Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal

Journal Entry 7

Old Monk is not a big fan of Lent. She’s more of a Christmas person, blasting carols the day after Thanksgiving until the Feast of Epiphany. Old Monk likes angels and peace and just the glory and awe of “God with us.” Lenten childhoods of candy and movie deprivation and spending long hours at extra church devotions, including those numbing Stations of the Cross, and no eating between meals and no flowers or joyous singing left its mark. To say nothing of Holy Week where Old Monk participated in the spiritual contest of kneeling for three straight hours on Good Friday.

Journal Entry 6

The Emmaus Soup Kitchen in Erie is celebrating its fortieth anniversary. Old Monk helped found the kitchen and so was asked to write a short reflection for its anniversary newsletter. Old Monk wrote:

Journal Entry 5

Old Monk is taken with the poems of Ikkyu. Here are two that I copied today and commented on. The first is about the Buddhist concept of satori, enlightenment or spiritual awakening. The second is about call in life.

wife daughter friends
this is for you
satori is mistake after mistake
--Ikkyu

Journal Entry 4

Today Old Monk read a chapter on ”What Is Practice” in The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg. Goldberg is an excellent writing teacher and in this book she shares her retreat method that combines Zen sitting, slow walking and writing. She defines practice as: “… something you choose to do on a regular basis. You show up whether you want to or not… ultimately arriving at the front—and back door—of yourself. You set up to do something consistently over a long period of time—and simply watch what happens with no idea of good or bad, gain or loss.

Journal Entry 3

Old Monk read about a book called The Top 5 Regrets of Dying. It was written by an Australian hospice nurse who recorded the regrets of her dying patients.

The 5 top regrets are:
1. I wish I had the courage to live life true to myself and not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my emotions.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Journal Entry 2

Old Monk has read many commentaries on “Listen,” the first word in The Rule of Benedict. Last summer she heard one of the best ever when she attended an “Evening at Chautauqua with Paul Simon and Billy Collins.” To hear a musical genius and one of our most popular poets discuss their individual crafts and then perform was a memorable evening. When Paul Simon was talking about his relationship with Art Garfunkel he said that they had practiced so many hours each day for so many years—since they were children—that listening was taken to a new level.

Journal Entry 1

Old Monk liked this story: Chuang-tzu was a Taoist philosopher, but he was also an artist of great skill. One day, the Emperor asked him to draw a crab. “Very well,” said Chuang-tzu. He would be happy to do it. But first he needed a country house and twelve servants, as well as five uninterrupted years. Five years later, the Emperor returned for his drawing. But Chuang-tzu had not even started work. “I need another five years,” he told the Emperor. And once again the Emperor agreed. At the end of that time, Chuang-tzu picked up his brush, and in a single stroke, he drew a perfect crab.

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