On Thursday, Jessica was informed that she lost her job at a company that manufactures and sells dog toys to pet stores, retailers, and distributors all over the country. Over the last seven years of her employment there, the business has changed quite a bit and the owner made a decision to let all in-house sales reps go, and outsource some outside salespeople instead. Her boss was generous, giving each employee a $4,000 severance package, and offering to provide letters of recommendation to them.
On Saturday, we watched “Choice Point: Align Your Purpose” on the Gaia channel, which was all about the cycles of changes in a person’s life after a crisis, which they call a “choice point”, an opportunity for personal growth and a chance to transform yourself into something in alignment with your Higher Self, or authentic self.
We are both roughly 40 years old, have chased our rock n roll dreams in bands, touring around in old vans and putting out DIY and indie label albums, while holding down day jobs.
She’s presently unemployed. I joined the ranks of Kentucky’s working poor a few years ago after leaving the land of opportunity in Phoenix 7 years ago to be closer to family after 15 years of being disconnected from them.
What’s it going to be now? Which path do you take from here? Which factory or warehouse will you make $12 an hour at? Can you escape somehow?
I suggested to her that she should take a silent retreat at the Santa Rita Abbey, The Monastic Community of the Trappistine Branch of Cistercian Nuns, in southeastern Arizona. At least 5 days.
I have been wanting to take a 10 day Vipassana or Trappist retreat (or hell, even a cross country hike or bicycle trip!) for a while, but you really have to be at that place in life, between jobs with time off and no short term desperate need for income, and no one dependent on you, such as children.
Why a Catholic retreat???
The reasons for this:
- They cost significantly less than other places that offer retreats, sometimes even for free. Santa Rita Abbey charges $40 per day. Private rooms, food and amenities included.
- The Trappists are interfaith, mostly quiet, and do not proselytize.
- Their communities are refuge from media, frenetic activities and stresses of urban life, advertising, electronic gadgets, and the temptation to distract yourself.
- The Trappists will inspire you to appreciate solitude, as The Trappists at The Abbey of Gethsemani have taught me to be okay with being alone.
- You get lots of quiet time to reflect, journal, and think about your life’s purpose, and so on.
- Their singing and rituals are quite pleasant to experience.
A Daily Meditation on Work
Key points from today’s chapter of 365 Tao: Daily Meditations by Deng Ming Dao:
- You must work to survive.
- You labor in harmony with the seasons. (In his example, a woodcutter must work hard prior to the first cold to have the luxury of working less during the snowy winter.
- You must work smarter not harder. (Let the blade of the ax do the work. You don’t have to swing hard if you strike the wood with the grain, not against the grain.)
- “True labor is half initiative and half knowing how to let things proceed on their own.”
I grew up in a workaholic culture. I had a conversation with my father where he remarked that in conversations, there really isn’t much to talk about except what you do for a living or talk about your family or kids.
There is philosophy. Art. Music. Books. Ideas. Travel stories. Trivia.
I later learned from a conversation this week with my grandmother (his mother) that work is a family value, her father (my great grandfather) also put an emphasis on work and lamented that being unable to work as much as an elderly person bothered him much later in his life. This is true of most of my aunts, uncles, and cousins on his side of the family.
I was involved in a lot of lazy activities growing up. Reading books. Writing. Playing guitar in bands. Listening to records. This created some conflict in my family when I was younger. I was a lazy person.
Even now, as I type this, I’m writing a blog on a vacation day off from work. Is writing “work”? Is this a good use of my time or is this lazy? Should I be loading trucks or remodeling a house instead?
I did notice in the last few years, my playing in bands was somewhat more respectable to my father when I was playing in a busy cover band, as it hadn’t been when I was playing punk bands that didn’t make so much money. The cover band wa loading and unloading trailers, which he could relate to. Putting in the hours and making money by providing a service that had a real market demand.
Today, I earn less money from working at an order fulfillment warehouse in Kentucky than I did 17 years ago in a call center in Tempe.
I actually enjoy the physical labor of loading trucks and shipping orders of shoes and apparel. Some of the work is repetitive and I can become bored during a 1o hour work day, but I am also blessed to be able to listen to headphones while I work, and I utilize my work day to learn from listening to audio books, lectures, and good podcasts while I am working.
I have a Thomas Merton quote handwritten in my pocket notebook that I refer to often:
“And so, for a contemplative, there is supreme value in the ordinary routine of work and poverty and hardship and monotony that characterize the lives of all the poor and uninteresting and forgotten people in the world.”
-from New Seeds of Contemplation.
My lesson from Deng Ming-Dao today is that I should utilize the winter months to work overtime to pay off my debts and save money so that I may work less during the summer months so I can spend time in nature, enjoying the better weather with my children.
Day 8 of Daily Stoic: SEEING OUR ADDICTIONS
My addictions that I need to work on this year:
- Caffeine, particularly expensive
energy drinks” such as Rock Star, Red Bull, etc.
- Facebook addictiction.
All I can think of, for now.
See you tomorrow.
Aint’ got no cards, don’t pay no tax
For a score in me hand I’ll be breaking me back
I been working
And I been working all day for me mate
Call me a crook, call me bent
But I need more than food and rent
I been working
And I been working all day for me mate
Cocksparrer, “Working”, from the Shock Troops album