On the Virtues of Simplicity


The last day of my first week of training has ended—and it’s gone even faster than the velocity I’d anticipated. Days feel like hours, the regularity of their content accelerating my sense of their passage. Every day follows the same pattern of purification, meditation, exercise and lecture, broken only by the pauses reserved for food and sleep.

Yet for all the rigorous monotony and strenuous intensity, I’ve rarely felt as physically vital. I’ve never eaten as well or slept as soundly, and all the everyday concerns of life in the city strike me here as singularly trivial. There’s so . . . little needed on an island—to have or to do—and all the space and time to devote to the things that truly matter: breathing, eating, resting, thinking.

It’s the kind of experience that provides some insight on the attractions of monastic living: there’s joy in solitude—in simplicity and regularity. There’s no room for all the fussing and fretting, posturing and defending, planning and preserving that demands so much time, energy, money and attention. Here, my concerns are whittled down to the most banal of points: to waking up on time, to walking up a perilously steep and jagged flight of stairs, to chanting Sanskrit on key, to sitting still during meditation, to synchronizing my breath with my movement, to simply remembering to actually breathe.  Banal things really, but capable of being the most demanding of arts—and just as rewarding.

It’s almost a pity I’ve only got three weeks left.

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