The bestselling authors of "How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend" show how their strong connections with dogs and the natural world stem from the principles of monastic life.
The elements of a monk's life -- self-discipline, solitude, prayer, acts of love and forgiveness -- are pathways that anyone can follow to achieve true happiness and spiritual fulfillment.
Known for their popular dog-training books (How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend, etc.), the monks of New Skete are a contemporary religious community in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. The Cambridge, N.Y., group supports itself through farming and breeding German shepherds (hence the dog books), among other enterprises. Writing in unison, the monks articulate the principles of their monasticism and spiritual practices. The monks believe that "the world itself is a cloister" and that all humans are entitled to happiness, which they define as a "deep and lasting interior peace... comes only with the struggle to search out and accept the will of God in our lives." Readers expecting the standard primer on simple living should be forewarned that this work, while luminous at times, is also profound and challenging. Wary of the current vogue for individualistic spirituality, the monks advocate learning by following a teacher, meditating, reading and reflecting on Scripture, praying silently and embracing discipline. The value of liturgical worship and community are beautifully and movingly portrayed. The monks depict their beliefs with remarkable depth and certainty, but the use of dialogue between a composite "Seeker" of wisdom and Father Laurence, their abbot, and other Brothers occasionally seems contrived and didactic. The book includes a brief history of monasticism from biblical times, the most fascinating story being the formation of the New Skete community.