In Meaningful Work, A Quest to do Great Business, Find Your Calling and Feed Your Soul, entrepreneur Shawn Askinosie tells us how he left a soul-killing job as a lawyer and found his true calling, starting Askinosie Chocolate. No ordinary chocolatier, the company sources 100% of its cocoa beans directly from farmers around the globe. (I sampled a bar of chocolate sourced from Tanzania and it was heavenly.)
While Shawn offers valuable lessons in starting a Fair Trade business, and provides a roadmap to finding your own calling, what interested me most in this book were the author’s spiritual pursuits. He tells us about his relationship with a local Trappist monastery (local being Springfield, Missouri) where he becomes an official “Family Brother.”
To join the abbey, even as a part-time member, Shawn is required to develop a “Rule of Life.” This written document defines his personal spiritual goals and provides structure and direction for how he will get there. This includes the objective of his quest, with the head of the monastery advising him:
If his objective is to “become a better person” he will fail, but if his objective is to “love God,” the qualities he wants to develop will naturally follow.
Ultimately, Shawn is instructed to pursue a deepening of “being,” a complement to his “abundant doing” which is a product of his Type-A personality. Think about that for a second: Being, not just doing. As a result, he commits himself to the following rule:
I will walk, rest, pray, work (manual labor of some kind), read, pray—all in God’s presence…my intention is not to receive answers, but to have my heart and mind be open enough to receive them.
Abbey life is very regimented—but leads him to a unique spiritual practice.
Shawn spends a few weeks a year at the abbey and his days start with Vigils at 3:30am. He then follows a precise list of activities throughout the day, ending with evening prayers at 7:45pm. To maintain this type of rhythm when he’s away from the abbey, Shawn sets “a series of gentle bells” on his smartphone. The bells ding throughout the workday, a total of five times altogether. In his words:
“(The bells) stop me and sometimes even jolt me, which is just what I need. Each time I hear the bells, I stop whatever activity I’m in the middle of and say a tiny prayer. I don’t say it out loud…I just pause briefly, close my eyes, and say it silently to myself.”
The “5 Dings a Day” practice reminds me of the Muslim call to prayer, also known as Adhan. Five times a day, mosques around the world summon nearby Muslims for a mandatory prayer session. While the Adhan is recited, those gathered will silently reply with phrases like “There is no strength or power except from God.”
For Askinose, the prayer he uses are the words “With you, O Christ, I live in hope” and it serves a reminder of his intentions for the day. As he points out, “you could do the same thing for a short time with any prayer or intention that suits you.”
We all could follow Askinose’s approach and set our own phones to ring throughout the day. What might you do each time the bell rings? Here are a few ideas:
- Say a short prayer
- Take a deep breath and get centered
- Make sure you’re fully aware and present
- Remember to be kind/loving to those around you
- Give thanks for all the good in your life
It seems like a great way to break through the hectic pace and cacophony of our modern lives—and put us regularly back in touch with what really matters.