I’m now three weeks into being tobacco free. After all the procrastination, fear and cognitive dissonance which has gone on for a good couple of years it was actually NOT THAT BAD!! There were only a couple of days where I thought I may have to stay away from humans for fear of being a risk to myself and/or others.

But far more exciting is that I now consider myself to be a sort of unofficial lay member of the Benedictine community. Some of you who know me will know I have a sort of (some would say weird) fascination with all things monastic. I have recently returned from a trip to a beautiful Abbey in Kent which has been inhabited by a Benedictine order of nuns for 75 years. I went originally in the interests of my work. This place was recommended to me as they have a heart for addiction there. I wanted to experience this place myself with the idea of possibly referring people I may come across in my work who need some respite and peace.

As usual when the times of these retreats come round in my life, im usually pretty frazzled and in need of a breather.  It is hard to describe the experience of going somewhere like this. To start with the ground is holy and sacred , the place smacks of peace and purity. The Benedictine gift of hospitality surprised me (I had of course gone with a large bag of Waitrose luxuries as only a recent non smoker needs – in preparation for solitude and starvation) The guest house was gorgeous and served home-grown food 3 times a day. As usual the Divine Office punctuates the day with the reciting of the Psalms  5/6 times, from Vigils to Compline. The beauty, rhythm and mysticism of 1400 years of spiritual practice has a depth which is difficult to describe and comprehend.

Some people are under the illusion that monastic living is easy and escapism from life in the fast lane. In a way it is a more peaceful way of life, but of course it comes with different challenges to those we face out here, living in close proximity to 12/13 others and  there being absolutely no distractions from ourselves and each other. Benedict’s Rule was designed to make living in community work as well as it can, with the emphasis on the rhythm of  contemplative prayer, work, relationship and spiritual growth.

I want to try to live this way as much as possible in my own life. I need this rhythm.

Today my Esther de Waal commentary to The Rule arrived. (I’ve been trying to muddle through with no commentary.) Like the Gospel, The Rule is a living thing as relevant today as when it was written 1500 years ago and has been a successful tool for business management as well as community living ever since. Benedict saying he wanted to prescribe ” nothing harsh or burdensome ” for his followers.

My initial revelations are how much I need this stuff as I’m self-centred to the core. I am so easily distracted from my prayer life that the routine, discipline and repetitive nature of the Liturgy of The Hours helps me stay focused on God not reliant on how I FEEL.  I need the structure of more silent time with God and in his Word. I’ve also become aware of how much excess stuff  I own. Not in some weird ‘hair-shirt’ kind of way, I’ve never been particularly materialistic, most of my clothes are bought in charity shops but there lots of them and when I want something I buy it. Full stop. Oh, and I am addicted to buying books. One click ordering – currently books about monastic living. The irony.

This is just the beginning of going a bit deeper with God. I’m a bit scared but very excited! Watch this space.