Gil Fronsdal's new book is out. A gem, if only because of its title. "A Monastery Within" very much resonates with how I have been feeling lately. I used to fantasize about leaving my life behind and joining the monastery. That fantasy was a trap, I realize as it was yet another way to delay the work to be done. It has now become clear, there is no need to wait. The monastery is right here, right now. Opening the door of the monastery means meeting each moment with full attention, knowingly, and with openness. This can be done any time, anywhere. It's just that I am not used to that way of being.
Today, gifted with lots of time to myself, and hardly any distractions, I had ample opportunity to observe the times when I dwelled in the monastery, and those when I didn't. I saw that the times within were few and far between. It was hard to stay in the monastery.
Although a most wonderful place for sure, the monastery requires from oneself great discipline, and surrender. In the lay life, distractions abound, that continually test one's resolve. It is important to know which ones one is most susceptible to, so that conditions can be set to minimize them, therefore making it easier to stay in the monastery.
On the list of distractions that take me out of being present: computer, iPhone, eating, daydreaming, multitasking, working too much and too fast, reading, moving around . . . What are your distractions?
The main motivation for staying in the monastery is the intuited sense of the happiness that it beholds. It is also the realization over and over again of the suffering from the many string of moments not really lived, and avoided instead. At some point, the wise one says enough, and armed with new resolve, sets out to create the conditions for longer and longer stays in the monastery. And of course, there is always the possibility of refuge in an outer monastery, once in a while, to help solidify the structure of the monastery within. A luxury for most nowadays, and one I am contemplating.
Until today, I always thought of the monastery as a place to get to, and enter. Now, I see it more as a place to enter and stay in. Not leaving the monastery is the big challenge.