A live discussion on future monasteries and their necessity with Brendan Graham Dempsey and Alexandros Lysios.
In the Metamodern Spirituality group there was an interesting re-post by Brendan of something that Hanzi Freinacht posted recently:
"In The Listening Society I wrote that “Everybody should get a year off once in a lifetime to go look for new purpose in life and make tough life decisions under professional care and support—in a kind of secular monastery.” The purpose of metamodern monasteries would be to offer all citizens necessary periods of seclusion (and/or community) and concentrated honing of inner skills, such as healing from trauma, making large life decisions or transitions, learning new life philosophies, practicing meditation and taking care of the body, forgiving people who hurt us, sorting out ethical dilemmas, and other transformational practices.
It would make sense to create a great network of secular monasteries, properly equipped with teachers, coaches, therapists, libraries, gardens, gyms and simple accommodation. People would be trained in one or more wisdom traditions, be supported in making necessary changes of habits, face their traumas and so on. Instead of an authoritative priesthood like in traditional religions, the main agent would be a professional group of “existential social workers”, trained to deal with people’s different life crises and to act as advisors. They should be highly skilled in one or more mindfulness and meditation techniques, in turn scrutinized by scientific studies.
An important aspect of such a neo-monastic societal infrastructure would be to include different kinds of bodywork and “subtle body practices”, refining the skills of dealing with direct bodily experiences and sensations and developing the general wellness of our bodies. Such development is not only of great value for its own sake, but also a necessary tool for strengthening our overall body-mind systems so we can handle the difficulties inherent to life’s crises and the stage transitions of personal development.
So we’re looking at a major project of the listening society, one that is indeed comparable to the construction of the welfare state. You need new facilities, new infrastructure, new groups of professionals, new educational and career paths (which can generate quite a few new and very cool jobs by the way), and new institutions to govern, evaluate and develop the whole endeavor. It’s going to take decades to build and/or cultivate, and yet it will produce few tangible, manifest things. But it will produce a more listening society, and an existentially mature civilization. Millions of people will untie subtle knots in their inner worlds and manage their lives more compassionately and skillfully. If the listening society is to fulfill its promise—a society where everyone is genuinely seen and heard—it must rest upon a foundation of inwards listening.
All of these services should be backed up on a collective level so that people are guaranteed a year off from work and be guaranteed a basic livelihood during the period. Hopefully, it could be possible even for parents of children to attend such periods of seclusion, just switching their day-time work for monastic life.
“What’s the point of all this? And, again, can we afford it? Should we really be sucking our thumbs and navel-gazing when there are so many issues to attend and so much suffering in the world?”
Still not following, modernist mind? Sigh.
The point is that it is only by seriously helping people to get what they really need and want from life—by supporting serious adult development, development of the mind and the personality as a whole—that we can raise the level of behavioral functioning throughout society and the level of mental health throughout all social groups. It is in this manner we can raise the average “effective value meme” of the population above the modern stage.
And, just to remind you of the stakes: Without a deep and lasting change towards higher effective value meme, we’re pretty much all going to die in a horrible car crash as we enter this age of super-technologies without a corresponding shift of psychological and cultural development.
So it’s not that we can’t afford to do it, it’s that we can’t afford not to. “Can’t afford” a medicine that will save your life from an aggressive disease? Well, then, too bad, you’ll just have to suffer and die.
Existential Politics isn’t navel-gazing. Things are only navel-gazing if they are not conducive to growth and social change. If something does prevent oceans of human suffering, improves lives in so many ways, and saves society from collapse because it spurs human growth into deeper maturity—then it’s not navel-gazing."