In Dutch we use the phrase “that’s monastic work.” This expression means as much as; work that takes a lot of time and effort, but doesn’t actually have any purpose. So it has a negative association. While we owe much of our knowledge about the past to the work of the monks. Thanks to them, much of our history has been preserved.
A monk or nun devotes themselves completely to their religion or teaching. They do this based on a fixed daily schedule in which prayer or meditation and silence are central elements. The work that they generally (some also devote themselves to education or care etc) do requires a lot of patience, little thinking and can take place in silence. Examples are: copying books, making pottery, brewing beer, making wine, making furniture, making candles, creating mandalas, tidying up, cleaning, preparing food, embroidering, in short all the simple things in life. It means they live in the present moment most of the day. They are not concerned with the past, not concerned with the future, all that matters is the work that is being done now and their religion or teaching.
In essence, this is mindfulness. Mindfulness is training to be in the present moment. When you practice mindfulness, you draw attention to everything that is occurring in the present moment; physically, mentally, emotionally or whatever is going on in your immediate environment. A part of mindfulness is rooting, also called grounding. You actually connect with the earth and find yourself in the present moment. The goal is for you to get out of your head and stop thinking about your to-do list or whatever nasty remark that colleague made about you yesterday. You let go completely, so that you can come into your core or essence.
In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, it is very difficult to continuously be in the present moment. Nonetheless, it is healthy to try and practice this with some regularity. It provides peace and balance in our nervous system. Doing an activity once or twice a day that doesn’t require thinking, can be enough to restore balance. Being aware and present with the activity you are doing can bring about a sense of contentment.
More and more people are seeing the benefits of mindfulness. This is clearly visible in the diverse hobbies, without too much thinking, that people have. I also see this reflected in my position as HR advisor. There is a trend where more and more highly educated people, with well-paid but stressful jobs, are looking for executive work that does not require them to think too much. They would rather work with their hands in the earth than a head that works overtime.
The activities from which I personally reap the benefits of mindfulness are; meditating, yoga, gardening, dancing, painting and being creative, walking and roller skating. Especially after a busy work day it helps me to tap into one of these activities. It resets me and brings me back into balance. It is a form of self healing. I put myself back on the ground and out of my head.
Since I started doing mindfulness training, I have developed a different view on the expression “that’s monastic work.” I now have positive associations with it, because I recognize that it does have purpose. Patience and silence provide a healthy counterpart to the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It creates balance. So monastic work is not so bad after all!
Are you involved in monastic work? Let me know in the comments.