Followup to A Modern MonK: My Next Life
So, what’s my life like these days? What’s a modern monk?
For now, here’s an average non-retreat day (Tuesday – Saturday):
Alarm is going off. It’s very cold and very dark. I used to think about my old bed in a warm apartment instead of being in a yurt with three other people. I used to have a queen size bed instead of this narrow sleeping space of three layers of foam cushion. These days, I only grumble about the cold.
Washing my face and using the bathroom. Drink some water. Get into the zendo.
Sitting in my zendo wrapped in a blanket. It’s not winter yet, but it’s still cold in the 40s. I’m wearing my black winter sweat pants, my wool socks, and three upper layers.
Soryu, the teacher, comes in and we begin our chanting. Always a little shaky in the beginning to breathe and sing from my core. We chant gate-gate with a lot of energy to the point of sweating even in winter. I used to think it was kind of weird. It reminded me like a mosh pit. But, chanting, is one of the easiest ways to practice now. Except when the chant leader or drummer are completely off. Then it’s a challenge. I’m happy I’m not the chant leader or drummer anymore.
Begin our hour of silent meditation and practice interviews with Soryu. These days surprisingly full of energy. Stop thinking. Focus my attention to my core. Breathe. Repeat. Stop thinking. Keep my attention low. Breathe. Repeat.
Individual Practice Interview
Go to interview room for a few minutes. Sit across from Soryu and demonstrate my practice by just doing my meditation technique. Sometimes, I have a report or question about my practice. I do my best to always keep it focused on my awakening experience but sometimes I pepper questions about difficulties with being mindful in my work or other stuff. He typically says the same things over and over until I get the message. I need momentum. Trust in the practice. Have confidence. Keep going. Do it all the time. So on and so forth. Sometimes, I’m pushing myself too hard and then it’s more reassurance and telling me to relax.
Cooking or exercise hour. Most of the time it’s exercise. I usually start with some qigong or yoga stretches followed by body weight and dumbbell exercises. Sometimes, I go hiking instead. I’ve worked up to being able to do 100 pushups now in 4-5 sets of around 20 reps each. Can do almost 35 pullups total in a given hour. Still doing wall sits with 35 lbs dumbbells for a minute or more, but I could do that back in 2013. Need heavier dumb bells. Starting to do more planks and one legged squats. Starting to try to do handstands. Tried to do Ido Portal’s exercises for a while but dropped it. For some reason, I have an aversion to learning more yoga from others.
Often times, this is when work thoughts start popping up.
Silent breakfast. Chant English metta sutra beforehand and four great vows in Japanese afterwards. Typically, a mix of a grain, soup, oatmeal, and fruit. Try to keep good posture and keep meditating. Mostly vegan fare. I can’t remember the last time I had some good eggs.
After kitchen cleanup, it’s time to work.
Here’s a recent list:
– After breakfast, have all hands pre-retreat meeting.
– Have a followup meeting about recent residents.
– Have marketing meeting, figure out Oct plan/strategy
– Checkin with Resident S and Resident C about their work. Did C buy those lights we need? Can he repair the wood cart?
– Email all our potential partners for mindfulness in schools online program that we’ll be going into retreat, and I won’t be able to contact them immediately.
– Contact our lawyer contact about revised contract for international usage.
– Ask Resident M to create IT Accounts for new residents coming soon.
– Check in with Resident P about new residents’ spaces in main building, particularly the bathroom.
– Make sure the property managers know we’re going into retreat soon.
– Call my parents to let them know I’ll be on retreat. Make sure I’m not needed urgently for anything this week.
– Reply to new resident applications.
– Write down everyone’s chore responsibility for today.
– Give orientation meeting to new residents and retreat guests for our next retreat.
– Make sure to get any donations from guests for the retreat stay.
– Stack wood for the yurt, may need to start burning fires within a few weeks. Maybe even this weekend.
– Review retreat document to verify we have everything.
– Figure out what to do with the dryer. It runs 240 V and we only have 120 V.
– Make sure everything is washed and line dried today.
– Collect everyone’s cellphones for retreat. Expect some resistance.
If I’m lucky, the two necessary meetings are done by 11 AM so I can get to the rest of my list.
Lunch time. Either silent lunch or discussion topic. Not sure which I like more. I guess it depends on my meditative awareness and topic.
Time for chores. As head of operations, I assign chores and oversee them. Everything needs to be cleaned.
Write notes giving feedback to everyone on their chores. Start my free time.
Typically this involves either playing a game with others, handling necessary tasks like credit card bills, reading a book, using the sauna, taking a nap, or doing some writing.
Begin working again for half hour. Usually less urgent, maintenance tasks or quick meetings with other residents.
6 PM – 7:30 PM
This period varies each day. Sometimes, it’s meditation practice time, more non-profit work time, a circling night that I lead, workshops or dharma talks by Soryu, or something else.
Start formal practice period. I’m the sit leader for now. So, bow at entrance way. Bow at altar. Light incense. Strike bell three times. Begin practice.
Soryu begins individual practice interview period. I better really start practicing now so I have something to show for all of today to him.
Begin our loving kindness chanting. Feel heart explode with love or grief or apathy. Secretly, I think I am most accustomed to apathy then grief then love. But working to make it more love or grief.
Chanting is over. Check the mouse traps.
Make an evening shake to make up for our lack of dinner. I’ve lost ten pounds being here. Most of it is probably muscle replacing fat. But, I am worried some of it is just losing weight. Do some light reading and then go to the yurt to sleep. Inside the yurt, continue wearing my wool socks, my winter sweat pants, and two layers of upper top. Cover myself in 2-4 blankets head to toe. Contemplate starting the wood fire stove but then remember it takes at least 30 minutes of work to really get going. Go to sleep.
Tomorrow, I’ll get into more of the raw nitty gritty of the awakening practice that has been happening recently for me.