not wanting to preach or admonish anyone. So I turned to a text that has been with me for some 20 years and that I read regularly when I feel I am straying away from kindness. This text dating from the 8th c. AD is known as “The way of the Bodhisattva – Bodhicharyāvatāra” by Shanti Deva. It is a text that has been read and studied for centuries and, according to the Dalai Lama, the only text one should read to understand compassion.

So I have copied here a few paragraphes that I hope you shall read with joy and an open heart.

Thank you.


When you feel the wish to walk about,
Or even to express yourself in speech,
First examine what is in your mind.
For they will act correctly who have stable minds.

When the urge rises in the mind
To feelings of desire or wrathful hate,
Do not act! Be silent, do not speak!
And like a log of wood be sure to stay.

When the mind is wild with mockery
And filled with pride and haughty arrogance,
And when you want to show the hidden faults of others,
To bring up old dissensions or to act deceitfully,

And when you want to fish for praise,
Or criticize and spoil another’s name,
Or use harsh language, sparring for a fight,
It’s then that like a log you should remain.

And when you want to do another down
And cultivate advantage for yourself,
And when the wish to gossip comes to you,
It’s then that like a log you should remain.

Impatience, indolence, faint heartedness,
And likewise haughty speech and insolence,
Attachment to your side—when these arise,
It’s then that like a log you should remain.

Examine thus yourself from every side.
Note harmful thoughts and every futile striving.
Thus it is that heroes in the Bodhisattva path
Apply remedies to keep a steady mind.”

Text: “The way of the Bodhisattva – Bodhicharyāvatāra” by Shanti Deva (ca. 700 AD), Chapter 5 “Vigilance,” Paragraphs 47-54 – translated from the Tibetan by the Padmakara Translation Group. Text originally in Sanskrit. First Tibetan translation dates from the 8th c. (Shambala Classics Publishers, 1997)

An espresso and the Tao

On this early Monday morning, after dropping my son to school, I sit at a café and take the Tao Te King out of my bag. Five hundred characters speaking words of wisdom and serenity.
Around me people come and go. Phones are handled, money is exchanged, conversations oscillate in tones.
I sit alone with an espresso, a pain au chocolat and the book. Lao Tzu is so so far away in time and setting.
There is a slight chill in the air on this autumn morning. I wrap myself more comfortably in a pashmina, and open his millenary book. Serenity arrives.
I feel the flow as I lift the tiny espresso cup. I take in gentleness with the simplicity of my gestures and as I taste the comfort of chocolate. The presence of a few pigeons waiting for bread crumbs brings into my thoughts compassion and humble generosity.
Clouds are high. The sky is a pale shade of blue.
The daily hustle can wait.