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The teacher returns

This is Soryu.

Soryu is the head teacher at the Monastic Academy. He is an American-born economist who has spent several decades of his life doing intensive contemplative practice across Asia, and founded the Monastic Academy in 2013 as a training ground to bring together traditional contemplative wisdom with effective worldly action.

Soryu is the reason I keep coming back here.

I’m not really one for idols or mentors. I want them, but it’s rare that I find someone whom I actively look up to, or whose advice I actively and repeatedly desire. Somehow Soryu has become that person.

I don’t agree with everything he says, nor do I wish to follow in his footsteps and renounce the pleasures of everyday life and become a monk. But there is an intensity and care and intentionality to everything he does, on a level I have never seen before. He was the only person able to provide satisfying answers to my skepticisms about meditation. He is able to cut through to the core of conversations, able to give direct and harsh feedback while beaming with kindness, able to push people hard, relentlessly, unyieldingly, while holding them up with love and compassion. I have never met someone so dedicated to human growth.


Soryu has been on a solo cabin retreat for the past few weeks. This means that he is doing his own intensive practice, away from the rest of the residents and guests. I saw him once, as he cross-country-ski’d across the grounds back to his cabin during an exercise period, but aside from that I have had no exposure to him during this stay so far.

Yesterday morning I got to participate in the ceremony to bring him out of retreat.

I wrote the following shortly after the ceremony, and as such it is mostly written in present tense.


The welcoming

At 8:30am, when we have finished with the morning schedule, we meet in front of the main building and prepare to walk to the cabin. It is bitingly cold, but …

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You’re doing fine

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it is exactly that I’m doing here. I’ve been at the monastery for nearly two weeks now, and there’s this constant low-grade question of “am I doing enough?”

Am I going hard enough into my meditations? (no.) Am I actually pushing myself fully during exercise periods? (hell no.) Why am I …

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Daily life at the Monastic Academy (with pictures)

The most common question I got when I told people I was temporarily moving to a monastery was probably “wtf do you do there?”

Do you spend the whole day meditating? Nah. Do you have to stay silent? Nope. Is everyone super serious? Well, people take what they do seriously (which is a good thing!), and there are many rules to follow, but it’s actually a pretty goofy and friendly place. It’s almost certainly not what you’re imagining it to be.

Before I get into the daily schedule, let’s paint a picture of the property itself.

A short tour

This is what the grounds look like in autumn:

Can I say “paint a picture” and then post a photo? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ [Photo by Blake Jones]

Of course, right now it looks a bit more like this:

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It starts

Or, maybe it ends. I’m not sure.

This past year has been absolutely unreal. Between getting thrown headfirst into a fascinating cryptocurrency startup and all the emotional turmoil that entails, to constant travel between 3 countries (with the occasional extra one thrown in), to trying to heal from heartbreak, to starting a consultancy business with a friend, to moving house,  to university courses I decided to take just for the fun of it (not my smartest move), to getting a beautiful new niece, to attempting to maintain some sort of semblance of relationships with my friends back home, 2018 was a story to tell.

But this post isn’t about 2018. It’s only relevant in that it sets the context for this next chapter.

Today I arrived at the Monastic Academy, a Buddhist monastery nestled in the mountains of Lowell, Vermont…