My time of monasticism ended when I relocated to the Pacific Northwest. The transition back into “normal” life has been… a character building experience? *laugh* I wouldn’t change it though.
One of the greatest challenges since monasticism has been prioritizing my time. My monastic practice had a solid routine, a day-in/day-out flow that encouraged contemplation and growth. When I was told my monastic period was over I went too far in the opposite direction and lost some ground. Without that scheduled routine I found it very easy to lose track of time, energy, and focus. I’m finding a new happy medium, but it’s a slow process.
It’s also requiring a different level of self-awareness. I have to consciously make time for the Kindreds, as opposed to having time already allocated to Them. There are pros and cons to this, of course, but right now I miss the closeness. It’s the difference between living with someone and calling them once a week. I have more “me” time, but I’m not certain yet that “me” time is something I actually want or know how to effectively use anymore.
Monasticism necessitated distance from other people. All of the chores took time, the regular altar work took time, and with maintaining a full-time job on top of that I didn’t really spend much time with friends simply hanging out. When I did, the rules I followed as part of my practice would pop up and have to be managed – I was a monastic before anything else, and that changed my behavior. Now, without that distance, I’m finding it more difficult in some cases to enforce boundaries. I did not expect that. However, now I know what my boundaries ARE, so learning to enforce them without a handy “I’m a monastic and can’t do that” is at least easier than it was before monasticism.
With my time more freed up I’ve been edging back into the social whirl. I now know better than to take on too much, but finding a balance has been tricky – I have the impulse to hermit a lot more than I did. I’m working on it, though. I’m slowly expanding my social contacts and events. I also want to expand my connection to the greater Pagan/polytheistic community here in the Puget Sound area, and that’s something I’m slowly moving into too.
Some things have carried over well. My awareness of the cycles of things – where my clothes come from, or my food – is still in place. I’m not cooking like I did before, and I’m doing my laundry in a machine and not by hand. Part of me sincerely misses those activities. Especially the laundry! *laugh* Much to my surprise, doing my laundry by hand became a soothing reflective time for me. It didn’t really feel like a chore so much as a time I could keep my hands busy and my mind blank. With cooking there’s a lot of forebrain activity – what goes in when, is it too hot, etc. Laundry? Not so much.
I’m much more conscious of clutter in all forms, too. My house stays organized, but that’s the easiest and most surface of the changes. The biggie is that it’s now easier for me to pull out of mental fixation loops, and controlling my moods is easier than it was. My tolerance for drama is just gone, and now I’m ok with stating that up front. I’ve learned that my health and happiness are more important to me than anyone else’s approval, and I’ve learned that lesson down to the bone. That helps more than I knew.
I think the biggest take-away I have from the whole experience is now having an anchor. For most of my life I’ve felt fairly adrift. My tie to my Lady grounded me some, but it wasn’t complete. Focusing on Her alone put too much emphasis on the work I did in my head and not enough emphasis on me living my life. Embracing the Ancestors and the Land, emphasizing those relationships, provided the balance I never knew I needed. I feel more grounded than I ever have before, and from that ground I’m able to go further into each of the Realms. I am held by the Kindreds, and working together They tether me to the experience of my life and my place in the world. For that alone my year of monasticism was as transformative for me as my year of celibacy, though in a completely different way. I’m just hoping I can maintain that ground as I transition away from monasticism to whatever is coming next.