This past Friday I took a rare day off from work and visited Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey in Lafayette, Oregon. This beautiful monastery was built in 1955 and is nestled among green fields in the heart of the wine country. Having never been to a Trappist monastery before, and having had a number of past clients with addictions participate in weekend meditation retreats at the Abbey, I was interested in seeing the place for myself.
Within minutes of arriving, I noticed my body calming down, and felt a sense of peace just walking around.
After some time in the chapel observing the monks in silence, I visited the zen meditation room where a priest approached me. Unlike the others I had seen who clearly were engaged in their vow of silence, this one gave me a big grin and said “How are you?” Surprised that he spoke, I took the opportunity to ask questions about life at the monastery.
He had lived there for over 50 years, had spent time with Mother Teresa in Israel, and was full of colorful life stories. But what I remember most from our discussion was his answer to my question:
What has been the most profound thing you have learned from living the monastic life?
He bowed his head and took my question to heart, and then after some time looked me in the eyes and said:
Life is transitory, but we want things to be permanent.
He went on to explain that we spend a significant amount of time fighting the natural flow and rhythm of life. The key to happiness, from his perspective, was accepting the impermanence of our situation and going with the flow.
Addictive behavior hampers the flow of life. It is energy that gets misdirected into actions that have temporary pay-offs but long term consequences. It also is a way many escape the pain of change. Most of us like routines, habits, consistency.
When life is changing, chaotic, or unpredictable, we experience stress. More stress, more addictive behavior. As a result, successfully dealing with addiction requires learning how to accept the impermanence of life, go with the flow, and remain calm in the face of change – challenges for us all whether addiction is present or not.
Daily meditation, solitude, time in nature, prayer, chanting, drum playing, mindfulness activities – all provide opportunities for evolving how we approach life and its transitory nature.