Life After Leaving
Jesus is still here, so the same journey continues. Is it hard to adjust to normal working life? No.
The monastery teaches monks how to live with one another. In the secular world there are hundreds of ways to escape situations that are unpleasant. There are times when one is not working, free time, when one can do what one wants. There are enjoyable distractions such as television, radio, films, theatres etc. There are countless activities, hobbies, people, and things to do and to enjoy. There is also money, a salary, and food, good food, nice food, when you want it.
In the monastery there is none of this. There is no salary. The food is presented, not chosen. It comes when it comes, once a day. There is no free time. There are no days off and no holiday. There are no means of escaping from people one may not like. This is not by chance. The enclosure of the monastery invites monks to confront problems quickly, to resolve problems positively.
At night vigils I sat next to a monk who had some sort of bowel disorder. In the unheated, crisp, morning air, any odours were all the more noticeable. Every night, two and a half to three and a half hours each night, I was invited to learn how to love my brother. Each difficult situation is an invitation to grow!
Starting work when I left the monastery was like a holiday. I only worked eight hours a day, I only worked five days a week, I had holidays, and I even got paid for this. If there was somebody I found difficult to relate to, there were one hundred and one ways to avoid needing to. Those who I could not avoid I had to find a way to positively relate to. As we all do. Yet this was not as difficult as in the monastery. There are many ways to distract oneself here, whereas in the monastery there were very few.
The time spent in the monastery was time spent in learning how to communicate and relate to others. As our ability to do this goes a long way in determining how well we function in the work place or in the home, since leaving the monastery I have found meeting people a happy experience rather than a difficult one.
Why did I leave? I did enter 'for life'. In retrospect I now see that I entered to have myself sorted out. There were certain things in my psyche that needed organising spiritually, and I was drawn to Parkminster to have this happen. This is not unusual, and the Master there sees his role as helping people through this transition as well as guiding those will stay for life.
I left because something had been answered. When it had been answered there was no longer the need, or the point, of staying on in the monastery. Indeed when that something happened I was in the position again of asking how I should serve God in this life. As I had done before and when this question took me to the monastery.
It would be wrong to look as my decision to join the monastery as a mistake. The whole of life is a journey for those who do not stand still. The journey through the monastery was an important part of my journey.
So what had been answered? A growth to a level of spiritual maturity, that enables me now to live with God in the everyday noise of today’s world outside the monastery, as I lived with Him before in the monastery.
This in retrospect was why I entered the monastery, and when it happened I left. At the time I did not see this, but that is neither here or there. What is important is that I answered this need by entering the monastery. If I had not, that spiritual maturity would not have taken place and I would not be with God as I am now.
There is enough free time to dedicate solely to prayer. This time of prayer goes to answering my deepest needs and so helps me in the home and in the work place. In one very real sense, life continues on the same journey. There is a lot of time to put aside solely for God. Only working eight hours a day gives a lot of time for lectio divina and spiritual exercises of any sort. Working, being married and keeping the house leaves me deciding to have one full undisturbed hour a day being with God and doing nothing else. But the other 23 hours are prayer too - this one hour could be seen as a daily pit stop, to keep me, the vehicle, road worthy for the journey.
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