The idea for the Monk Manifesto emerged several months ago while I was away on a retreat. Last spring was a very full season of my life and I was claiming a few days of silence to listen. I was in a threshold space, moving into my own work more fully, and I knew my call was to spread ways of being a Monk in the World to as many people as I could.
Many of you who signed indicated that having so many others to join with in a public declaration is supportive and hope-filled. Indeed that was part of my motivation for writing them. I want people to see that there are companions who also hunger for ways of living with deep intention. I want to start a movement of monks. I don't know exactly what it will look like, but like most things in my life which are life-giving it begins by following a thread, a sense of awe at the invitation being offered to me, even if I can only see the edges.
Reaching across borders
I attended the World Congress of Benedictine Oblates in Rome last October and our theme was inter-religious dialogue. I am very aware that I have far more in common with my brothers and sisters who are committed to a contemplative way of life no matter their religion (or perhaps even none) than I am with those in my own faith tradition who use religion to exclude and draw ever-stronger boundaries around what (or who) is holy and what (or who) is not. My goal is not to water down Christianity — as I will always be deeply rooted in and informed by my relationship to this wisdom tradition — but to discover where we might find companions across perceived boundaries.
Broad and inclusive language
These principles emerged out of my own inner journey of living the Benedictine way (which is my primary spiritual community and commitment) and my outer journey of teaching about various strands of Christian monasticism (including Benedictine, Celtic, and desert traditions). However each of the principles I set forth can be found across contemplative traditions. Several of you who signed commented that there is much overlap with your practice of Buddhism or yoga. What would it be like to create a common language about what it means to live in meaningful ways in the modern world?
Why we need practices
Really each principle is the umbrella for a whole set of practices. Practices help us to embody new ways of being. As we commit to living into a particular practice, our hearts are shaped by the daily engagement. Practices provide us with sacred containers through which we can foster presence to our experience and cultivate a radical sense of compassion for ourselves, our community, and creation. I will explore this more here in the coming weeks.
The act of resistance
I purposely selected the word "resistance" because it is a concept which roots me in a tradition and practice of nonviolence where we stand in resistance to the powers of destruction at work all around us. Some of the violence is overt — daily abuse, neglect, loss of human life, the unraveling of ecosystems. But much of the violence is subtle — like the violence we participate in each day as we push our bodies to the point of exhaustion and our spirits to the place of despair. I believe deeply that we need both a sacred yes and a sacred no in our lives – things which we wholeheartedly embrace and those which we create boundaries around of what is not life-giving. For me, naming both is a practice of balance and awareness.
Sparking your own reflection
The Monk Manifesto is not meant to be exhaustive, but there is fruitfulness in claiming what is important in a given moment of time. There are many things that could be added, but part of its power is its conciseness. I had a lovely email from someone for whom the word "resist" was not helpful and so he changed the language for his own version, something I wholeheartedly encourage. I hope reading it prompts your own reflection on how you would articulate your declaration of integrated living.
Join with others
Consider signing the Monk Manifesto. Making a declaration is just a first step. Then comes practice – an entire lifetime of practice (see #7).