The Way of the Sage

As I\’ve mentioned before, I am reading Plotinus\’ Enneads. In 2.9.9, he mentions \”…the way of the Sage…\” \”…the Sage intent upon the sublimest, upon the realm above…\” There are seven Enneads and this reference to Sage appears less than one quarter of the way in the book. But that is all that is said in this location and seems the first reference to the way of the Sage in the Enneads so far.

In my life I have chased: divine union, enlightenment, God, He, and etc. You name it as it seems to go by various names.

Is the Sage wise? Does the Sage win the much sought after spiritual boon?

Maybe the Buddhist, one who chops wood and carries water, is the highest being.

Who is Heidegger\’s Dasein? How do I become aware of That? Unfallen? (A Heidegger term now, not a Biblical term).

I work for a living. Every weekend is a chance to be alone more fully. I get 3 days every other weekend. It is during these times that I turn my attention inward. Seeking. Listening. Even running or lifting weights.

For this I call myself a monk. A monos. One alone.

To be alone in thought is not a dopamine reward experience. So I never feel holy or enlightened. It is at best a battle with thought demons in the modern desert (a quiet suburb).

Whats going on in my mind, where my inner eyes gaze, defines whether I am a monk, or merely anti-social. A barrage of ego criticisms battering me. Waves of silence washing me. Both at once as I merely sit.

It is not a self improvement program. If you got nothing, you probably figured it out.

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Loftier Thoughts

Today is day 17 of having one leg out of service. It is day 4 of going back to work. I recognize that the rest of my body is tired of hauling around the one bad leg. But work hardening is occurring and already I notice my hands are not as sore from the crutches and I\’m not a tired when I go home.

This morning, I was noticing a mental component to all this; which gave me an insight for my spiritual journey. The past 4 days I have wanted to use my disability as an excuse to work fewer hours. It is an attempt to feel sorry for myself and slack off; even while there isn\’t really a need for this. At the same time, I notice a governing drive which gets out of bed anyway, gets me into the shower anyway so I am sweet smelling and gets me to work on time anyway, and keeps me here for 8 hours anyway.

As I worked on my spiritual study this morning, I noticed the friction going on between the slacker attitude and the governing drive. I realize that the governing drive always wins even though the slacker chews at the governor\’s edges. It is a friction, a tension. But I realize that while it became apparent in reflecting on my disability, it is actually a life long issue. The same friction is apparent in the struggle to get out of bed everyday or exercise everyday or practice contemplation when I have free time.

Some people might even say that the slacker is sin and the governor is virtue. The slacker is not sin. The slacker is also not my essence. It is just a function of the illusion of this world.

Now that slacker is identified, I can use it as a tool to raise my thinking. Now I have got to the crux of the matter. A monk has a desire to know God. Over the ages, monks have retreated to deserts, hermitages and monasteries as environments that provide space to think spiritual thoughts more than worldly thoughts. As a monk in the world, I can now consider how slacker drags back governor and prevents contemplation (loftier thinking) even when I have time available for it.

When I thought about being out of commission due to leg surgery, I thought it would be an opportunity for contemplation as I would be off work. But that didn\’t turn out.

Now, with the new insight on slacker vs. governor, I want to refocus on contemplation. I want to make it happen even if I have to be a monk in the world. It must grow more each day; no excuses since I don\’t live in a monastery. Even when I did live in a monastery, I noticed all us nuns were often wrapped up in non-contemplative thinking.

Mystic Musings

One of the things that has bugged since leaving the monastery is whether I can be a mystic if I have a job and live in the world. See, I went to a monastery because I believed that you had to in order to achieve the necessary environment and teaching which would make a mystic.

The people who write books about enlightenment and mysticism are usually people who are able to achieve a life outside the work-a-day world.

Sort of like, if you were called to be a mystic then you\’d have succeeded at monastic living and have a teacher. If you have a job, you weren\’t called and God won\’t come to you. This worry about God is a false teaching and can\’t be true.

Living in a world of people who have not placed any priority on spirituality does lead one to think that only monks could be successful.

I am not able to talk face to face with anyone about mysticism. This means that instead, I am talking about work or running. So people think that these are whats important to me. But not so. Being a private mystic makes it less \”real\” because there is no ego validation.

Monastic or not, I feel my first priority in life is spiritual growth, connection with that mentality beyond my worldly consciousness (mysticism). And I am so dedicated regardless of whether my job hinders the relationship or not.

