Monastic Extroverts

It may be hard for us to believe there are any monastic extroverts.

We think of monks as people hiding from the world of human contact behind stone walls. We assume monks want to escape the anxieties and responsibilities we face every day. It is a challenge for us to imagine monks laughing or even having a sense of humor.

We tend to associate the idea of being contemplative with being introverted. Contemplative spiritual practices may feel very comfortable to introverted people. It may be hard for us to tell the differences between people with contemplative spirituality and those with introverted personality traits. Thomas Merton, a 20th Century monk, once told a group of monks they were not really contemplatives, but introverts!

Our perception is that people who are quiet are more thoughtful, more contemplative. This is especially true in situations where people are practicing silence. We are so used to people competing to participate in conversations, and with background noise.

When I spend time on retreat at New Camaldoli, it is almost always in silence. There are people I have seen year after year with whom I have never spoken a word. It would be easy for me to assume they are introverts, or for them to assume I am.

Monasteries and hermitages are filled with people with diverse, vibrant personalities. I have learned valuable lessons by practicing being an introvert.

We build communities by sharing who we are and gifts we have. Monastic life allows us to explore our deepest true selves and then share what we discover. Even hermits who practice silence communicate their inner extroversion without using words.

We each share who we are.

How will we practice monastic extroversion this week?

Where is there room in your schedule for a monastic extrovert?

[Image by Muffet]

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