Benedict of Nursia, the saint responsible for the most popular of monastic rules, one full of common sense for ordering the communal life. Our rector talked about the simplicity of a monastic life, a life very attractive to me. So much so that when I was in my mid-twenties, I entered a religious order (I was Roman Catholic at the time).
I was with the sisters for six years before discerning a different path. I left with a taste for morning silence, a clean room, and an ordered life.
My struggle for integration is part of this attraction to a simple life. But here’s the rub. To engage with life pushes one outward, to help the neighbor, to address injustice, to be involved in community. These things complicate life. How much simpler life would be if other people weren’t involved!
This will always be a struggle of mine, perhaps a defining struggle. Much of living more simply is internal — keeping perspective and mindfulness amid the busyness of the days, but external circumstances don’t always have to be as counter to a simple, more contemplative life as I let them become. I like to jump in and take charge and get things done, until I feel squashed beneath the weight of agendas, meetings, and follow-up. The day arrives that I’m not only not doing what is needful for my own life, but I’m probably not being as helpful as I think I am.
Time to let go of the things that are no longer life giving. If they’re not life giving for me, I doubt they are for others.
All of this is easier said than done, but the new school year is about to begin, and I am committed through at least May for some things, and through December of next year for others. My goal will be to shed those things I need to shed over the next ten months. And since it is my habit to fill freed up time with more busy, I will commit to giving any of this miraculous time to creative work that brings some measure of joy. Like Tolkien’s road, ‘fumbling at joy’ goes ever on and on.