Book Review – Lost in Wonder: Rediscovering the Spiritual Art of Attentiveness by Esther De Waal

by Mark Votava


I love this book by Esther De Waal.  She draws our attention to the art of attentiveness.  This is such a crucial theme in a society that is easily distracted from a deep interior, authentic path.  This book helps us to recover this lost practice in our time.

Esther De Waal emphasizes seeing with the inner eye, silence, attention, awareness, darkness, mystery and gift.  She uses many quotes from others like twentieth century mystic Thomas Merton in the writing.  This book opened my eyes to the beauty of wonder, gratitude, attentiveness, awareness, authenticity and mystery.

Lost in Wonder is an enlightening book of wisdom, depth, insight and truthfulness.  This book could bring us to a place of understanding ourselves better, practicing silence and receiving all of life as gift.  Esther De Wall dares us to become fully attentive and alive in the world we live in.  She shows us a way of openness to mystery which is risky and counter-cultural.

  • In danger of failing to be being fully alive

“If we fail to find the time to stand back, to give ourselves a break, a breathing space, we are in danger of failing to be fully alive, or to enjoy that fullness of life for which we were created…”

  • Openness to mystery

“It is risky, counter-cultural, to start out on something with open-hands, open mind, open heart, but above all with openness to mystery…”

  • The recovery of silence

“…the recovery of silence.  Here is one of the most immediate and the most powerful of instruments for deepening and enriching my life – one which I neglect at my peril but one which I might want to evade since it could be frightening to encounter this interior silence which lies at the root of being.”

  • The art of silence

“The art of silence is an art form which, like the art of seeing, is virtually neglected in the West…”

  • Silence is not absence but presence

“Silence is not absence but presence…  Silence and stillness are gifts which are gentle, fragile, to be handled with care, above all in allowing time to wait and to listen.  For silence is to lead into listening…  To listen means to be open, ready to receive, attentive to something or to someone outside of myself…”

  • Becoming aware and awake to the present moment

“…when we become aware and awake to the present moment, we are also awake to God, and then everything can become a moment of miracle, a mysterious reality.  For God is only found in the reality of this present moment…”

  • Things that are painful

“Things that are painful must be brought out into the open and faced, faced in the right way so that they will lead us forward…”

  • Darkness and suffering

“Darkness and suffering are inevitable, inescapable, often appearing unexpectedly, without warning, at any point in our lives…”

  • Wonder and gratitude

“When we fail in wonder we fail in gratitude…”

  • Experiencing all of life as gift

“When I am fully alive I look around me with eyes that are open, astonished, and ears that are attentive, and as a result I experience all of life as gift…”

  • Wonder and attention go together

“Wonder and attention go together.  Wonder begins with giving rapt attention to what is immediately in front of us…”

  • Close to mystery

“Attention, wonder are close to mystery…”

In what ways have you explored attentiveness in everyday life?