Todays prompt is to use one of the quotes from Pema Chodron and use it as the basis for a piece of writing. I have chosen the following quote:
“Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.”
The Abbot called me into his office. I had been living in the monastery for the past six weeks part of the try it and see if this was the life for me.
I had embraced the early mornings, the mass held in the chapel said by the Abbot most days but on Tuesdays Fr Davis would say a mass like I had never witnessed. He had the ability to make what I had heard said so many times to the point I knew it off by heart, sound so interesting and with a new dimension of meaning.
The work in the community had been fulfilling, the brothers had taken me on their outreach program where they frequented the dark allies and parts of town where the down and out found refuge under the bridge, inside fridge boxes they were lucky enough to scavenge.
Three evening a week we were helpers on the mobile soup kitchen where so many people turned up for the evening meal, a bit of a chat and some peace in their disordered and uncertain lives. I was astounded by the number of men and women, teenage boys and girls who came with always a sense of gratitude towards the brothers as they doled out the soup and piled on the meat and vegies onto plates that had seen far too many people such as themselves.
It was part of the program that I would evaluate my position before committing to the life of a novice in the order. As I was just a guest I didn’t get to wear the brown habit the professed brothers wore, and I have to admit I found their habit an attractive feature of their life though as they said to me a bit hot during the summer.
I had been asked by the Abbot the day before to think about my situation and tell him the next morning if I thought I was ready to commit to a life of poverty, chastity and obedience.
The Abbot was a softly spoken man in his fifties I assumed. He never said much the times I had seen him but he carried himself with a beautiful air of serenity. His behaviour demonstrated his commitment to a life I marvelled at. Everything about him suggested he was at peace with this life.
He sat me in a chair in front of his desk. He asked if I had enjoyed my stay in the monastery. I was honest in what I said to his question. Yes I had enjoyed my stay. My eyes had been opened; I had tried to join in the monastic life as best I could during these weeks.
After listening to me and allowing me to have my say he addressed me in the kindest, warmest way possible.
‘I don’t,’ think he said, ‘that you are ready for this life. I think you need to go out into the world and explore it more for yourself. I think you need to understand yourself far better than you do now. I am not sure you even know what you want in life.
To commit to this life within the walls of this monastery requires a commitment I don’t think you are ready to make.
I can see you have far too many questions you have not dealt with as yet.
We have also noticed that on the soup kitchen night you stand back, you don’t engage with any of the people who come through. This is ok but it says to us that you are not sure of yourself to engage in work of that kind.
You will never be able to reach out fully to those in need until you have a good and sound understanding of yourself.
Don’t be disappointed by my words, I think you have much to offer in religious life. But go back out into the world, look around, travel, study meet people and find out the person you are.’
That talk was over forty years ago and I did as the Abbot suggested and to this day I am still trying to discover the best way to be kind to myself. But I am trying.