Last Friday was my last day at Muse. Next week, I start at CML as a full-time modern monastic. As I said in my farewell post, I can’t explain why I’m doing this in a way that’s satisfying. So with the caveat that this post will be unsatisfying, here’s why I’m doing this.
I first met CML and their teacher, Soryu Forall, in 2013 when I went to Vermont to help start the center as their monastic web programmer. It was really hard—not so much the “lots of effort” kind of hard, but more the “I regularly experience intense cognitive dissonance over this whole thing and whether it’s good to do or not, or whether I’m wasting my time or not” kind of hard. And in the end, I left. We got near enough to the end of the scheduled retreat, I’d had my fill, so I took off.
Then I spent the next couple of years discovering what a profound gift I’d been given. Though the progress has been rocky and uneven, at this point I’m confident saying that I’ve learned a way of life that’s incomparably more fulfilling than the way I knew before. This way is simple: whatever I’m doing now, do it fully. Whoever I’m around now, give them my life fully. Have this experience fully, without holding on or holding back anywhere, and discover how much joy it’s possible to take in this.
And yet there’s still much more work to be done. I’m holding on and holding back quite a lot. I don’t remember ever not living like this—before CML, at CML, and after CML, I’ve always been holding on and holding back. It feels really unsatisfying and uncomfortable to do so.
I knew I was going back to CML for a few months before now—it was first really obvious to me in December, after I got back from my month at their coworking program. In a way it was like learning that I had a terminal disease with a hyper-specific prognosis. I knew I was going to be gone—at least gone from Toronto, gone from Muse—very soon.
And I say this as a card-carrying cryonicist who fully intends to make it to the end of this universe if I’m able to: it became clear in those few months that I don’t need more time.
I’ve lived my whole life for next. Next decade, next month, next week, next moment. I’ve always budgeted this way, holding back and trying to move the pieces to make my future position better. This holding back creates the desire for more time: I didn’t say I love you, I didn’t tell you that piece of critical feedback because I was too scared of conflict, I didn’t unearth that secret because I was afraid of what people would think of me.
In the last few months, I’ve been able to let go to a great extent of next. And it’s become clear that I don’t need it. One day is plenty. One day is all I’d ever need, if I could just live it completely, with nothing held back and nothing better to do.
So why go to CML for this? Why not live like that here in Toronto, with this beautiful family I’ve found?
The quick easy answer is that I’m too scared. I see people freezing to death on the street here. I see people visited by all kinds of horrifying circumstances, I don’t want that to happen to me, and I’m afraid that if I really let go out here, I’ll wind up like that.
One of the things about a monastery is that it’s safe. It may not feel safe, but it actually is far safer than most places people can live. And it’s designed to allow you to do this. I’ve heard it described as like a cocoon—literally, a hard shell to protect you while you undergo a liquefaction process.
I feel really fortunate to have found a place like CML. Watching them up close and from afar for the last few years, I’ve come to trust these people to a great degree. I think their hearts are in the right place, their minds are clear, and they both want to be of service to the world and to let go of all of this.
So this is why I’m doing, hopefully, my last next.