Friday, December 30, 2011

Experiencing "The Joy of Quiet".

Monastery of the Society of  St. John the Evangelist, Cambridge, MA
(photo: © Lynn Schweikart)

In The Joy of Quiet, an opinion piece that will appear in this Sunday's New York Times, travel writer and essayist Pico Iyer writes about the importance of "stillness", which he believes is the path to "sensing not what is new, but what is essential.".

Iyer writes of one of his favorite getaways: a Benedictine monasatery near Big Sur. He doesn't participate in services, or even meditate when he makes a retreat there; rather he "walks, reads, and loses himself in the stillness". (The fact that this spot, located between the Pacific Ocean and the mountains of California's Central Coast, is one of the world's most inspiring natural landscapes no doubt contributes to Iyer's sense of peacefulness.)

I immediately googled "Benedictine monastery, Big Sur" and found the place he was describing: the New Camaldoli Hermitage, where a guest retreat room runs $95 a night. (In contrast, at the posh Post Ranch Inn, just up Highway One, rooms start at $595 a night.)

Of course, you don't have to travel across the country to experience this level of quiet.  The Monastery of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, MA accepts guests for a night or more. Here, too, you can participate as much or as little as you please in the monastic life . (Though I'd recommend attending at least one chanted service in the circa 1936 French Romanesque chapel.)

Iyer quotes the Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast, who describes joy as “that kind of happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.” One of my New Year's resolutions is to devote more time in 2012 to experiencing the stillness that inspires that kind of joy.

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