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 Transitioning Out of the Monastery

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H Enida

Posts : 117
Join date : 2013-11-11

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PostSubject: Transitioning Out of the Monastery   Transitioning Out of the Monastery Empty11/18/2015, 1:13 pm


This popped up on Facebook today and I immediately felt a lot of empathy for this woman.  It is a familiar dilemma and one I considered more than once.  Several questions came to mind:

*  How do I get myself set up in the world again after being required to get rid of everything I owned to go the monastery in the first place?

*  How does this conundrum keep me bound to monastic life, i.e. fear of being unable to survive/support myself once I leave, etc.

*  How is an organization able to tell me to leave after having required so much of me to come?

*  How do I reintegrate into the workforce in the world?  Monastery time on your resume doesn't really count for a lot, except as an oddity.  Not many understand the time and commitment it takes to live as a monk.

*  How do I make up the social security and retirement goals for the time I was at the monastery?  We were told from the start and reminded every so often not to expect the monastery to take care of us in our old age.  The Order/Shasta Rules for taking care of monks for life only apply to the very senior monks.  In other words, you had to have some wealth of your own somewhere in the background for your old age. 

*  How much is the organization benefitting from unpaid labor and minimal expenses without having any responsibility for some form of reciprocity.

The longer I stayed at Shasta, the more these questions weighed on me.  I wasn't a rich person when I ordained and knew that if something serious happened to me, I would be on my own.  I felt like the institution supported you if you were an asset but didn't guarantee anything if you became a burden in any form.  It seemed another subtle form of complicity and control.

I was given $5,000 when I left, which I was grateful for.  I had given much more money than that to the monastery, not to mention the years of labor.  As it turned out, the used car I needed to buy cost more than that.  I was more grateful that I hadn't given all of my investments to the Abbey because I needed them when I left.
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Posts : 933
Join date : 2010-07-27
Location : California

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PostSubject: Re: Transitioning Out of the Monastery   Transitioning Out of the Monastery Empty11/20/2015, 3:53 pm

Enida thanks for the thoughtful post.  I believe these issues exist in many groups.  For instance someone I knew who had spent some years in a Siddha Yoga ashram told me that they also do not promise to take care of people in old age.  Their communities are comprised mostly of laypeople and they were required to leave - somewhere in middle age - so that they could reestablish themselves in the outside world.  She didn't elaborate on how much support former residents received.  As you've noted there are a number of real problems with this arrangement.  During the time people are in these groups they are effectively off the grid and when they try to reenter the workplace their resumes can show years of what may appear to be unemployment to employers without an appreciation for monasticism.  Shasta was a very young community when I was there and when I left in the early 80s these issues were only beginning to be thought about.  It would be interesting to learn how this is handled in long standing monastic orders such as the Catholics.  I wonder if their ordained members are expected to fund their own elder care?  Perhaps they are large enough to be supported exclusively through the donations of their lay communities?  Your question about how equitable these arrangements are is also important.  In a hierarchical system there is the potential that people on the lower rungs will not be allowed to advocate for themselves (read "self") and may be taken advantage of as a result.  It seems to me that a more equitable solution is needed to make monastic communities sustainable in the long term.
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Join date : 2010-11-17

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PostSubject: Re: Transitioning Out of the Monastery   Transitioning Out of the Monastery Empty11/22/2015, 4:04 am

Very well put together Enida
I view it from my perspective which is joining a monastery, does not take one out of the world and leaving  a monastery does not require a passport to join the world .However one has focused in different ways, and issues have changed whilst there. If life is difficult to live after a spell in a monastery then maybe the relevance must be looked at.
For the last year I have been involved in training and practice both different and surprisingly similar to what we  were involved with.
My youngest son who at 18 wanted me to teach him serious boxing,we joined a small clb  and also did alot of training at home he would skip  and practice sparing with me for speed and reflexes, he would do punching a bag for power,many times we were out on the street in the rain practice practice practice,he did well and entered some competitions, We were practising things that were too quick to think about it was reflexes that reacted too fast to rationalize or consider, he ran out of local opponents so he was invited to represent Devon which is our neighbouring county and box at HMS Drake against the Royal Marines. We went up thee to Plymouth,I was very aware of the possibility of emotions and anxiety boiling over and dissipating energy and allowing fear to run wild,so we were both quiet on the journey up, getting through security and into the changing room which was a hanger,my son is so small and looks young so he received funny derogatory looks  and quips. Here we were off the street out of our depth facing the marines who train intensly for thes competitions,I was concerned  I hoped my son was OK inside and not scared/We got the 20 minute call and he changed into his boxing kit not a word was said,when he had his Devon county vest and shorts on he danced round doing his movements that he did every night on or street,I could feel now he was cool,still and  confident I knew he would be OK and win.
So he is marched in to the main hall full of dignitaries and marines The audience were looking in surprise as a young boy was walking in,He won the bout and the funny looks changed to respect as everyone stood up when he walked back, The whole process showed me  we had depth in training together,and one really boxes oneself as much as anyone else one has to deal with powerful thoughts and feelings of fear and not knowing repressing them does not work one has to live with it all, one has to go beyond limitation.
So for me life has thrown so much at me that training and practice is always here there seems a right way to live through life's difficulties and there is nothing more relevant than life and being a part of the world. I think Monasteries if they teach that the divine is somewhere else they have no relevance at all.
My sons story continued to being champion of all six western counties,and we went up to London for the National final where he was three away from winning I was sitting next to and became friends with olympic trainers with huge gyms who without question would have the greatest respect for our pavement gym
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