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Employment/Integration/Modern Monks
Answer
2/23/16 12:07 AM
Dear DhO sangha,

I’m curious as to what some other dedicated meditators ‘do' for a living, especially if they are not ordained. 

Retreats can be expensive and are often long enough to require some sort of flexible schedule from an employer. How are you all managing this balancing act? What does a modern monk who’s not formally in robes look like in terms of daily living? In fact, what do people have to say about the turbulent nature of employment and careers in general in this 21st century, hyper technological, capitalist part of the world where there’s not much societal structure for youth as opposed to some older or more traditional cultures and therefore too much flexibility and options for the developing individual?

Long winded question but I hope it’s useful and fun for discussion.

Please correct me if my grasp on culture and societal trends is grossly off in some important way.

Metta to you,

Michael

RE: Employment/Integration/Modern Monks
Answer
2/24/16 10:26 AM as a reply to Michael.
Hi Michael, interesting question! I've often pondered on this and related questions. I think it'll be tough to get a clear idea unless loads of people reply and give their stories.

For my part, as a freelance photographer based in Asian countries, I've been able to take that Dec-Jan downtime (and cool time of year) to go for long retreats in Asian retreat centres run on the donation-only model, or going for shorter retreats throughout the year while arranging my on-and-off work-life around those dates. I'm single and child-free, so that's all pretty easy to manage. On the other hand, anyone with a fulltime job and partner and children - I cannot imagine how challenging that must be. I've pondered on the ordination path, but there's something about the unquestioned adherence to a foreign (and perhaps outmoded) tradition replete with trappings and practices and beliefs, not to mention the fact that most monastic life is not about meditation progress but about upkeep of traditions/rituals and endless scholarly pursuits - it just doesn't look like an attractive way to focus on meditation. But maybe your question taps into one of the compexities of this issue - that the big plus of committing to the monastic life is letting go of a lot of the dross that keeps us tied to the self and its obsessions.

Having said all of that, there are folks who take up meditation, go on a retreat, have an experience that feels like a life-changing insight into everything, then go back to their worldly life and drop everything - the job, the partner, etc (or at least alienate everyone). I've met people at the start/end of retreats who tell such stories, and it's fair to say I've done a bit of that by sacrificing work and personal opportunities so as to go do more retreat time/Buddhist study. There's a sense that the meditation path is so important that all those matters (income, relationships, friends) can wait, and will work themselves out once I work out my mind. But there are big costs to straddling both ways of life, and the longer I go on this path, suffering that cost to other aspects of my life, the more I question the whole enterprise. The path of Buddhist meditation could be said to be a life all of its own, not just a segment of an otherwise mainstream modern western existence, so you're right to wonder how to focus on it. Perhaps the truth is there's no way to comfortably balance our modern "hyper technological, capitalist" selves with our higher yearnings, so it comes down to taking your pick, just like when the ancients had to choose going forth or staying a householder...

RE: Employment/Integration/Modern Monks
Answer
2/24/16 10:26 PM as a reply to Peter S.
Peter S:
Perhaps the truth is there's no way to comfortably balance our modern "hyper technological, capitalist" selves with our higher yearnings, so it comes down to taking your pick, just like when the ancients had to choose going forth or staying a householder...
Personally, I suspect our main stumbling block is what our current society has already indoctrinated us with what and how to think such that it has become ingrained habit.  Then we try to meditate and lessen that habit and adopt a new one.  But I don't think technology or captilisim by itself is any special object of prevention. If you look at how many lived hundreds of years ago, they worked longer harder hours and had less food stability than most of us have now.  There were no food kitchens back then (to my knowledge).  If you go to some countries even now, what you may see are people truly starving to death, skinny and without food and in danger of dieing.  Even most of the homeless here in the USA have it very good compared to those people who cannot get food even by begging for handouts and will not be allowed to set foot into hospitals for lack of money.  People who took days off of work risked starving to death and monks who were not successful in begging got no food.  Seems strange to me to think we have it harder now.  If you are hungry these days, you can just go into a dumpster and find the throwouts, such woudl have been a dream of happiness for many poeple of old. and for many in other countries even now.   If you want to talk about stress, seems to me it was far worse in those days.  

RE: Employment/Integration/Modern Monks
Answer
2/25/16 10:38 AM as a reply to Michael.
I work as a programmer. As jobs go, it's very flexible, I can work from home a lot, and it pays enough to live without too much of a struggle. I feel very fortunate that I can do this kind of work. I've always been generally anti-capitalist and so having to spend most of my time working is a source of suffering, though I recognise I have it much better than many in the world. I've found that increased mindfulness has enhanced my programming ability, especially when I hit on problems where the solutions aren't immediately obvious - that used to be a great source of stress, and now I can just let go of the negative feedback and get out of my own way to get the problem solved.

