Monasticism has been intriguing me these past few months. And not necessarily from a religious perspective. (I have not received the gift of faith for any one religion, so I find myself studying them all in questing fascination.) For millennia monasticism has had as its goal, whatever the particular religion, the eschewing of worldly pursuits and goods and considerations for the purpose of living a more fully spiritual life. When the exterior life is minimized, the interior life expands. Focused contemplation enhances and deepens that expansion. Pursuing that interior life for months, and then years, and then decades… I can’t begin to imagine the cumulative effect upon the body, mind, and spirit. What might a person become, what might I become, or perceive, or understand, or experience? That question is beyond fascinating.
In my current situation I cannot live a truly monastic life, and nor would I want to. I have a wonderfully fantastic husband/best friend, a calling (of some sort) to write (something), and an innate belief that I am not supposed to run off to a cabin in the woods and exist by myself (for longer than a weekend here and there). But the concept of monasticism keeps percolating in my thoughts. I want to move in my life towards some of its elements, towards those that I can incorporate into my current life without sacrificing its best aspects. A simplification, a dedication to contemplation, to meditation and the reading of many and varied spiritual texts, to a quieting of the world outside and the world within, so that into the silence of world and self a more profound understanding and experience might occur, and continually deepen with passing time.
So how to begin? I have no deeply meaningful plan, novice at this that I am. I have only a few starting points, extremely obvious ones. But I must start somewhere. And hopefully these small changes will lead to the perception of other useful changes, and so on. Every day, then, I will: 1) Most simply, meditate. (This meditation is the standard empty-the-mind, focus-on-the-breathing kind of meditation.) 2) Read a spiritual book/text and reflect upon its meaning. 3) Eat only when hungry, and in modest amounts (though the food itself can be quite tasty). 4) Exercise, or do any variety of manual labor. 5) Keep the TV, radio, and computer turned off as much as feasibly possible. 6) Resist the urge to acquire, or even think about acquiring, stuff of any kind (beyond true essentials).
In essence, simplify the exterior life, enhance the internal life, and see what happens. This is only a first, small step, but it is a step in the best of directions.