So, I thought the best place to start would be my own monastic experience and why I think I’m drawn to the solitary life.
For me, it actually started at a young age: probably 14-15. I had just “left” Satanism (though I was not actually practicing), and was in search of a more peaceful (acceptable) religion to believe in. I’m not sure why I was looking for anything at all, to be honest. I just believed in something “else” out there. I’ve always been convinced of that, though there is no reason why I should have been at that age, especially with my non-religious upbringing.
I remember one night finding world-religion in the encyclopedia, and settling on the Dharma Wheel, and thus began studying in earnest, Buddhism. This took over the bulk of my high school years, nearly pushing me to seeking out a monastery to join. I even had three other disciples that shaved their heads and started eating only rice – meditating, etc.
I really loved being a Zen Buddhist. The peacefulness, the calm. It complemented nicely with my Martial Arts training, and I was really happy for the most part. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), I ended up bowing to conventional pressure, and a family unit that had no more money to send me to college, and opted to join the military instead of a life of contemplative reflection and meditation.
It was in the military (or, more accurately, shortly before reporting) that Zen Buddhism was taken from me, and I found myself reading the bible from cover to cover. During my military years, I studied the bible, became an evangelist (wannabe) and thought my life would be filled with Church services, missionary work, and whatnot. Unfortunately, I quickly found a divergence between what the bible taught and what modern, protestant denominations were preaching as the truth. Quickly, I because ostracized.
Several years later, I found myself outside of the “church” proper, on the fringe edges of Christianity, and discovered the desert fathers almost by accident. I was captivated with some of the ideas of Desert Theology, and Saint Anthony. About this time I was going through a divorce and was awash in raw emotions and life-altering choices. I sought comfort with this newly discovered perspective, approaching a protestant monastery in Michigan. Unfortunately, I had student loans left to pay off, no job, living out of my car – so I was quickly dispatched as an unlikely candidate.
This was a good thing, as I spent the next few years exploring Monasticism as a whole, eremiticism specifically (and paying off my student loans). I struggled for awhile with the lack of evangelism in monasticism, but this eventually faded. But, along with it, I became pretty clear, I’m definitely not called to serve as a monk in a cenobite expression, though I personally think it would be the best for me. I also realized that I’m more drawn to solitary living because I’m introverted, not because I have some supernatural draw to pray or listen for God on a mountain top.
But, where I’m at now, though I’m relatively comfortable and I’m slowly building toward my own hermitage in a region of the world I absolutely love, I do occasionally wonder if monasticism would be a better choice for me. This is why I’m starting this research project.