Leading Like a Monk: What I Am Doing on My Summer Vocation

Leading Like a Monk: What I Am Doing on My Summer Vocation June 21, 2018

My Summer Vocation

Today is the first day of summer in my hemisphere, the day with the longest sunlight this year. Three months from today we will look back and tell the story of what we did on our summer vocation.

For many people, our vocation is what we do for a living, our job. We think of vocational schools or vocational assessments. People who see vocation this way might set summer goals and review in a few months to see how they did. Their summer vocation goals could include what they will do to get promoted or find a new job.

We often evaluate our vocation in terms of our salary and our benefits.

While vocation has come to mean the job we have, it originally meant our calling. Our summer vocation is about what we are drawn to do and be.

Vocation is more about becoming our true selves than about how much money we make.

It is easy for us to get caught up in all the activities and entertainments of summer. We may run out of time to reflect on our vocation in the midst of all that summer fun.

Summer is an important opportunity for our understanding of vocation to grow deeper. This year is almost half over. We can assess where we are and where we are going. What is our calling, and what does that even mean?

Is each year bringing us closer to our vocation, or leaving us with less time for it?

How have the last few months shaped us and what do we anticipate during the next few?

What would we like our summer vocation to be next year?

How are we doing on our summer vocation?

Taking a Monastic Summer Vocation

One of the things I will do on my summer vocation is spend some time at a monastery.

The monastic community where I am an Oblate is several hours away in Big Sur, California. The monks there have taught me about the deeper meaning of vocation.

People do not rush into monastic life. There are no signing bonuses or benefits packages. Monasteries almost discourage people from becoming monks.

There is a long, challenging process of discernment before someone enters a monastic community. People face many more questions than answers. There are years of discernment. Nobody enters monastic life quickly.

People do not volunteer for monastic life on the spur of the moment. It is a lifelong commitment and everyone involved wants to reflect on all the implications.

My own discernment was before I was received as a lay Oblate several years ago. I had discerned for years before that as part of my lifelong process of discovery. It brought me to the particular monastic community I was interested in joining.

The process was not about long explanations of my theological opinions. My year of discernment was about seeing whether who I was fit well with becoming part of the community. I had the opportunity to practice following an Oblate’s way of life and seeing whether it worked for me.

My discernment year established my relationship to the monastic community. I was able to ask questions and make sure we were communicating well. The experience gave me new insights into being part of a community from a distance.

The lessons I learned during that year have shaped my connection to the community in the years since.

Where Are We Going on Our Summer Vocation?

The summer which begins today can be our time to learn about our summer vocation.

We have the opportunity to explore our vocation in the depth it deserves. More than the details of our job and what we do, we can discover deeper truths.

Who are we becoming? How will this summer contribute to the rest of our lives?

Our summer vocation may not be about learning new skills or finding ways to work more effectively. This summer may be much more significant than that for us.

The monks in my monastic community are open to learning without being focused on performance. They are not pushing or striving to increase production. Their summer vocation is about going deeper, not being more efficient.

The hermitage in Big Sur is a place of stillness and listening. The time I spend there allows me to ask questions and gain insights without discussing them. It is an opportunity to listen deeply to the wisdom within me and in the world around me.

Each year I work hard to discern my summer vocation. I take time to see where I am and where I want to be going.

What are the adjustments I would like to make to get me where I want to go? Are there places which interest me more now than they have in the past? Can I find ways to explore new places without losing where I have gone before?

Have a Great Summer Vocation!

This summer, beginning today, is a great opportunity to explore our vocation. We will need to spend more time in stillness and listening than measuring the numbers. It is more about where we are called to go than about setting career goals.

The challenge for us is to approach each day wisely. We do not want to put ourselves in a situation where, in a few months, we have nothing to report. Our hope is our summer vocation is more satisfying and rewarding in three months than it was three months ago.

It will take time and effort, We need to work at it each day. Great summer vocations do not just happen without us. We need to engage our vocations and open ourselves to the possibilities.

The monks I know did not just fall into monastic life. It was not merely the best job they could find at the time.

We need to find our calling to the same extent they need to find theirs.

What are you doing on your summer vocation?

Where will this summer vocation take you starting today?

[Image by dronepicr]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and leadership coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and university professor, and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.

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