RE: Employment/Integration/Modern Monks
Answer
2/28/16 3:36 AM as a reply to Michael.
Michael:

Michael

I have never worked & retreated at the same time. When I was a developing meditation, I did it full time. For example, spending one whole year in an Asian monastery (which has neglible expenses). 

RE: Employment/Integration/Modern Monks
Answer
2/28/16 1:11 PM as a reply to Eva Nie.
I see what you're saying. 

Defintiely interesting times...

If you don't mind, what do you do personally for a living? Or maybe more importantly, what was your decision process like for deciding an answer to such a question? I think it's important to do what one is good at, what one is skilled at. This seems like a more reasonable answer that is more refined than just what one 'likes' to do. If one is skilled at it, there can be more of a passion that is deeper than liking/not liking an activity. Theoretically, a pro athelte has a passion for their activity, and this passion can carry them through the days where they might not feel like training. Doing what one is good at/skilled seems a good criterion for making a decision about 'what to do.' There could be relative difficulty however when one feels they could be good/skilled at anything they do. Then other criterion could come into play. Like practicality, the cost/benefit of the given activity and its related effects on health, energy, time, benefit to others, income. 

These are some of my thoughts.

What is your decision process like?

RE: Employment/Integration/Modern Monks
Answer
2/28/16 1:15 PM as a reply to Peter S.
Peter, 

I hit 'reply' to Eva's response, but it's also intended for you as well as anyone else who is reading this. I'm not sure if I hit reply to my thread, if it goes to everyone else who has replied to it or not. If I'm looking for a group discussion, should I reply to each invidivdual's response or to the thread as a whole?

RE: Employment/Integration/Modern Monks
Answer
2/28/16 7:22 PM as a reply to Michael.
Michael:

If you don't mind, what do you do personally for a living? Or maybe more importantly, what was your decision process like for deciding an answer to such a question? I think it's important to do what one is good at, what one is skilled at. This seems like a more reasonable answer that is more refined than just what one 'likes' to do. If one is skilled at it, there can be more of a passion that is deeper than liking/not liking an activity. 


I do not have any particular skills although I do have a uni degree (since I made poor vocational choices when I was young due to a lack of passion). If you are young, making a practical vocational choice is important, particularly if flexibility is important for you. 

Before I learned meditation, I worked in the hospitality industry, alcohol related, because I enjoyed 'serving' people. I gave that up after I learned meditation & Buddhism, since I had no interest in promoting alcohol plus I was a non-drinker.

When I returned to the West, after meditating for one year, I enrolled in a psychology degree but returned to meditation after one year. I was too unaware to understand how the psychology would be useful. 

When I returned to the West, again, after some years meditating, I got a good job working for the government for 12 years (dealing with the public and making decisions on their behalf) but that recently went pear shaped because the ethical standards of governments are quickly diminishing. 

I was once one phone call away from enrolling in an acupunture degree but decided to stay working. At the time, I had passion for acupuncture because it helped me with an injury but now I have lost that passion. 

As a Buddhist, ideally a job generally should not harm others or otherwise benefit others. 

'Passion' is important but the 'duty' of simply earning a living is also important.

Now I am sort of retired at 50yo in a quiet location (although I do some occassional 'investment' activities). 

I don't consume much & don't run a motor vehicle so my living expensives are minimal.

I got sufficiently lucky with some investments so I have no rent to pay.

Regards 

RE: Employment/Integration/Modern Monks
Answer
2/28/16 7:31 PM as a reply to Nicky.
Nicky,

How much progress were you able to make in that one year at the monastery? What was your daily schedule like and how much meditation were you able to get in per day and what style?

RE: Employment/Integration/Modern Monks
Answer
2/28/16 8:32 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
Jinxed P:
Nicky,

How much progress were you able to make in that one year at the monastery? What was your daily schedule like and how much meditation were you able to get in per day and what style?

It was the most beneficial & enjoyable year of my life.

I was meditating at least 6 hours per day; 9 hours per day during formal retreats. 

Wake up at 4am. Lights out 10pm. 

Sitting & walking meditation. 

Anapanasati. 

Typical formal retreat schedule. 

4:00 wake up
4.30 sitting 
5.30 exercise/yoga
7.00 sitting
8.00 breakfast 
8.30 chores
10.00 lecture 
11.00 walking
11.45 sitting
12.30 lunch
13.00 chores
15:00 sitting
15.45 walking
16.30 sitting
17.15 walking
18.00 drink
19.00 lecture
20.00 sitting
21.00 end

As I progressed, I generally did sitting from 10:00 to 12.30 and from 15:00 to 17.15.

Regards 




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