My interest in the Trappist’s lifestyle began when I first read some of the work of Thomas Merton. This seems to be a common starting place for many who find themselves retreating at Monasteries, so I have pondered what makes my experience different, what has God pointed me in this direction for?
I’ve spoken with many friends that are both intrigued and startled by my choice to pursue such an adventure, but my greatest joy from others has been the pure acceptance and approval of strangers. Through the various Monasteries I’ve already visited, I’ve crossed paths with various (new) friends who have affirmed that there is something here for me, and ultimately for others.
So, I put in my 30 day notice at work, and began booking stays all the 17 Trappist Monasteries across the US. While this has been a terrifying choice, it has been equally exciting. I continue to be affirmed in pursuing this direction, even when I have days where I am debilitated by fear – I continue to move forward.
The bouts of fear, anxiety, and worry seem to come from a common place, a place I find I share with many others in this world. The fear of being alone and the fear of death. I see this journey as chasing both of those fears, rather than running from them. In loneliness, I am traveling to free spaces alone to learn, grow, and develop who I am, might be, etc. I am wrestling with questions and fears of being alone the rest of my life, I am tackling the temptation to make money and live a ‘normal’ life, I am going to the dark corners and crevices of myself in order to learn, accept, and maybe even change them. At the very least my hope in chasing my loneliness and aloneness is to dive in and come up out of the water with a greater reverence for relationships in my life: both with others and God. In terms of chasing my fear of death, I find myself attempting to live life to the brim – to pursue this passion and let it unfold, to make extreme choices to avoid complacency, not to fight off death or slow down what is inevitable, but maybe an attempt to accept it and do what I can to live it. To me, part of living life and accepting death, is to become who I am, and I know – in this seemingly absurd adventure – that is precisely what I am doing. I am pursuing a passion of which I know little of other than I enjoy contemplation, solitude, silence, and the opportunity to grow.
“Perhaps I have an obligation to preserve the stillness, the silence, the poverty, the virginal point of pure nothingness which is at the center of all other loves.” Thomas Merton
“We ought to have the humility to admit we do not know all about ourselves, that we are not experts at running our own lives.” Thomas Merton
“Many poets are not poets for the same reason that many religious men are not saints: they never succeed in being themselves. They never get around to being the particular poet or the particular monk they are intended to be by God. They never become the man or the artist who is called for by all the circumstances of their individual lives.”