By Diane Davis
On a couple of Zoom platforms from St. David’s lately, I have found myself uttering the phrase “the pandemic is my monastery.” It came to me after reading about a prisoner who said “the prison is my monastery,” and that got me thinking. Here’s what I mean by the phrase, and why it helps me get through the day.
1. The monastery is a spiritual haven. I did not live in a spiritual haven, pre-pandemic. My life was full of habits and preoccupations that were self-centered around my physical and mental health and who was doing what in my family. I will be 80 years old next month, so like many of my age, I spent a lot of time going to and fro to doctor visits, keeping up with a couple of chronic conditions. O I read a lot, met with friends and family, went to St. David’s 11 o’clock service most Sundays, and all that. Spiritual practice? Not so much. Now, I start the day on my back porch with a cup of coffee and a reading from a Christian contemplative practitioner, and meditate in silence. There are so many reasons, now, to put myself in the nest that God built.
2. The monastery is a spare, no-frills environment. Pre-pandemic, I can remember thinking “what am I going to wear?” to the play, the bridge game, the whatever. I would go to a closet with too many clothes and stare for inspiration. Now, every morning, I choose from one drawer of t-shirts, one drawer of shorts. It’s so easy, I have been inspired to take many bags of excess clothing to Goodwill. I feel unburdened.
3. The monastery has schedules and bells. I have an app and a cat. The app on my phone has a timer and a quiet gong to help me stay put for my meditations. Now that I spend all day, every day with my cat and have taken much more notice of her, she is teaching me exactly when it’s time to eat three times a day, and when it’s time to get up in the morning. With those basics, I find I’m naturally settling in for other events, like Zoom groups and reading, on a regular basis.
4. In the monastery, we listen to God, not the world. Everyday I wake up to me and God. (Why didn’t I notice that pre-pandemic?) Now I ask myself, what does God have to say about this or that. What will God find me to do today that might be helpful to someone else. It’s a very privileged position to be in the monastery. It takes money, time, and resources that many folks don’t have. What can I do to pay forward this enormous privilege? There are a million things, from working toward racial reconciliation through St. David’s Beloved Community, to handing out frozen water bottles to the homeless during hot weather. It’s there for all of us, if we are listening.