For the past few weeks I’ve been living with a dear group of friends in a community called The Monkies, which is based in a beautiful house in Schiedam (near Rotterdam) in the Netherlands. I’ve enjoyed the experience so much and feel very grateful for the lessons I’ve learned (and re-learned) while being there, so I thought I’d share some of these here.
Who are the Monkies?
The Monkies are a community of people practicing mindfulness in their daily lives, and consciously living in a more mindful, creative and compassionate way. The name is not about connecting back to our animalistic ape-like nature (though I think there is something to be said for this!) ‘Monkies’ actually refers to living in a Buddhist-influenced and slightly monastic way, but with no strict rules and lots of playfulness.
Four people currently live at the Monkies house in Schiedam, though other people come to visit fairly often, plus there are other Monkies working across the Netherlands and internationally too.
In Schiedam, the Monkies run regular events, including mantra singing circles, mindful walks and meditation gatherings based on the Buddhist teachings of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. This may sound quite formal to some people, but the Monkies doesn’t feel a formal place to be at all; in fact, I’d say the most important thing practiced at the Monkies is living in an open, relaxed and joyful way.
The power of regular rituals
What I appreciate about Buddhism is the focus on practice rather than theory. In my experience, Buddhist teachings can be seen as guidelines rather than strict rules; they are there to be tested out in practice, and can also be discussed, debated and adapted as needed.
Of course Buddhism, like all religions, is vast and diverse and I know I have much more to learn; but I have already found many Buddhist practices useful in my own life. In particular, having a sangha community has been so valuable, and staying with the Monkies has been an opportunity to spend my daily life in a community of practice.
One thing the experience has reminded me of is the power of daily rituals: sitting in meditation together in the morning, mindfully eating, singing together, making time for shared silence and also making space to share really honestly with each other. All of this is practiced very lightly at the Monkies; there’s no formal or compulsory structure, just a group of people who are open to seeing life itself as a practice. I’ve found that coming from this place of shared understanding helps to strengthen the community and the individuals in it.
Simple joys can be so profound
In a way, joy is also a practice. Making time each day to really enjoy ourselves can seem so challenging at certain times, but it can also be very simple. A nice cup of tea, a delicious meal, a hug, a good conversation with a friend – hopefully these are all fairly regular experiences for many of us. Yet how much time do we give to appreciate these things in our daily lives?
While living with the Monkies I have enjoyed being truly present for these simple joys, and prioritising them too. Through giving more time for these joys I found that simple moments could quickly become more profound. Often a deep and transformative conversation could emerge over the breakfast table or while sharing a cup of tea.
Turning off autopilot
One of the many Thich Nhat Hanh quotes which I really love is:
“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with compassion”.
So often we go through life on autopilot, not consciously taking the time to stop and acknowledge the beauty and wonder around us. Being a part of the mindful community at the Monkies has helped me to smile at life more often, and for this I am very grateful.
With special thanks to Mirjam, Sefrijn and Erik and to Sarah who is currently in Plum Village, and also to all Monkies near and far! ☺
Most photos in this post are taken by Sefrijn Langen, www.howaboutyes.com.
Share your comments:
Do you live alone or with others? If you live with others (whether friends or family or in a community) do you have any shared practices – such as regularly eating together or making music together or making time for good conversation? How do you experience sharing your time and space with others at home? Please share any comments and thank you for reading 🙂
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