Whenever I meet someone new and tell them I lived at a monastery, I typically receive a combination of surprise and curiosity: “Wow, that’s not something you hear everyday… what was that like?” A little while into our conversation, the topic usually arises of what it was like to leave the monastery and live in the “real world.” Even for people who’ve never touched foot in a monastery, they can intuit that the transition from a contemplative environment into a city might not be easy.
I have been in a unique position of transitioning in and out of contemplative settings frequently for the past four years and have become familiar with the unsettled feelings accompanying such a shift. I heard a monk once jokingly compare it to coming back from war! While we all found the comparison amusing, I think the challenges of any re-integration from a very specific way of living to another have some underlying commonalities. Continue reading Transitions
Continue from Part 3
4:45pm After walking meditation we enter the big hall for a 30 minute afternoon sit. The flavor of the afternoon sitting is different from the morning; for me it feels lighter…like a cool breeze circulating through the various recesses of my mind.
A friend once told me it took him many years before his daily sitting meditation transformed into just sitting to sit. If I examine my own experience of meditation (sitting, eating, walking), it has followed a non-linear progression that I’d guess some others have gone through as well. Continue reading Day in the life: Deer Park 4/4
Continued from Part 2
12:00pm Everyone begins lunch together and eats for 20 minutes in silence, after which the bell is invited to wash your dishes, get seconds and/or converse with those around you.
When I first arrived, the fact that we were socially obligated to sit for 20 minutes before getting up felt like a chore. What if I was done earlier? After a few weeks, I began to realize the wisdom inherent in such an arrangement.
I recalled a year ago, when I attempted to adopt a consistent mindful eating practice. I was in my apartment in Chicago, and I’d make myself a nice lunch and resolve to eat it undisturbed, savoring every bite. More often than not, however, there was something else that desperately yearned for my attention. I could return that phone call to Kevin I’d been meaning to get to…A trailer for that movie Peter told me about…That promising article Brad sent which I had skimmed. If I didn’t crack and indulge in the second activity, then I oftentimes thought about it repeatedly. The meal had finished and I felt like I only really enjoyed a few bites of it.
While eating at the monastery, all of those distractions are gone. No one has a cell phone, laptop or newspaper out. All you do there is eat. Revolutionary, I know! Continue reading Day in the life: Deer Park 3/4
Continued from Part 1
7:30am While in the breakfast line I see a blueberry scone at the end of the table – my eyes light up! I ate scones as a child, and am rediscovering how the potent combination of a dry scone and heaps of strawberry jelly can result in deep satisfaction.
After finding a seat at a large round table I take time to reflect on this meal. Breakfast is held in silence, building upon the energy of concentration cultivated in the meditation hall and providing an opportunity to focus attention on one thing: eating.
Over the last six months I have continuously refined my meal gatha and have now settled on a series of lines which, at present, captures the essence of what I want to remember before, during, and after, eating: Continue reading Day in the life: Deer Park 2/4
I was provided the good fortune of spending the majority of this past summer at Deer Park Monastery in southern California. It was an opportunity for immersion; for building bridges and releasing my shells.
I learned much during this time, and in the next four posts I will aspire to communicate the essence of my experience by sharing a “Day in the life” from my time there. I find this style of writing to settle nicely between telling a story and sharing takeaways. The Plum Village day in the life has been the most viewed post on this blog, so either people are accidentally finding their way here by searching for Plum Village, or it’s a writing style people appreciate. Or maybe it’s both! :)
5:25am Alarm. Continue reading Day in the life: Deer Park 1/4
I was asked to write an extended article about the Wake Up tour for the Mindfulness Bell magazine…what began as a simple reflection grew into a story of how I found my way from the corporate world to the mindfulness realm. This article was also published in the Shambhala SunSpace
Integrating Head & Heart Part I
A year ago I was sitting at a cafe in Ann Arbor, enjoying breakfast with a beloved professor from university. When I was in school he taught a course entitled Psychology of Consciousness, which was one my first introductions to mindfulness practice. Peace Is Every Step happened to be required reading, and after I finished the course I wondered why this material wasn’t taught in every classroom.
That day, I had gone to the professor seeking guidance. Continue reading Integrating Head & Heart Part I