In September of this year, I moved to Gampo Abbey, a Shambala retreat in rural Nova Scotia. You pay $225 to $300 a month for resident’s fees, and work and do chores several hours a day on a very disciplined schedule. In return, you get a bed, food and four to eight hours of meditation practice a day.
There was a honeymoon phase when I first arrived. At the abbey, you don’t think about money or struggling at your job. You’re free from those concerns, and they start to seem petty. All I want to do now is be happy–a different type of happy.
But it can be difficult to live at a monastery. It’s a house of mirrors that shows you the patterns you’re stuck in with yourself and others–you can’t get away with anything.
A New Outlook on Life—and Money
In Buddhism, we talk about searching for refuge in people you want to emulate, instead of material things. You try to connect with what’s most important: a stable mind.
When I leave the abbey, I hope that my new sense of peace will radiate outwards, both in my work and my emotions.
My teacher has talked about the role of money, which he describes as energy. It comes from a lot of effort and hard work, so you should be careful not to squander it. At the same, you don’t have to be so attached to it.
I’m 36 now. I have a small savings of about $4,000, and I’d like to move to New York next, since I have a lot of friends there, and I like living in a big city. I’ll be a social worker, save for retirement and hopefully live within my means. But I won’t get too stressed about the little things. People have all these projects, but I’ve learned that you can nurture things, yet they can still fall apart.
Ask yourself, “What’s the most meaningful thing I can do with my life?” That’s what you should do.
While I don’t have the same kind of financial security that I did five years ago, I’m happier, thanks to my studies, my friends (its own form of wealth!) and all of those things that money can’t buy.
I’ve tried it all, from living in a swank London neighborhood and traveling the world to giving it all up to live in a monastery. I feel richest of all now. Funny that.
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