Tag Archives: beauty

Day...?

I’m not sure where I am in this days of happiness journey. For the record, I keep another blog where I do post a bit more regularly about this.

Last weekend, a friend of mine drove with me up to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. It was a beautiful day, and I was once again blown away by the beauty of this state. Mountains, flowers, water, sunshine… There is really only one place I’ve been that’s better, and that’s only because Alaska and Washington are actually very similar in their beauty.

But I think what made this day really special to me was the fact that I’ve been to the Tulip Festival 3 of the last 4 years. Each time, I’ve come with different friends, and every time, it’s a unique experience. The flowers and the food are always the same, but I share different stories, different observations, and even different pictures, with each year. It’s one of the few traditions I’ve begun in my adult life, and I think it’s one I’ll keep.

Because, tradition isn’t just about doing the same thing repeatedly. I think it’s about having landmarks in your life where one element is the same, if only so you can more astutely realize just how much has changed.

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The Monastery has been Invaded

It’s called the invasion of the slow-walkers.

I sincerely wish I’d come up with that name, but I can’t take any credit. These beautiful old women coined that term a long time ago when the first Mindfulness retreat came to the Spirit Center.

Thanks to this particular retreat, the monastery grounds are teeming with near-statues of people. My first experience with them was in the dining hall, where all of our meals are now being held in silence so the retreatants can be uber-aware of how and what they are feeling and thinking while they dine.

Now, there’s something very interesting about these people, not because they are moving so slowly, and not because they’ve chosen to go on a retreat, but because they are mixing into a pre-existing community and altering the environment. I am not a part of the retreat this time around, but when I’m around them, I immediately enter a more mindful state. (How can you avoid it? No one is looking at you or talking to you or anything…) For instance, at dinner (lunch), I noticed that even though I have been eating more slowly lately, I still often take another bite of food just before I’ve finished chewing the last. Before you go, ‘eeew,’ try paying attention to how you eat. While walking back from my work at the museum this afternoon, I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw one of the women crouched in the grass just behind a bush. But, I tell you what, it made me remember to walk slower and look around.

So, as odd as it is having half-zombies slowly wandering around each corner ready to startle you, it’s kind of great, too. Because they serve as a living (though at remarkably slow pace) reminder to be present to your surroundings. And really, with such beautiful surroundings we have here on the Camas Prairie, it would be shameful to do anything less.

A Non-Religious, Semi-Agnostic Walks Into a Monastery…

…and decides to stay for 9 months.

If that sounds a little odd to you, you’re not alone. My decision to enter the Monastic Immersion Program at St. Gertrude’s in Cottonwood, Idaho seemed a little out of the blue for a lot of my family and friends. To be honest, it even surprised me. But here I am, about to begin a yearlong program with two other women, working, praying, living, and studying as the sisters who live here do.

The assumption a lot of people make is that I must be thinking of converting to Catholicism or considering becoming a sister, but neither of those things is true. Although I am not affiliated with any church, I am, for the most part, comfortable with what I believe. Entering this experience, I have resolved to be open to the possibility of an epiphany or a sudden altered paradigm, but I also do not expect or even hope for it. So, what am I hoping for?

I’m hoping that being here will teach me about living out the values that underlie the Catholic religious practices. I hope to experience another way of life—one dedicated to faith, community, compassion, and simplicity. I am hoping to find a way to carry the peace that I feel here with me into the rest of my life and the rest of the world.

I have always been an introvert—a fact that I’m sure makes this yearlong stay much more possible. I am fascinated and compelled by simplicity, a life unburdened by unnecessary things and unhelpful negative emotions and thoughts. I love Seattle, and it will always be a home to me, but any city over stimulates me. I have lived at my current pace, chasing after cheetahs, for a long time, and I am ready to slow down and have the time to think everything through. It’s time to breathe and imagine a life where I feel at peace, maybe even in the midst of chaos.

Of course, it’s incredibly hard giving up all that I loved about my life: late night Thai and pizza delivery, the clothes I love but will never wear in a monastery, the friends who drink wine, watch scary movies, and laugh with me, the smell of Starbucks on a wet fall day. But on the other hand, it is so freeing to be in a place where I realize I don’t need any of those things to feel complete and happy (except the friends, but letters are a relatively good substitute). No pressure, no money, no TV, no crazy boy drama.

So this blog is to keep everyone who is interested in my journey here updated, intrigued, and maybe even inspired, if I’m lucky, to lead a more thoughtful, fulfilled life. And my hope is to prove that you don’t have to be in a monastery—or religious—to do it.