I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Hana Truscott's wisdom about showing up in the world and where it has taken her:
“Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands.
Ten thousand hands, they carry me.”
My monk in the world mantra is “show up.”
The more hours I show up for my daily practice of being a monk in the world, the more my “monkness” carries into other facets of life. I was recently inspired by the lyrics above from the song 10,000 Hours by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. It took these two musical artists over 10,000 hours of practice before they were able to break through into greatness. Their song is an invitation for us to put in the hours pursuing our art, our passion, our love, and those hours will be like hands that will carry us through. I have put in nowhere near 10,000 hours of intentional contemplation on my journey as a monk in the world, yet I’m already experiencing breakthroughs and transformations. I can only imagine what 10,000 hours might bring!
To be a monk in the world used to mean showing up every day for my 20 minutes of Centering Prayer. It is a practice I was introduced to five years ago through my aunt, who teaches classes at Fr. Thomas Keating’s Contemplative Outreach center in Denver, Colorado. The fruits of the Centering Prayer practice unfold over time, so I had to learn to trust the process. The only thing I had control over was showing up each day. In the five years that I have been doing this practice, there have been only two times during Centering Prayer where I have experienced pure, peaceful bliss. The rest of the time I’m constantly wrangling with my thoughts (I mean gently letting thoughts go and returning to my sacred breath). But I still show up.
Over time, my monk mantra has slowly seeped into other facets of life.
Twenty-eight months ago I showed up in the Republic of Macedonia as a Peace Corps Volunteer. After three months of intensive Macedonian language, professional development, and cultural training, I was assigned to a small village of 1,000 people five miles north of the Greek border. In preparation for my service, I was told that it may take me a year or more to accomplish or do anything significant. My first task (i.e. my first year) was to build trust in the community through lots of listening, observing, and honing language skills. As an American who takes pride in efficient work and high productivity, it was a struggle for me to learn to let go of outputs and simply show up and “be” in the culture. Indeed, it took me thirteen months (10,000 hours, surprise!) to finally hit my stride.
Looking back at my effectiveness as a new Peace Corps Volunteer, the most important thing I did through all those months and hours was to show up and be present. I showed up at work day after day even though I didn’t have anything specific to do. I showed up for coffee with colleagues and neighbors and even strangers. My greatest success has come from being present to the community, which has gradually emboldened my Macedonian colleagues and empowered my newfound friends to take action for their own community development ideas. I’m now beginning my third year of Peace Corps service in the same village. The projects I’m involved with are ones I had envisioned from the beginning. But instead of me pushing my own agenda, these projects arose from the community and are being implemented by the community. I am here to support them. Thus my mantra for effective community development work as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Macedonia has become “show up.”
Another area that my monk mantra seeped into last year is health and fitness. Instead of giving up on fitness when results weren’t immediate, I decided to “show up” day after day. On my thirtieth birthday last February, I started using Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred workout video. As my thirty-first birthday rounds the corner, I’ve completed over 120 of those workouts and I’m feeling great. For someone who loved the outdoors and never thought she could ever have the attention span to do one home DVD workout, let alone 120 of them, I am feeling amazing. All it took was showing up, which will continue to be a mantra for my health and fitness.
Throughout my Peace Corps service, my monk mantra for centering prayer has seeped into my work and my health. My prayer for my thirtieth birthday was to cultivate my mind, body and soul. Now as I look ahead towards a new year, my prayer is to cultivate my life passion – a recent revelation. My life passion is to be a writer. I’m slowly starting to “show up” for writing practice, albeit it’s a struggle! I have no doubt that this permeation of my monk mantra into my everyday life is a fruit of the commitment to my monastic practice. It began with centering prayer and has expanded to mind, body, soul and now passion. This is where the hands of those many hours of showing up as a monk in the world have carried me. And I look forward to the many hours ahead.
Hana is a creative non-fiction writer building a repertoire of life experience. She shares her wanderlust-fueled adventures and contemplative insights on her blog http://hanatruscott.blogspot.com. She currently resides in Macedonia as a Peace Corps Master’s International student through the University of Denver.