The Abbot, Abbess, as Spiritual Principle

When we first elected the Abbot to be the abbot of HMM, just because he’d been here the longest and loved the monastic life–  at least in theory– more than most of us—well, more than some of us– and understood the contemporary potential and function of a monastery-without-walls–he said was honored, and would accept the role, as long as we understood and agreed upon a few things:

  1. He was first and foremost a monk. The title and function of “abbot” was a secondary, or tertiary, or even quadrary role, or description, of his primary interest.
  2. Perhaps even before his role as a monk, he saw himself as an artist. He was an artist not only of his particular personal crafts, (the art of bonsai, the art of bocce, and the arts involved in producing pieces in various writing genres,) but also the artist of experiencing, recognizing and expressing the inherent prosperity of WIGO (What Is Going On),
  3. And finally, but perhaps most fundamentally (the abbot is known for redefining priorities as he goes along) that we were all to understand that we were/are each and all responsible for accepting and performing the abbot, abbess role in each of our lives.

He went on to explain that we should each see our thoughts and emotions as individual, ever evolving “monks and nuns.”   It was our job, he said, our role, to help our inner monks and nuns—our thoughts and feelings– to find their right place, their right expression, their artful connection with WIGO, with the Divine, with the subtle spiritual atmosphere in which we live and move and have our being.

“What the fuck does that mean?” Larry Dempsey asked– not being one to mince words. We all, including the abbot, laughed.

“It is the abbot’s role to quietly nourish and support the highest qualities of the monks and nuns under his or her charge,” he said. “The abbot does that by seeing the best in each, and by responding to the needs of each as best he can in the moment. Ideally, he follows Lao Tzu’s advice for leaders– by walking behind.

“When it comes to our own thoughts and feelings, we obviously are not at ease with each equally, and yet it is our work, our aspiration to allow each thought and each feeling to find its appropriate FLOW in relation to WIGO. Even more ideally, he does that by, himself, or herself, being FLOW itself.”

“Thanks, dude, that really cleared things up,” Larry said.

“I’d be very happy for you to be abbot in my place,” The abbot said.

“No, no… I’m just saying… “ Larry backed off.

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