The Monastery Will Come to Each of Us

Excerpt from Bringing the Monastery Home by Shinzen Young

"I’ve been teaching meditation for [several] decades, always exploring new ways to improve what I teach. Over the course of those years, I have made a number of interesting discoveries, some of which do not appear in standard books on the subject. One question I struggled with early on was how to make the practice doable by anyone, without watering down its intensity.

Landscape painter Christopher Burk finds inspiration in the urban neighborhoods he calls home. 

Landscape painter Christopher Burk finds inspiration in the urban neighborhoods he calls home. 

When people read accounts of traditional monastic training, the usual reaction is, 'If that’s what it takes to get enlightenment, I think I’ll wait for a few lifetimes.' And indeed it’s true. Most people have neither the time nor the inclination to do intensive formal meditation practice. Why should they? Isn’t there enough physical and emotional discomfort in ordinary life? Why intentionally seek it out?

But the monastery will come to each of us when we have to confront our fears, losses, compulsions and anxieties, or process the aftermath of trauma. The monastery comes to us in the form of emotional crisis, illness or injury, a phobia or a failed relationship. The question is whether we will be in a position to recognize and use it as such.

If there were a way to help people maintain continuous quality meditation through intense real world challenges, anyone could experience insight and purification comparable to that of traditional renunciates’ regimes.

Basically it boils down to this:

intensity of challenge multiplied by

sharpness of mindfulness multiplied by

depth of equanimity equals

the rate of psychospiritual growth.

When things are most challenging, we have the opportunity to leap forward in our spiritual development, provided we make use of the challenge."