In every age there are those who have known the road before us and passed its signs. It is that kind of wisdom sunk in bedrock and rooted by the centuries that we ourselves now need to discover. More than any of the things we’ve been assured for decades would be our lives collateral—the certificates, the promotions, the money, the network of contacts—we need the things that last. We need depth of heart. We need stolidity of soul. We need what the forays of time cannot take away.
It is those things that this book seeks to explore, to test, to offer for consideration as we grow from stage to stage, from emptiness to wholeness.
The truth is that every major spiritual tradition in the world has a monastic stream that feeds it. This book is for those who are not necessarily looking for a church or an ashram or a monastery or even a study group to join; they may already have one. They may not really want one. What they are looking for is simply the wholeness of their spiritual selves that dwells within them already, often overlooked until the well goes dry.
It is finding the rest of the self—the self we need most under pressure—that the monastic heart seeks out.
This little book will explore the elements of the monastic mindset. By coming to understand the basic components of the kind of life cultivated in monasteries for centuries, we may come to know the kind of spiritual and social consciousness needed now and here, as we grapple with the built-in uncertainties of a commercial world in the throes of philosophical division.
While we look at the ways that have been used to cultivate a monastic heart for centuries, we can begin to reshape them for our own. Without going to a monastery, we can become, like those before us, deeper, freer selves—richer souls—and, as a result, bequeath to our world the most monastic twenty-first-century monastics of them all.
—from the Introduction to The Monastic Heart by Joan Chittister