This is a guest post from the incomparable Stacie Whitney.
I stirred the pot gently, let it simmer a minute, then dipped a spoon in for a taste. “Mmm, getting there, but not sure it’s good enough for the monks yet,” I thought.
My husband is an organic veggie gardener, and he and his team had invited some Benedictine monks (from a local Abbey) around for a tour, and lunch. They were gardeners, too, but I knew little else about them.
Yet I had volunteered to make them some lunch.
Trusting that a simple, delicious soup, made from fresh garden produce would be sufficient, I spent most of the morning chopping, seasoning, and stirring the pot.
And during that time, I thought. A lot. About monks.
And how they’re similar to mothers.
How so, you may ask?
Is it the celibacy and waking at ridiculous hours in devotion to your cause?
Well, yes, but this isn’t what struck me the most – in fact I don’t know much about Benedictine vows, and I didn’t think it was appropriate to ask the monks over steaming bowls of veggie soup.
But when I got to thinking on my early days as a mother, I realized that we perhaps had more in common than I’d realized. Motherhood is the ultimate journey in surrender and release. When we become Mamas for the first time, we need to release our former lives – our former selves, and commit to a new way of being. A new role, a new relationship. A membership into a new order.
It struck me that it must be a similar journey for these monks, when they take their vows.
I noticed I was nervous for the monks to arrive. Surprisingly, I wasn’t worried whether they’d like the soup or not. The garden veggies sort of spoke for themselves.
It was more that I didn’t really know what to say to a monk. I’d had limited interactions with Tibetan monks when I lived in the States. And had spent a few days as a guest in a Benedictine monastery in Spain, but they were mostly silent (and didn’t speak much English), so there wasn’t much pressure to chat.
But would English-speaking, gardening monks get my quirky sense of humour? Would I ask them the right questions? Would these men, who had devoted their entire lives to a very specific cause, relate in any way, to the lifestyle we live?
When they did arrive, they were very relaxed. They were in their ‘civilian clothes’, and not formal at all. They looked like…well…normal men! In fact they were rather chatty. Apparently this was a rare field trip for them, and they were very present, interested, engaged, and happy to be visiting.
They were just as inquisitive as we were, and they had some fabulous stories of their times in the monastery, and some great tales about their travels (to other monasteries, mainly in Ghana).
Turns out they’d had some pretty challenging meals on the road, including burnt mystery meat, and unidentifiable plates with highly questionable hygiene, so my soup was safe from criticism, and very much appreciated.
And most striking of all, for me, was the way they spoke of their journeys into monkdom. Their early days in the monastery, the challenges of being a monk, the continuing commitment they each made, the lessons learned and ultimately the love, and devotion – these were all an amazing mirror of my personal journey with motherhood.
And the truth was that some monks aren’t cut out for it, and don’t last.
And we mothers all wonder at times if we are cut out for it. But then we need to persist, push through, find a way to make it work. Because we are ultimately devoted to our cause in a way that only the most dedicated monks understand.
Motherhood is the ultimate spiritual journey – it pushes all our buttons, cracks us wide open, and makes us question and constantly re-evaluate our own truths.
- I’ve always had a ‘thing’ that I can’t stand repeating myself.
As a mother of a 4 year old, repetition is simply what you do. All.the.time. Over and over again.
- I used to believe I needed 8 hours of sleep to function.
I know that’s no longer true.
- I used to think I couldn’t be as devoted to another person as I was to my hubby or myself.
That was blown away when my daughter was born.
- I used to think I knew who I was.
Motherhood has taught me that, while I may have core truths, I am constantly evolving and growing.
At least that’s how I like to explain my ability to change my mind, my style, my parenting methods.
So perhaps you will join me in my new identity of Mamamonk. We recognize our challenges, and also the overwhelming opportunities for depth and growth. We may struggle, but we are deeply devoted and committed to our divine cause.
We are a sisterhood who supports each other, who encourages and embraces, rather than judging or critiquing.
We believe in cooperation, and listening to our inner truths.
We are forging a new way of raising our children. With this comes challenges, of course. Uncertainty and mistakes are part of our daily existence. But so are understanding and forgiveness.
We are devoted to our little divine beings. Yet just like the monks I met in the garden that day, whatever we may wear on the outside, we are human underneath.
Stacie Whitney is a wife, mother, author and creative muse. She overcame postnatal depression, anxiety and panic attacks to create her business http://www.staciewhitney.com, which is devoted to helping Mamas with a creative heart, who feel that little niggle and are looking for ‘More.’ She helps them discover what’s missing and take action so they can feel radiant, fulfilled, and blissfully excited about their lives. You can sign up on her website to get regular inspiration & updates (and your free gift).