My life is my dream. I can change the God rules in my dream. In my dream, God just is with is. No need to a drastic mental or physical circumstance. Only thinking I can\’t hurts me.It is highly likely that all I\’ve learned about God from society and religion isn\’t helpful. I have a second hand God.

The real God would just be……

Truly, the relationship is there whenever I remember it is there; any brief moment of remembrance and boom, there it is.

I have to put some active conscious priority on my desire for God.

Monk In the World

OK, I acknowledge that I have wanted to know God for 35 years of so. Yes, my ego wants to know God to prove it is better than everyone else. Yes, I hope my spirituality can provide an escape from the world of fear. BUT, underneath the negative pressure there is still the honest desire of pure innocence in me which seeks its creator.

Yes I have a career and a household; and I work-out a lot. But my motivation, my foundation, is \”seeking God.\” The divine presence is the foundation. The spiritual content of daily life, working and running, is what\’s of interest.

I am a monk-in-the-world and I can\’t escape this ontology. I am a monk because my attention is always on the spiritual content. This focus makes my life a prayer; and so I am a monk.

Monkishness

You can take the monk out of the monastery but you can\’t take the monasticism out of the monk.

This is a clarity of thought which hit me this morning. Monasticism left an indelible impression on my life. While the monasticism is a friction between me and other people, I realize I like the monastic practices. I don\’t want to be a normal person. In fact, I never have. Before I was officially in monastic formation, I wanted and had deep urges for the practices.

Practices?

Simplicity, silence, spiritual study (lectio divina), contemplation (practice of the divine presence), humility, chastity. Something about 4 years of monastic formation made an existential or ontological change in me. I can\’t escape this.

I think this is why I like working in the harsh conditions of chemical plants, and why the lonliness of the long distance runner appeals to me.

Excessive consumption, opulence, luxury bug me. And so I am in the throes of friction. No, I don\’t want to attend the Christmas party. I am truly against Christmas and I don\’t want to participate; yet, it still touches me and effects me.

I cherish my sobriety. Why anyone would touch as much as one drop of alcohol is beyond me; but I suppose people don\’t know how this changes their spiritual connection. Above all else, I cherish my spiritual connection.

Name Change

Why did I change my name to “Ultra Monk?”

1. I have been a Course in Miracles student for 3 years. Had these three years been under a monastic authority, I’d be making monastic profession; and I’d get a new name.

2. I am one hearted with God. The word “monos” from which monk derives is one. Monks are one hearted, they attend God. Though I don’t live in a monastery, I am a monk. God is the focus of my life and has been for umpteen years.

3. Yesterday, I went to lunch with my boss. He asked me about friendships. I had to mumble through some cover up story. Add that to the way people tell me, “you need to get out more.” I can’t explain to a non-monk what it is like for God to be my entertainment, Friend and Advisor. As a monk, I really don’t spend my time as most people spend their time. I have not much to converse about and little relationship to the typical conversation most people would have about their lives. To a non-contemplative, spending time with God is nonsense. If you haven\’t done it, I can\’t explain.

4. I have a dream of fitness. Yesterday, reflecting on an incident with my trainer, I realized how much more there is for me to do in the arena of stretching and strength training in order to realize peak performance. I can do it. It means an even greater time commitment. Truly being an athlete is a monumental job, monumental beyond belief. As much as I currently do, it is not enough. And I intend to keep growing in the ethos of an athlete. I even ordered the foam tube she recommended for me.

5. A monk has few possessions. I possess little. No people, property, pets, plants, privileges, pride, prerogatives or posterities. I have no fat (really). I do have the holy instant, the real relationship, forgiveness (ACIM style), Christ vision and inner peace. I live in silence.

Today:
-Got up at 5:30 with alarm.
-Read in the ACIM Text 20.VIII.1: “Open the holy place that you closed off by valuing the “Something Else,” and What was never lost will quietly return.”
-ACIM workbook lesson: “I will be still an instant and go Home.
-I worked out for an hour on the machines. “Only A Game” had a story about ultra-marathoners.
-Got to the park at 7:30 and ran very well even if it was hot. I was going about 10.2 min/mile the first 10.8 miles. I would have slowed down after that, but Yvette joined me on the fifth and sixth laps; and she is a tad fast. I ended up doing about 20 miles, 7+ laps, 3h22.
-Yvette is God’s gift of a friend to me. She just came along and decided to run with me. I don’t really have any friends. My conversation with her today is the longest I’ve talked since I went to Canada in May.

