I can remember it being dark as I left the small house where I was sleeping, taking my pipe and a little tobacco in a bag and going to walk around the grounds a little, and maybe sit down somewhere and smoke while I thought about the past couple days. Spending most of every day in silence, as the monks at this monastery do, had given me time to think, pray, read, and create, and I needed to take some time after evening prayers to reflect. When I decided to stay for a weekend at this holy place I didn’t know what to expect; my only hope was that it would be a kind of reset after a tough semester at school.
The daily prayers were optional but I tried to make it to as many as I could. The short before-dawn services were at an hour I was tired of seeing after being in school for a few months, so I missed every one of those, but I made it to breakfast a couple times, and was glad for lunch and dinner, vegetarian feasts made by the monks themselves and eaten in silence. Between meals I was able to take walks, one in particular a long walk into the woods and possibly off the monastery grounds, as I passed a few tree stands and corncob piles left from the recent hunting season. I also visited the library, sat by the river and watched boats go by, and read a couple of my own books. Regularly scheduled prayers brought a welcome rhythm to the days.
A monastic life is a simple and humble one, spent mostly in silence and contemplation. This was a kind of opposite from my life during the past semester, and when presented with each opportunity to pray, or chant, or eat, or read, or walk, or meditate, I took my fill of it, glad for the quiet peace in my questions, answers, and practices.
Another night, more recently, I sat outside as the rain came crashing down a few feet away. It had been raining before we noticed it, but who passes up a chance to sit outside watching a rainstorm when given the chance? We sat under a carport roof and talked, playing at being futurists, as the storm raged around us, and when I think about it now it reminds me of the time spent at a small monastery a few years ago in an attempt to clear my mind. Like during that weekend spent in the company of holy men, as we sat outside letting the storm throw its fury at us I was glad for the quiet peace of questions, answers, and practices. I am taking my fill this time too, and as far as I’m concerned I hope I am never fully satisfied, always happy for more, a willing gluttony.