Book Review: Dance of the Fallen Monk

This is an autobiography of a man who lived as a cloistered Trappist monk for 17 years, then left the monastery, spent time working for the military, studying theology at the graduate level, being a Catholic, and then Protestant chaplain on campus. Along the way he experimented with various views of sexuality, then met and married his life companion (an ex-nun).

George was born in 1929, and suffered from self-hatred, created from a combination of his own despised body image, and early influences of his family. The story of his subsequent spiritual awakening, the people and situations that contributed, is the central tale of this book.

Dance is a wonderful spiritual adventure, which develops as the reader goes along with George through his youthful insecurities, his devotion, then disenchantment with the Church, ending up with tales of his efforts to trust his inner guidance. His writing is engaging and demonstrates an appreciation for the entertainment value in observing the human condition.

Above all, the author shares this incredible journey with us honestly and almost without judgement. His, and others’ foibles are treated as part of the human experience – neither good nor bad. This encourages readers to see their own adventures in the same light.

In the last chapter, he describes insights gleaned from the practice of meditation – a practice he developed thanks to one of his early mentors.

As he states in the preface to Dance, "This book is the story of all who walk – or want to walk – the road to inner wholeness but who find themselves, as I did, struggling against negative odds and surrounded by unhelpful circumstances. It’s meant to encourage people to let their hearts dance. And not to take as long about it as I did!"

I love good narrative that illustrates the wonderful variety of ways Spirit manifests in the lives of those who are paying attention. This is one of those stories.