January 2021 began with a stay at home order where I live. I am a natural homebody and the Covid-19 pandemic has lead me to staying inside my apartment walls nearly 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week. I do take outdoor breaks with walking my dog various times throughout the day and checking the mail. I suppose that would mean I spend about 23 hrs a day inside my home everyday. With the realization that the vast majority of my time would be spent indoors and alone with my dog, I decided to do a monastic experiment. What if I formulated a schedule that was inspired by various monastic orders? Would I flourish under the strict structure or would I give up less than a week in? I gave myself the month of January to experiment with my own homebody monasticism.
Before January 1 rolled around, I researched various monastic orders online and copied down the daily schedule of those who shared what life in the monastery was like. I also looked at the daily schedule of the Dali Lama and what a retreat schedule was like at Plum Village. After gathering this information I looked for common themes in the use of time and the duration of schedule blocks. Ultimately, I was looking for clues on how to build a day that was organized around spiritual practice. After some tinkering, I created my own personal homebody monastic schedule that included my daily obligations and at least 2 and half hours of spiritual practice each day. For myself, it was important to figure out how much time I wanted to devote to spiritual practices (prayer, meditation, lectio divina etc) and how much time I needed to devote each day to my obligations. From these two points I was able to create my own personalized schedule.
What I Learned
Monastics Do It In Community.
Even hermits that are a part of a monastic community are supported by that larger community. I believe one of the reasons for this is that it is difficult to find the motivation and encouragement for living a highly structured life on one's own. In a community people are supported by their fellow monastics. This is especially beneficial when you encounter times of deep sadness, crisis in faith, and are just overall tired. In a community setting there are spiritual directors to talk with who can offer words of wisdom and advice.
You Won't Become The Picture of Enlightenment.
There were mornings when my mind would constantly wander during my meditation. The early afternoon prayer break often featured me catching myself nodding off to sleep. This is all OK! We should not put high expectations on ourselves and our spiritual practices. We learn, slowly transform and grow as we go.
Modification is a Must
While jotting out a schedule for ourselves is extremely useful, that first week or so it is important to allow oneself time to reflect on how the schedule has worked and if there are changes that need to be made. Sometimes, it can be as simple as forgetting to add a task to your schedule that you do everyday. Also, not being a monastic, our lived schedules differ due to work demands we have and those from our loved ones.
For more insights into my Homebody Monasticism, I made a video for YouTube exploring some of the pro and cons and if I will be continuing for the month of February.