I’ve been trying to write about this for a couple of months now, but I always seem to not be able to. Maybe it’s because this falls under the category of “personal practice” and it is just that: personal.
The idea of the experiment came out of my (now) yearly retreat to the Abbey of New Clairveux. A spirit of one of the past monks challenged me in the middle of the retreat when I came to Vespers one night. While the monks were singing, this spirit said to me: “In a different time and place, you’d be with them. And you don’t go to the women’s monastery for your retreat because you’re afraid you wouldn’t leave.”
It shook me because he was absolutely right. In another time and place (and gender), I would have been singing with those monks. He was also right about the women’s monastery.
When I came home, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with this information. I ended up doing a lot of deep reflection, discernment, and, eventually, discussion with my wife and with others. I didn’t necessarily have a calling to join an order, and I also have a lot of things I’m doing in the world. There are a whole lot of things that I still have a calling to do that requires me to be in the here and now.
It took talking to our friend Monica, who, incidentally, was about to leave to become a nun, to figure things out. She pointed out that being monastic doesn’t necessarily mean that you are removing yourself from the world, far from it. She suggested I read this book and the Rules of St. Benedict. So I did.
And I thought, you know, I could do this! I could incorporate this into my life! To some degree, being monastic is more about focusing one’s life around Spirit. Deliberately making the time to pray and focus on Spirit, and figuring out how to incorporate prayer into everyday life and work.
This is something I know and believe, but really living it with a busy schedule, and homework, and life, can be hard.
For me, I used the tools I had at hand. I mean, I have Google Calendar and OmniFocus! So, I scheduled. I divided my day with time for internet, writing work, and prayer. Every morning and evening I’d sit in our temple room and pray. Now, sometimes that morning prayer ended up being a mid-morning prayer depending on my and my wife’s schedule. I took up swimming again for my body, and in the evening my prayer was sometimes done in bed before I went to sleep, but I tried my best to keep it regular. When I’d forget occasionally, I’d try, and mostly succeed, to be gentle with myself about it.
And, it helped. I felt more grounded and somewhat more focused. Some things became a bit clearer, and it helped me get through some of the tougher situations over the summer. But when I had to do the push to finish writing my liturgy, my whole, neat schedule went merrily out the window.
At the end of August, I felt kind of lost and flailing in the wind.
Then there was the whole rush and craziness of the start of the new term, and somewhere along the way, the whole monastic experiment got lost. A bit of depression didn’t help much either.
But, I wanted to get back to it. I did feel much more grounded and present when I was doing the regular prayer and meditation, and as it was coming up to Samhain season, I thought that it would be a good idea to try again. Especially since I’m leading Samhain this year. There are several people in my coven and others that have a need for Samhain this year, and I know I can deliver for that need. It requires, however, that I have my spiritual shit together. So, starting October 1, I started doing some sort of prayer/meditation three times a day: morning, midday, and before bed.
It’s been good so far, although it’s hard to remember the morning prayer sometimes. For the midday prayer I’ve been doing some form of quiet meditation either just sitting in silence, or using one of several binaural or meditation apps that I have on my phone. (I’m actually finding this really beneficial between noon and 2 because it works as good as a nap.) Before bed I’m doing an LBRP and some meditation/prayer.
Have I been 100% in doing it so far. No, because I seem to easily forget doing the LBRP before bed. In an effort not to go all perfectionist on this, when I remember while I’m drifting off to sleep, I do it in my head. I got that idea from several places, but primarily from my Intro to Islam class. I can’t really do the kneeling and bending, so when asked about it, Sheik said “Do it in your head!”
It was one of those moments when the lightbulb goes off and then you think, “Oh, jeez, why didn’t I think of that!”
I’m still working on this, and I’m hoping that by the end of the month it’ll become habit.
And I realize that sometimes I forget that one doesn’t always need all the trappings. Sometimes, the intention is enough.