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. I have been here a few times before, and have grown to be friends with the residents who live and work here. They are largely pretty ordinary people in their 20s and 30s who have committed themselves to a monastic life for a period of time, for the betterment of themselves and the world. Some leave after a year; some have been here for 5 years and counting.
In the final few months of 2018, it became clear to me that I was reaching the end of my abilities to stay emotionally grounded amidst the chaos that I had invited into my life. I knew, even early on, that 2018 was turning out to be a sacrifice of my emotional health, and I dove headfirst anyway, because the benefits seemed to outweigh the temporary cost of losing myself a little. And I have no regrets. I’d do it all again, or some version of it, in a heartbeat.
But not right now. Now is the time to reset, to remember my priorities, and to begin carving out a new road ahead.
I’ve been a meditator for about 4 years – often undisciplined, but always eager. I started off with the typical western Jon Kabat-Zinn type of secular mindfulness, but over time grew deeply interested in Buddhism, and realized that I was far more interested in meditation within the context of a social and ethical framework than as a standalone tool for emotional wellness – though the latter has tremendous benefits too.
I’m an atheist. I was raised by atheists. I feel no particular draw to religion, beyond the normal human need for things to Make Sense, and the often-wonderful community aspect that religion can provide to many. But I’ve never felt compelled to be a part of it.
And this is true with Buddhism as well, though the fascination with which I hold Buddhist texts and the zeal with which I talk about it whenever anyone so much as breathes a question occasionally gives a different impression.
I’ll have more to say about this over the coming weeks and months, but for now, the point is: I’m here. I’m not sure how long I will stay at the Monastic Academy – a month, maybe two, maybe three. I’m not sure what the experience will be like. I’m not sure of much, except that I am going to be waking up at 4:30am every day, eating two meals a day, and sitting in meditation approximately 4 hours a day.
The rest of my schedule is free. I can choose to do my own work, or monastery work, or anything at all. There is good wifi and many comfortable spots to sit and work. There is hearty food and kind people. There’s a lot of laughter, and a lot of love.
I hope to document this experience here. I hope you will enjoy following along as I go on this ride.
I hope I emerge on the other side.