I have always felt an odd affinity for monks and monasticism. I suppose this comes from a generally introverted nature and an interest piqued by watching a biopic of Thomas Merton when I was in high school. As I am now writing a book on equanimity, my interest in monasticism has returned. Equanimity, or remaining calm throughout the various ups and downs of life, has some spiritual roots in early monastic writings.
Lately I have come to wonder whether monastic thinking, or Benedictine spirituality as it is sometimes known, has much to teach us lay people. We face quite different circumstances than those in the cloister. We have the challenges of earning a living and getting along with co-workers, friends, and family. We must negotiate an often difficult world while dealing with our egos and those of others. But as I watched these five men I felt that each of them gained something from the experience. I was impressed by the compassion and wisdom that the Abbot and the monks showed during the program. Abbot Christopher Jamison's book also impressed me with it's heartfelt application of monastic ideas to the lives of ordinary readers. Jamison mentions the goal of purity of heart, and how such practices as humility, silence, and virtue are ways of reaching this goal. While most of us won't try these on in a monastery, we can practice them where we are now. Of course, these things will not guarantee success on the world's terms. They may, however, create a spiritual transformation, the kind of transformation that seemed to be taking shape among the men at the Abbey. And for what it's worth, that's something.