Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal

Journal Entry 12

Old Monk just read Play It Again: An Amateur Against the Impossible by Alan Rusbridger, a journal account of how the author committed a year of his life learning to play one of Chopin’s most difficult pieces. What made this commitment unique is that Rusbridger, an amateur musician, didn’t take a sabbatical to learn the piece, but continued as editor of The Guardian, during one of the paper's most tumultuous years—WikiLeaks, the war in Afghanistan, terrorist bombings, the transition from print to digital publication, and finally the British phone hacking scandal.

Journal Entry 11

What is the Dalai Lama’s favorite prayer? When asked that question the Dalai Lama said it is the one recited by the bodhisattvas, the enlightened ones. The bodhisattva is able to reach nirvana but delays it out of compassion for those suffering on earth. The prayer is:

For as long as space endures,
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I, too, abide
To dispel the misery of the world.
--Shantideva

Journal Entry 10

Old Monk attended a community Lenten discussion last weekend on the book, Falling Upward by Richard Rohr. We read five chapters together and each sister was asked to copy her favorite sentence from the chapter and tell why she chose it.

Journal Entry 9

Old Monk would like to visit the cave in Subiaco, Italy where Saint Benedict began his spiritual journey as a hermit. Because of his reputation for holiness, Benedict was soon asked to form a community. And then another. And another….

Journal Entry 8

What’s your best inspiration for understanding God? Nature? Liturgy? People? Scripture? Old Monk puts a lot of stock in literature. It is through poetry and novels and plays and song lyrics that she gets a glimpse of godness.

She agrees with St. John of the Cross:

They can be like a sun, words.
They can do for the heart
what light can
for a field.

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.

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