The one inevitable focal point of my spiritual journey is my own uniqueness as an individual. What is inevitable about this is that I cannot escape my own uniqueness. I bring it to bear upon all my perceptions and relationships. What’s more, I am convinced that I do not fully understand my own uniqueness. At the moment, in regards to my spiritual life, my “unique” approach is that of trying to make the world my “monastery.”
I have thought of myself as a frustrated contemplative and have immersed myself in literature by and about monks. One time I went so far as to apply for an extended retreat at a Midwest monastery but dropped it because of other commitments. A couple of times a year I go away alone to try and live a monastic schedule for a few days.
Upon many times rethinking this I have concluded that my own unique self and my own unique situations are my monastery. I do not need to go to the cloister or the hermitage to be “monastic.” Fundamental to the cloister are the notions of praying and working along with much stillness and silence, yet all within a community of others. Certainly my world offers more distractions and, in that sense, there are more attachments to overcome. But like the monk I can, in my own world, work and pray in the presence of God and the company of others. Certainly, with effort, I can find times and places to be still and silent. The main difference between my monastery and the cloister is the relationships within the environments of each. In both environments unique opportunities to see You in others and to bring You to others abound, regardless of the vows. My monastery is a place to work on ways of converting the routine of daily life into prayer and reflection.
In a very real sense, Your monastery was the world of Your times into which You brought God; but, in that world there were times when You sought solitude. I think we throw up mighty obstacles to our own spiritual growth when we look at the contemplative life as an aspect of spirituality “out there,” but beyond the grasp of anyone outside the cloister, as if it could not be a part of our worldly daily lives. On the contrary, I think we can be grateful to the monasteries for giving us monks who have shown us by their writings and examples that the best part of their lives is not bound by the cloister.