Living with the Monks
LIVING WITH THE MONKS
The search for spirituality, happiness, and not feeling overwhelmed are viral topics. And yet, it seems, at least the way my life unfolds on a daily basis, that we don’t have time for anything that isn’t announced with a ping.
We are living in complete information overload. Meanwhile, we’re losing, or have lost, our most significant asset—the ability to think for ourselves. At every turn, we’re told what to do, where to go, and what to like.
I’ve always been a guy who relies heavily on his gut. Or at least I used to be. When your combined score on the SATs is 900, you either have a good gut or you don’t go very far in life. And my instincts have served me well, but as my wife always tells me, the only way to be in tune with your gut is to be alone—thinking.
I’ve found that if you lose your “gut feel” you lose one of your greatest secret weapons. In fact, in virtually all areas of life—instinct is critical. When it’s firing on all cylinders, the force is always with you. And for me, it’s always guided my decisions on friends, work, and life adventures.
I know I’m on the right path. The path to the monastery!
From my diary
I’m on the plane to spend 2 weeks with the monks of New Skeet in Upstate New York and some clown is sitting next to me. He wants to chat. I don’t want to chat. So rather than talk, I’m going to write the first entry of my journal. I think he’s trying to read what I’m writing. I can feel his eyes trying to catch a glimpse. I don’t care…I promised myself I’d keep a detailed record at New Skete so I can refer back to it years later. Who knows, maybe it’ll be something I can hand down to my kids? Maybe there will be some wisdom I can share with others. Maybe it will be a waste of time. But there’s only one way to find out and it’s been my modus operandi in everything—start the process and stay in the game. Whether it’s a business venture, big race, or a new challenge, I’ve always had a “get your foot in the door and figure the rest out later” attitude.
I’m ready for this adventure—I think. I don’t really have a plan, I’m just going to try to stick it out, but I know it won’t be easy. Nothing worthwhile is. As I sit here on the plane I’m feeling ready. Ready to enter into a monk’s life—let’s see what they’ve got.
For some reason I’m also feeling emotional right now— really emotional. Maybe it’s the fear of being away from my wife and children and having no contact. It’s not like I have a bad gut feeling about this, it’s more like I can’t rely on my gut these days. I’m not in tune with it. Technology and life’s pace have stripped me of my spiritual intuition. My spider senses I’ve relied on so heavily my whole life in business and personally have faded.
So instead, crazy thoughts have been flooding into my head for the last twenty-four hours. What am I thinking? I’m thinking the worst-case scenario. I have feelings of guilt for leaving. What if something happens to my kids and I’m not home to prevent it? What if something happens to Sara? What if something happens to me? And if something were to happen to me, wouldn’t that be the most selfish thing….A tragedy as the result of me wanting to expand my sandbox is not how I want to go out…
If I Were to Die Tomorrow…
I’d miss the laughter of my children.
I’d miss my wife’s hands, amazing eyes, and soft touch.
I’d miss my friends and family so much.
I’d miss everything I wanted to accomplish but ran out of time.
I’d miss the adrenaline rush of life.
If I were to die tomorrow would anyone care in a hundred years?
Would have I done enough in life?
Would I have regrets?
Would I be remembered as the man I want to be?
Did I give 100 percent to everything I did?
Did I maximize the time I had, or did I waste it?
Did I spend my time doing the things that matter most and with the people who matter most?
Did I try my hardest?
Did I keep my word?
Did I live with honor?
Did I live life to the fullest?
“Time is what we want the most, but what we use worst.”—William Penn
One of the first things I became aware of on Day 1 at the monastery was my relationship with time. Sitting in my cell, I mean room, on the first night, I quickly figured out that I was going to be there for a total of 1,286,000 million seconds, and it freaked me out. I realized I had a lot of time on my hands. Or did I?
The average American male lives to be about seventy-eight years old and I’m forty-nine at the writing of this book. That means if I’m average, I have about 10,495 days left. Since I sleep roughly one-third of those days I really have 7,871 days. That’s nothing, that’s only twenty-nine summers . . . and I LOVE SUMMERS!
When we think about relationships we often think in terms of people. How is our relationship with our fathers, friends, spouses, kids? We rarely think about our relationship with time and for many of us (myself included) that relationship is often out of balance.
I started to do some math and it put time in perspective. My parents are eighty-eight years old and I see them about four times a year. Well, if they live to be ninety-two (I hope they live much longer), then that would mean I only have sixteen more times to see them. That’s unacceptable. When you put time in perspective, you realize what’s important and you re-prioritize things. I immediately booked a flight to see them.
The monastery was a huge hourglass for me. When you sit in your cell for hours at a time with silence and no distractions, you realize how slowly time can go. But when you live in the big city and live superfast, you often look up one day and your kids are grown, and that’s when you realize how fast time has gone.
How many days do you have left? How do you want to spend them? And whom do you want to spend them with? As I get older these are the questions that become more and more important to me and I continue to gain an appreciation for urgency.
“If you can’t live longer, live deeper.” —Italian proverb