I needed a place to stay, so I called a friend who told me that a space was available at a Buddhist sangha house in London, which was owned by a senior teacher and shared by a couple of other students.
I was heartbroken over the split from my boyfriend at first, but I soon surprised myself—I felt much happier. I left a materially comfortable and secure life, but I felt freer and richer in a non-materialistic sense.
I had my own room, a couple other friends there and access to inspiring teachers from across Europe who stayed at the house. I practiced meditation every day and felt transformed.
By the spring of 2008, I was eager to devote myself entirely to my Buddhist practice. I applied for a work sabbatical (my NHS position would be waiting for me when I got back), and went to Dechen Chöling, a meditation center near Limoges, France. I worked as the head of personnel there for nine months until the winter off-season.
I Gave Up Money to Live at a Monastery
When I returned to my social-work job in London, a friend generously offered his apartment in Kensington for £700 a month. This was pricier than anywhere else I’d lived, but it was worth it. I loved being in a nice, central neighborhood on my own—and not depending on a partner.
Before long though, work was getting extremely stressful–a byproduct of helping clients who had personality disorders–and I knew that I needed a break. It seemed like now was the time to take the ultimate leap, and sign up for the year-long retreat that I had been contemplating.
My Buddhist friends thought this retreat was amazing. My friends who weren’t Buddhist thought I was crazy.
As soon as I knew that I was leaving, I stopped spending frivolously. No cups of coffee. I rode my bike everywhere instead of taking the Tube. My friends started to get irritated with me because I wouldn’t spend any money. I even made my own bread because it was expensive in my neighborhood.
Most of my Buddhist friends thought that this retreat was amazing. My friends who weren’t Buddhist thought I was crazy.