I recently spent a weekend in a monastic community. In early spring, I read an article about a monastery in Cambridge. I was intrigued because my mother has stayed at a monastery in western NY a few times over the years. The idea of escaping the concrete jungle for some quiet, reflective time appealed to me. As I was searching around the monastery’s website, the word “volunteers” caught my eye. The brothers offer free room and board to people who volunteer to garden. I contacted the monastery right away to schedule a visit.
The brothers have 144 acres of beautiful property with a main house dating from the 1720s, “hermitages” (nice cabins), walking trails, multiple gardens, and farm animals. To me, it sounded like an oasis.
And it was.
During my time there, I didn’t think about the past or the future, which I am prone to doing. It’s always been difficult for me to stay in the moment. But in this atmosphere of silence in a serene natural setting, I found it easy to “just be.”
Snapshots of favorite moments:
I weeded in a huge asparagus bed under a blazing hot sun and felt more triumphant the dirtier and sweatier I got. I was literally “in the weeds.”
During a gardening break, time stood still as I found myself watching a monarch butterfly flit from one blade of grass to the next for 10 minutes.
I met pigs that were so happy and friendly that I now understand the idiom “happy as a pig in mud.”
I ate wonderful meals with the brothers and other guests—the only sounds being the clinking of forks and classical music wafting from a stereo.
Every day, I attended one of a few daily services in a small chapel connected to the house. We sang hymns unaccompanied and participated in a call and response with the brother leading the service. During the last service I attended, I was overcome with emotion for an unknown reason and started to cry.
The last night of my stay, I sat on a rock wall in front of a huge open field, reading a book as the sun set through a tall bank of trees.
All of the brothers and other guests were so welcoming and hospitable. Being in their presence made me wish for a simpler, more meditative existence. I am a city girl at heart, but this visit has shown me that I need to find more of a balance in my life. To consciously make time to “just be.”