In July, I did 86 hours of aerobics plus 18 strength workouts.

Reflections – Fasting 122 Hours

There is a difference between a secular solitary and a monk eremitic. The secular solitary is alone just to be alone. The monk is alone to be alone with God. By secular, I do not mean atheist. By monk, I do mean spiritual; the monos who is one heart with God. The secular solitary may say prayers. The monk is the prayer.

I am a monk. The point of my life is God. I am not traditionally consecrated into a religious tradition. I am a monk in the world; self styled. I learned about being a monk from Benedictines. I learned about it from books. Most of my monastic practices are traditional: lectio divina (spiritual reading) and contemplative prayer. Anthony was an early Christian who famously started the tradition; leaving the city and going out in the desert to live with Christ and fight demons. But most Holy Rules for monks advocate the structure of a monastery. I am the variety who left the monastery and went to the Poustinia to live on my own. The lack of religious validation is a cross I seem to bear; a relic of my Benedictine teaching. I have no trappings, like religious garb, or title, or hairdo. I look very ordinary and do not generally speak publicly of who I really am.

You might say, “But you are an engineer.” I would say, “I don’t have a desert cave or a monastery, so I work for a living.” You might say, “You are a runner.” I would say, “I am running to God. I run in the Spirit.” Alone, I am not constantly busy, not even reading all the time. Often, I just sit and contemplate. I spend hours in lectio. I listen. I am silent. I am being still and waiting.

I live in a Poustinia. Poustinia is the Russian word for desert. It was traditional for Orthodox monks to go to a hermitage. A Poustinia in the West is a place for someone to go and seek God. It is a place of silence and solitude and prayer. Although looking like a house, inside it is the Mount of Carmel, the Mount of Tabor, the cave of Jesus tomb, the cave of Elijah, the Bodhi tree of Siddhartha, a Tibetan mountain peak, an ashram of one in an Indian forest. The Poustinia is the agony of the cross where Jesus cried, “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” The Poustinia is the river of baptism and the mount of transfiguration where God cried out, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” The Poustinia is a prostration at the foot of the cross, and before the Glory of God. The Poustinia is the wild shouting, “Hosanna” and “Maranatha.” It is the place where I have chosen to go.

My Poustinia is also in my heart, my consciousness; my inner temple where God dwells eternally. I go to work and the store and the marathon and other places, but my life is always hidden in the inner temple, known only to Christ. The light of Christ shines out. If it was me that lived in the world, not Christ, there would be no light for others and I would be a dreadfully sickened person. This is not so.

In the Poustinia, there is the darkness of Mother Theresa, the great faith of pilgrims crowding Lourdes. There is Eucharist and Adoration and Reconciliation. There is no football or election campaign or financial crisis. The monk’s material needs are minimized, being filled by God. Music is a type of veil, hiding the soul from God; or a covering which prevents the mind from being totally exposed to the divine light. The news is a distraction, diverting thought from the divine Presence and from prayer. TV is programming; filling the mind with something other than Christ. The monk’s food will often stray into nothing but spiritual texts; eating the words and being satisfied with God. The Poustinia is not often ecstatic. Usually it is just a desert, just a silent place, just faith. With the darkness of God’s silence and the blinding light of faith, the monk waits and watches and listens and prays. This is the life of a monk in the world and what I have embraced as my vocation.

This leads into my response to your question, “Why am I telling you about being a monk?” There are cosmic and eschatological reasons for the eremitical life, the silent life. At a minimum, the conscious contact of one person with God is a gift for all; whether they know it or not. Christ is a cosmic consciousness remembered for all and given to all. It is because I feel the inner light of Christ beaming out to all creation. I wanted to offer Christ consciousness as a gift; and remind us of spiritual realities beyond normal day-to-day life.

One person alone praying seems so worthless. No evangelization is attempted. The works of charity do not take place in the physical world. Purpose is carried out metaphysically and spiritually; perhaps not seen but deeply known. No trace of the hermit’s healing hands are found, but surely they were there. No sound of the hermit’s prayer was heard, but surely a blessing was received.

In my silence and my fasting, I have found the well of praises for Christ my life. These praises gush forth uncontainable. My dam has broken. My reservoir empties. Peace be with you.