How to feel like a monk (kind of)
What do you think of when you read the following sentence?
“I’m laying in my bed, in my house and all I want to do is go home.”
First of all, that's weird. You're in your house, so how could you want to go home? You are home, aren't you?
But then? I kind of get it. I think I've felt that before.
When I lived abroad and missed Nicaragua.
When I woke up early a few days ago and itched to go sit on my parents' couch and chat.
When I want to grab my camera and go explore while the baby naps.
When I'm in an argument with someone and just want the relationship to return to normal.
"Home" isn't just a cherished place. It can be somewhere you've never been before or even an experience. "Home" is really a feeling.
I long to feel "at home" and zen, but there are times when I feel far from it.
I get wound up by the daily grind of juggling what feels like the entire world, and I lose the relaxed, content feeling I so love.
It happens to all of us.
After conversations with my friends and interviewing creatives for my podcast, I realized I haven't met a single person that doesn't desire more peace in their lives.
Not one person ever has told me,
"Yep, I feel great. Don't even worry about it. I'm as peaceful as I ever want to be."
Instead, it's more like,
"Duuuuude. Yes, I need to relax. My stress can feel killer."
Be honest. How many times this week have you gotten all twisted up into a pretzel of stress, anxiety, imposter syndrome or whatever else is plaguing you? More often than you'd like to admit, I bet.
What is the solution? Is there one at all?
Taking home for a ride
Earlier today, I read something on one of my favorite websites, Maptia, that opened my eyes to a possible solution.
The story, Big Crazy Family Adventure, tells the story of the Kirkby family and how they traveled 13,000 miles to a live in Buddhist monastery for a few months. This inspiring couple and their two kids journeyed to Zanskar, India without ever leaving the Earth's surface! Think kayaks, trains, and container ships over planes. No big deal, right? :-)
This is how they describe their experience at the monastery:
"While our boys played with LEGO, we sat cross-legged — and did nothing. 'Try closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing,' my wife whispered.
As the days turned to weeks, and then months, and I sat unusually still, something began to happen. My brain slowed down, and soon I realized I was as happy and peaceful as I can ever remember.
We left the monastery as the first winter storms threatened to close the high passes. And with every step towards home, I felt that peace slipping away."
My first reaction? Jeaaaloussss. I kind of want to go live in a monastery, too! All that time to meditate and decompress from all the ego the world grows in us. All that space to just be. It sounds delicious.
But seriously? That's not going to happen. I'm not going to up and move to a monastery! Even for this super adventurous Kirkby family, the experience was a temporary one. A trip, not a move.
I'll take my chances and assume you're not moving to a monastery in northern India, either. But I'll also take my chances and assume you want more of that "happy and peaceful" feeling Bruce Kirkby describes in his story.
Maybe there's a way to create that kind of feeling while living in the Western, dog-eat-dog, rat-race bubble we find ourselves in? Maybe there's a way to get the good vibes without the extreme lifestyle?
Here's my attempt at doing that:
Creating the feeling of home
It's a strange concoction of a feeling I chase on a day-to-day basis. If I were to create the recipe, it'd look something like this:
- 1 cup ease and relaxation
- 2 ounces tantalizing excitement
- 3 tablespoons striving
- ½ ounce comfort
- 3 cups creativity
- 5 gallons peace of mind
- 4 tablespoons fun
I'm sure the recipe is different for every person. But we're talking monk-mental-status here so: heavy on the peace, easy on the ambition.
How do you get it?
What works for me is simple: create.
If you want to feel like a monk without actually retreating to the mountains and living like one, create something. For the sake of it. Because it feels good. Because you want to serve.
Over and over again, everyone I interview on my podcast tells me the same story in different words: selling products to customers is a struggle because they wish to serve them, instead.
Selling or making money are not bad things, of course—by all means, make it rain, people!—but there is a certain magic that happens when you create to serve others (including yourself).
Ali Nelson even called herself a "reluctant entrepreneur" on our first episode.
My personal formula
I've written before about my commitments to create, so I won't bore you with the details. But I will say this:
In everything I do, I ignore the metrics. I shy away from the words "growth" or "traffic." I focus on the lives I'm impacting, the fingers that write me emails giving me feedback and connecting with my art.
Which is why I love this quote:
"The life force for humankind is, perhaps, nothing more or less than the passionate energy to connect, express, and communicate ... Lighting sparks from person to person, scattering light in all directions. Sometimes the sparks ignite a blaze; sometimes they pass quietly, magically, almost imperceptibly, from one to another to another."
— Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander in The Art of Possibility
My articles, my photos, my podcast ... All of it may reach a small audience or it may reach a huge one. But all that matters is that it ignites a blaze in someone, anyone that needs it.
It's what makes me feel at home, no matter where I am. It's what makes me feel like I'm holed up in a monastery like the Kirkby family. It's what makes me feel peace of mind and joy all at once.
My path is through creating something that lights up the lives of others, as well as my own.
What about you? What is your path?
PS. This past week, I released my podcast with 4 episodes! Each episode is an in-depth look about creativity, mindfulness, and more. Have you listened in yet? →