One of the greatest gifts of my childhood was the sound foundation the Catholic church gave me. My life was blessed as I experienced first-hand the rhythm of a holy life. Living near the convent and going to Catholic school instilled the cadence of living a holy life within my mind, body, and soul. It was here where I first learned the cadence of living an Intentional Life.
Growing up Catholic was a pearl and a pellet for me. The pearl was that it saved my afflictive life with its structure, rituals, discipline, women power figures such as Mary and women saints, and some of the Church’s theology. The pellet was the patriarchy, stale rituals, and archaic theology. The pearls and pellets run together and live in a rather yin-yang relationship within me.
The Lapsed Catholic Returns to The Rhythm of an Intentional Life
I am what they call a “lapsed Catholic.” This is a baptized Catholic who is not practicing. I was around practicing nuns, priests, and monks for the first 30 years of my life. They were stable, kind, and provided guidance for me. They lived what we call the monastic cycle of life. After many years of practicing spirituality, I met a very cool nun who invited me to become an oblate at her monastery. I went through the training and subsequently became a Benedictine Oblate at Sacred Heart Monastery where I relearned and reexperienced living a holy life of cycles and rhythms.
Our Worlds Need Monastic Community
The key to our future is to look to our past to see what wisdom we can glean from previous types of thriving communities. A pandemic of loneliness has moved across our planet like a plague. Depression, anxiety suicide, and other mental health disorders are skyrocketing. People want to experience a meaningful life but are exhausted from living on their screens and racing from fad to fad. I not only lived in monastic communities but also taught about them as a professor. We need to take the tenants of these once thriving communities and instill them in our current overbooked, overworked, and overwhelmed world.
The Monastic Cycle of Living an Intentional Life
Consider embracing the following tenants of this age-old, time-tested monastic rhythm to create a life of meaning, happiness, and love
We all need a place to be vulnerable and accepted. Community provides the essential support through our losses, grief, successes, and failures. Community helps us find purpose, meaning direction for our lives. What types of communities are you enjoying? If you are not experiencing community how can you join or create a community?
We live in a world of movement, distraction and constantly chasing after our next desire. Stability encourages us to become more aware and change in place. When life gets challenging you don’t run to a new relationship, job or home. Stability invites you to stay in place and go inward to explore how you can grow from the events in your life. Through stability, you have the opportunity to become an anchor in your family, community and at work. paradoxically encourages change. Can you begin mindfulness practices that will help you become more aware of why you want to move, leave or change?
Through spiritual practices, you can connect to your Source to gain greater clarity, energy, and enlightenment. This can be a meditation, prayer or yoga practice. Whatever practice leads you deeper within and connects you to something greater is where you will discover the power of devotion.
Co-creation is the essence of your daily work. Throughout monastic life, work has been considered sacred, holy and one of the purposes for our life on earth. Our essence, creativity, and purpose are revealed through our work. Do you feel you are co-creating with work each day?
How can we possibly change and become enlightened without the practice of study? This includes reading or instruction from a teacher. Are you creating time each day for study so you can grow and transform your life?
These days we consider leisure a luxury. The truth of our times is that we don’t get enough sleep, we eat too many meals on the run, we take too many pills and we don’t spend enough time with our children and the people we love. Rest is considered sacred and encouraged in the monastic community. Sabbath or leisure is essential for renewing, refreshing and creating. Religions and spiritualities teach that we should use the example of leisure set by God. Even God rested on the seventh day. Are you scheduling leisure regularly each day?
We grab food on the run, eat out and eat alone these days. An essential element of the monastic community is breaking bread together. Food is holy. We as humans must share food, laughter, and stories together at mealtime. Three meals a day are shared, cherished and mindfully eaten. What would happen in your life if you stopped three times a day and experienced your meals with this reverence?
Almost half of Americans have trouble sleeping. We are just beginning to understand how critical sleep is to our mental and physical health. The monastics believe sleep is a holy state which requires you to envision sleep as a time of healing, grace, and surrender. How can you create sleep practices that will nourish your mind, body, and soul?