What Would A Monk Do?

Last night, I read some old emails to friends outlining my big dreams. I felt discouraged at how little I had accomplished compared to my original plans. I saw the same recurring themes over the years from dissatisfaction with my job to wanting to do a long term meditation intensive. This morning, I woke up feeling pretty bad too. My body was sore from running the previous day. But, even worse, I had dreamed about a person. A person I didn’t realize just how much I missed and not sure I’ll ever see again. That put me in a rather sad mood of not wanting to do anything.

I said one of my life goals has been to do a long term meditation retreat which would require quitting my job and leaving everything for a while. A leap of faith I haven’t been willing or needing to do yet.

But I also had another familiar thought this morning, “why couldn’t I live like a monk right here? In the city with a job instead of at a center? Isn’t that the more challenging task?” After all, in a center my life would be regimented. I would wake up at 5am, meditate at prescribed times, and eat the same meal at designated times. I wouldn’t have access to television or video games. I wouldn’t waste hours browsing reddit, facebook, hacker news, sc2casts, and so on. My daily options would be rather limited in a center yet it would also be quite liberating. So, why can’t I do it here and now?

Is it because there’s too many temptations? Because I want to seem “normal” or accommodating to my friends and family? Because of the job stress? Because there’s no external pressure to comply with? While they all have some influence, it seemed silly to me that such things would prohibit me from living a monk life here.

So, throughout the day, I wondered, “what would a monk do?” What would I do if I was in a monastery right now?

Thus, after work, I started exercising in my room for a hour.

I made a nice dinner and actually ate at the dining table instead of in front of a computer or television. I savored each bite just like I would at a meditation center.

After dinner, I coded for a hour and added a new feature to one of my programs.

It wasn’t a perfect day. But, I got back three hours or more that I normally would spend hopping between mindless activities and thoughts.

I often thought that we pay a lot of money to academic institutions, trainers, and certifications not because we need their knowledge. Information is everything and free these days. But, we want the external pressure to force us to do the good things. Good things that aren’t as immediately rewarding or stimulating as a game but have much better long term dividends. But maybe, just maybe, it’s possible to sustain a productive, good lifestyle without needing a therapist, a trainer, or a meditation center. Just a little mindfulness of what would I do as a monk now?

Most importantly, just accept that this is what is right now. I woke up this morning craving a dream, an idea, a memory that’s no longer present. Once I can let go of that thought, of my idea of that person then I can live again here and now.