Not everyone is a monk. The demands and sacrifices of an austere life make the vocation of a monk unappealing to most people. However, the monastic life teaches valuable lessons that the average person can learn from, especially in overcoming the obstacles of daily life. Here is a non-exhaustive list.
Getting up early
The rigors of the monastic workday require an early start to the day. Of course, the day is inaugurated by the first prayer before a meal.
Getting up early means structuring your day so that you can go to bed early the night before. The benefits of getting up at dawn are multiple. There is a certain sense of control over one’s time as well as the opportunity to revel in the good morning energy made possible by the quiet of the early hours of the day.
Detachment from the material
One of the vows to be a monk is that of poverty. Detachment from possessions makes it easier to focus on the spiritual dimension of life. There is a kind of compensation mechanism that can operate between these two dimensions of existence.
The life of a monk is punctuated by his prayers and his meals. Between these two activities, he performs all kinds of work. Depending on the brotherhood or congregation to which he belongs, he may be assigned to tasks directly related to society (e.g. the congregation of Saint John of God, which helps children in hospitals in particular) or he may work in a monastery that is more removed from the world.
Life in confraternities
Life in confraternities helps to meet the demands of monastic life. The peer pressure and the synergy it creates make concentrated and assiduous work possible. Any ambitious project implies the need to surround oneself with benevolent people who share a common goal.
Simplicity as a way of life
Poverty is one of the vows a monk makes when he decides to join a monastery. This poverty removes the sense of ownership, but it also frees him from the fear of losing what gives him freedom. He has all the objects he needs to live and work, he does not store them nor does he desire them.
Commitment to a chaste way gives a boost of energy that can be used for noble and difficult causes.
Being a monk or nun means constant study of the Bible and commentary on its passages. The principles are meditated upon and applied in daily life. Having a manifesto and reading it often can help us stay in tune with the values we wish to embody in our lives.
A well-organized day
Everything in a monastery is planned in advance, from prayer times to meal times. Nothing is left to chance. This makes for a very efficient monastic institution.
The monk serves his brotherhood but he does so above all to serve God. To be a monk is to dedicate one’s thoughts, words and actions to the divine. Finally, life becomes an offering and the monk lives to honor God as best he can.
His life revolves around work and prayer. With all possible distractions removed, the monk can give himself body and soul to these two actions.
Living in poverty humbles us, which minimizes our ego. Living with a light ego allows us to live unfiltered and closer to the world.
Joy rather than pleasure
The pleasures of a monk’s life are very modest. They can be found in food or in the contemplation of nature. Nevertheless, this minimization of pleasure leads to the possibility of experiencing the joy that is the fruit of communion with God.
Solitude and silence
Solitude is an integral part of a monk’s life. Apart from work and meals, his time is devoted to prayer and meditation. Solitude allows him to deepen the knowledge of his being and to study the Bible assiduously. On the other hand, solitude allows silence, which allows him to enter more easily in communion with nature or with God.
No retreat, his life is a retreat
The monk works all his life or almost all his life, if his physical and mental capacities allow it. He does not need to retire because he lives withdrawn from the world.
Changing the world by changing oneself
Monks or nuns by their prayers, their dedicated commitment and their service contribute to bring peace in this world. By their presence, they raise the level of human consciousness, the vibrations they send out undoubtedly have a positive impact on the world.