Last week I met a monk. I’d never met a monk before, and we became easy friends. Stephan was from France – Lyon, specifically. His name, by the way, is pronounced as I imagine the French pronounce it, to rhyme with Deaf Lawn. Although that doesn’t make sense at all and I’m certain the French would rather detest that bit of poetry. Meh.
Stephan was a handsome shaved-head twenty-something-year-old, donned in full rustic red and burnt orange robes, positioned behind a card table covered in a white cloth. Stacks of spiritual books were meticulously placed with spines outward, one copy at the front of each pile standing upright, with dramatic pictures of gods and demigods facing forward. Small, pink carnations lay scattered about the books, and as I walked by him and smiled, he held one out to me, calling softly in his Provencal accent, asking what I knew of meditation. Did I mention he was handsome? With a blasphemous swoon, I turned.
Now, anyone who knows me well knows I’m a big meditator – have been since my twenties. The practice of doing so, though, really got in the way of my alcohol abuse for however many years, so it’s been some time since I’ve taken part in the peaceful ritual on any consistent basis. But in the six weeks I’ve been in SoCal, I am reinvigorated, replacing some of my biggest vices with outdoor walks and twice-daily meditation. And I? Feel fucking amazing. Just great. And stupid happy about life.
I’m anything if not aware of the fact that it’s pretty easy to be happy when I’m not dragging my ass out of bed every morning to a workplace I’m dissatisfied with. The bulk of my adult life I unhappily hopped from job to job, following what I was good at – accounting, ugh – and ignoring what I truly wanted – writing. And, I allowed life to take over in my spare time, again ignoring what I truly wanted – writing.
So, I’m grateful to be in a fortuitous position in life. My children are grown and independent. I have supportive friends and family. And I have no massive debt holding me in place. And while it’s true I have no big savings either, my life, my travels, my writing? These things are my work. And I’m thankful to have the ability to do my job wherever the hell I want to.
And back to the young and handsome French monk. We had a beautiful conversation that afternoon about our beliefs – the similarities as well as the differences. He sent me away with several books and a few fragrant flowers, bowing deeply with a genuine smile as I left. I felt all warm and fuzzy as I walked toward my car, and in fact, just writing about it now is putting a big dopey grin on my face. And still, my blasphemous nature kicks in, and suddenly I’m super curious about whether monks have underwear under those hot robes. Huh.