This week I began a voluntary vow of poverty. This vow will continue over the next 11 weeks until I enter the monastery at the beginning of September. This is one of the scariest and most liberating journeys I’ve ever embarked on.
I spent a few months planning for this. When the idea first began to unearth inside of me I thought it was insane, but as time went on the nudge progressed from a mere inkling to a must. Something inside of me felt called to it, so I began to plan accordingly.
Over the past few months I’ve spent dozens of hours in study; devouring the spiritual and philosophical texts of those I have been greatly touched by. I also consulted with several of my closest mentors and friends. Much to my surprise, I received nothing but a groundswell of encouragement.
In the Christian tradition, there have generally been two types of vows: simple vows (in which one undertakes a public or private vow independent of official church sanction) and solemn vows (in which one makes a lifelong vow recognized by the church). Solemn vows are what most people think of when they imagine monastic vows; most professed monks make a solemn vow upon committing to a religious order.
I am undertaking a simple vow, in which I profess--or vow--to offer myself in service over the summer.
It’s important to note that historically--across faith traditions--vows of poverty have almost always been taken in the context of community. Vows are difficult to action, and the support of a loving, nurturing community is paramount. For this reason, I am not committing to a period of rigid asceticism, and I will be reaching out to more people than I ever have for support.
Because make no mistake: while I plan to serve as much as I can, in serving you, you will be supporting me in ways I cannot possibly comprehend.
What does all this mean, exactly? While the vow is a bit experimental, I am certain in my commitment to the following:
Outside of my few remaining client commitments, I will not accept monetary payment for my services this summer.
I commit to writing four hours per day, six days per week.
I commit to sharing my writing with the world at least weekly, and to promote my work such that it reaches those who need it.
I commit to one hour of meditation/prayer every day.
I commit to sexual chastity.
I commit to purchase only what I need.
I commit to share freely of the resources and talents I possess.
I commit to exercise regularly.
I commit to tend to and cultivate my existing relationships.
I commit to offer myself in service to whoever needs my assistance.
I commit to flee from isolation and to connect with new people on a daily basis.
I commit to honoring and taking daily action to enhance the imprint of the following virtues upon my life: discipline, fortitude, temperance, courage, hope and love.
I commit to abstain from alcohol, junk food, television, and unneeded internet time.
I commit to surrender myself to God’s direction, no matter how vexing or uncertain the circumstances I find myself in.
Above all, I commit to say no: to my insatiability, my constant desire for more, my lusts, my sloth, and my Self: the narcissistic, self-absorbed Self that exists inside of all of us.
I’ve been most influenced by Benedictine spirituality in my monastic exploration, so I’ll be using The Rule of St. Benedict as a grounding work in my vow. Though I’m also drawing upon the wisdom of certain figures and movements such as Boethius, Macrina the Younger, Gregory the Great, the Trappists and Franciscans, as well as the knowledge of some of my favorites from other traditions; chief among them the Stoics (particularly Epictetus and Seneca), Plato, and Buddhism.
The emphasis is on practical application and service, not strict theological or philosophical adherence.
On the face of it the vow is absurd in some ways; my life will still be infinitely more comfortable than billions of others over the next few months.
Yet I will be an active participant in my preparation for monastic life. After all, life in a monastery isn't easy. While I've spent a lot of time in monasteries, I've never visited one for more than 10 days. I'll be entering the monastery for nine months, so I need to ready myself as much as I am able.
In so doing, I’ll be able to do something remarkable: I’ll be able to gift myself; to make myself more visible such that I may reach the invisible. I’ll be allowing myself to live fully, and in the process, allowing myself to love, and be loved.
Embarking on a temporary vow will by no means do away with the weaknesses that reside inside of me, but I will be forced to confront my darker natures more clearly, and live my life with an intentionality I’ve never fully embraced.
I’m living for something greater than myself, and what could be more beautiful than that?
Practically speaking, I am making a very specific offer: over the course of the summer I will be offering several free Skype calls every week. There are no specific requirements to get on the phone with me, nor are there any caveats: the calls are completely free, no strings attached. My aim is to reach people who do not have the financial means to pay for mentoring or consulting, and to reach those facing difficult circumstances.
You can schedule a free call with me here.
I'm happy to chat about anything, though I'll be most helpful if we discuss an issue you're having related to one of the following topics: adversity, grief, discipline, resilience, or writing. And if you're having a difficult time in any area of your life and merely need someone to listen to you, I'm here.
I want my readers to feel less alone. If getting on the phone could help to alleviate some of the pernicious loneliness that afflicts every one of us, please reach out to me.
If the calendar fills up or none of the available times work for you, don't worry. I'll be offering several dozen more opportunities to chat throughout the summer.
Given that I'll be living nomadically until September, I won't be able to schedule calls more than 2-3 weeks in advance. As a result, I'll be updating the calendar every week with a fresh set of available times. I will also likely increase the amount of weekly calls I do in mid-July once I'm back in the US and moving around a bit less.
With all of the above said, I need your help. I can’t do this alone.
How can you help? In a few ways:
First, I ask that you to share the link for the calls with anyone who might benefit from them. The more people I’m able to reach, the better.
Second, even if you don’t want to do a call with me, I encourage you to reach out at any time. If you need anything at all--truly--please let me know and I will get back to you.
Finally, please stand with me in this. Your support--even from afar--is more powerful than you know.
Click here to schedule a call with me. And remember, if none of the available times work please check the link again next week. More times will appear on a rolling basis as I travel over the next few months.
Thank you my friends. Thank you for being a part of my extraordinary journey. Thank you for helping me to bear witness to the pains of the world. None of this would be possible without you.