The Taste of Silence

The Taste of Silence

How I Came to Be at Home with Myself
Bieke Vandekerckhove; Translated by Rudolf Van Puymbroeck
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At the youthful age of nineteen Bieke Vandekerckhove was diagnosed with ALS (a degenerative neurological disease, aka Lou Gehrig's disease). Unexpectedly, three years later her disease went into remission and, even though partially paralyzed, she lived with ALS for more than twenty years.

In twenty-seven short chapters, written at various points in her life, the author shares her search for meaning and strength. Much to her own surprise, she found both in the stillness of contemplation, in the richness of silence. The practice of Benedictine spirituality and Zen meditation became, as she says, the two lungs through which she breathes.

Along the way of her painful but illuminating journey, she shares insights learned from artists of all stripes, whether poets, painters, sculptors, or moviemakers, and from great contemplatives and thinkers. The result is a work that offers a deep trove of spiritual wisdom for every reader, whether afflicted with debilitating illness or in perfect health.

This book won the Best Spiritual Book 2011 award in the author's home country of Belgium.

Bieke Vandekerckhove (born 1969) lived in Kuurne, Belgium. In 1988, when she was a psychology major at the University of Leuven, she was diagnosed with ALS and became paralyzed from the pelvis up. With round-the-clock help from husband Bart Verhulst and various assistants, she led an active life of teaching, counseling, and writing for, among others, Volzin and Tertio. Until recently she regularly conducted Zen meetings and retreats at the Benedictine Sint-Andries Abbey in Zevenkerken, Belgium. In 2014 Bieke Vandekerckhove received formal transmission as Zen Master (Ch'an Ssu) in the Chinese Ch'an tradition from internationally known Zen Master Prof. Ton Lathouwers, himself the Dharma-Successor of Ch'an Master Teh Cheng, longtime head of the Guang Hua Ch'an School in China. On the occasion, she received the name Xia Fan Zhi Guang, meaning "Light of Kenosis." Bieke passed away in her home, early in the evening on September 7, 2015.

"They say that the book you need to read finds you at the time you most need to read it. That was the case here. After an initial descent into darkness, [Bieke] found strength by making an inner journey into the deep silence that resides inside us all. Her description of her journey is remarkable."
Ron Rolheiser, OMI from "My Top Books for 2015"

"An insightful and absorbing memoir. Written poetically, the chapters-some only a page and a half-evoke the connectedness that Vandekerckhove felt toward the divine."
Diane Scharper, National Catholic Reporter

"The author's experiences prove that Benedictine spirituality can be a healing grace. Many of us have had to face an impenetrable wall. Contemplative prayer and meditation can bring down that wall-helping us to endure the winter of our life and move forward to the hope inherent in spring."
Thomas J. Rillo, Saint Meinrad's Benedictine Oblate Newsletter

Life is full of trials—yet sometimes we may suddenly perceive an eternal light in the midst of the worst tribulations. There is much in life that does not make any sense, so we need witnesses whose life says: and yet! and who keep on smiling through their tears. This book is such a smile, compelling in its authenticity.
Benoît Standaert, Benedictine Monk of Saint Andrew's Abbey in Bruges, Belgium, Author of Sharing Sacred Space: Interreligious Dialogue as Spiritual Encounter

"Bieke Vandekerckhove's story shows the way spirituality and religion get synchronized in the paradox classically stated by Polonius in Hamlet: 'by indirections find directions out.'
Patrick Henry, On Being blog

"Learn to be still and learn to do nothing and learn to wait. The secret of those who became giants always lay in this: they were prepared for the long haul." —Thus wrote poet Henriette Roland Holst. It is what Bieke Vandekerckhove wanted to learn—living with an incurable disease, she had to. Listening, meditating, persevering in the silence, she became one of the giants, and she wrote a book that consoles.
Huub Oosterhuis, Dutch theologian, poet, author, liturgist, and ecumenist

Product number: E4799
ISBN: 978-0-8146-4799-8
Pages: 176
Publication Date: 08/15/2015