Monastic Guest – Austin
I normally wouldn’t write about my time here if it were to be read by others. That’s because what happens here isn’t so much based on the externalities of the life – though they surely are important – as to what goes on inside, which is much more important. This may sound all flowery and poetic, or, heck, even overly “spiritual,” which isn’t what I’m going for. But it’s true. The divine often does speak through the senses, but the subtleties of the work lie in one’s heart, which is far more crucial.
There are two things about Mepkin that, in a very gradual and organic fashion, spoke to my heart.
The first is about failure. The first week or so, I often woke up in sweats about the whole transition, because I thought everything little thing either intensely mattered in the grand scheme of my place the universe – or was totally meaningless. This back and forth wavering between these poles gave rise to a lot of anxiety, and I came to recognize that it probably involved lots of ego. The ego either wants things perfect or nothing to do with anything at all. During this time it was difficult to cut myself some slack and find a balance.
I surely intellectually understood things like “My power is made perfect in your weakness” but actually going through the suffering from all the garbage that comes up inside you is quite a different thing. That’s mostly because we have this immense desire to feel included and do all the right things at all the right times – or to give up and go home. I found that it was when I began to not push the negative feelings away or control them, and maybe even listen attentively to what’s constantly being sung and said in church, you naturally settle into a rhythm because you realize that it’s okay to mess up. These monks are not trying to be God. They are trying to serve Him because they desire Him. I cannot emphasize this enough.
The second is a direct result of the first – and it’s about beauty. The grounds at the monastery are quite enchanting, as it is known. The graceful and minimalistic architecture, the pulsating sounds of the wildlife, and all the sweeping lawns: these things make for quite a nice place. In a way, everything seems perfect. But there is something to be said about a beauty that is not any of these – when not everything is as we’d like it to be. When the singing isn’t beautiful, when someone leading has to clear his throat, when the music is a little off, or when the food isn’t exactly what we’d choose: there is a sweetness there. A coming together it seems. When we all show up with imperfection, I think God rejoices greatly. I don’t know why it is this way, but it is.
I’ll miss things here very much.
But I’ll certainly be back.