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YoMonastic: thoughts about a Yoism-inspired monastic order

A duplicate of: http://twiki.yoism.org/twiki/bin/view/Main/YoMonastic

Added by colin #442 on 2003-12-10. Last modified 2008-03-05 09:01. Originally created 2003-12-10. F0 License: Attribution
Location: World
Topics: community, monasticism, Our Culture, personal, spirit

This document was originally published at: http://twiki.yoism.org/twiki/bin/view/Main/YoMonastic and was inspired by Yoism.

This is a proposal for a Yo-related monastic order


I am writing a proposal for a monastic order instead of going outside and starting a garden. It is 2003-05-08-1823.


why a monastic order? Why not an ecovillage?

The idea came into my mind after encountering Yoism. http://yoism.org.

That these guys are working on the non-monastic project, and have the integral view, seeing the need for the religious approach, as well as collaborative, "opensource" development of the religion, somehow freed me to think of the monastic approach. I was also prodded by Raphael Spindell's Soldiers of Ahimsa. I had already thought of starting a "cult"- but had not yet separated it into monastic and non-monastic aspects.

Why the monastic approach?

On an ecovillage- and my experience was with the discussion around the Belize ecovillage- many people are looking for mates and planning to start families.

I find I'm most interested in being with people who are focused on their work.

The idea also seemed natural- many religions have monastic orders, why not Yoism?

and, there have been quite a few times in my life where I wished there was a religion where being a monk in that religion appealed to me. Why not make that reality happen? I also note that Daniel Quinn was drawn to monastic life.

Other indications:

In my life I've been seeking to develop self-discipline, routine, a practice, focus on work. My efforts to this end would be significantly enhanced by working with others who are similarly oriented.

Is there a need for a monastic order larger than your need?


on population growth: http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC31/NorbergH.htm found from reading: http://www.eco-action.org/dt/ladakh.html

is a story about the role of a monastery in a sustainable village.

I believe there is an over-focus on young people. Consider: you're a child growing up. You hear parents, politicians, and so on, saying that what they're doing is for the children. But the parents and politicians themselves are overweight, out of shape, and work in offices all day. As a kid growing up, I think, surely there must be more to life than raising children!

The development of a new monastic movement will focus on making the lives of children ages 18 and older wonderful. Life does not end when you become 20. Chances are you could live five times as long.

Books such as The life we are given affirm the ability of the older-than-adolescent child to continue to learn, grow, and transform in radical ways.

The monastic order will focus on creating an environment where adults who are not raising children can play and challenge themselves and work with focus on projects that are important to them.

In addition, the monastic environment will offer some of the benefits of creating an environment one loves to be in by working with like-minded individuals, as opposed to the more Standard American Dream, of making enough money so that one can isolate oneself from all the things one would rather not be around, incessant car-alarms, or amplified sound, for example.

Now what?

O.K., I can see why some people might be interested in a monastic order. What are your goals for this particular order?

I'll start general and get more specific.


I would propose that the order have only two abstract tenets.

These tenets are: (1) The most important thing you can learn is that you are the one best able to decide what is best for yourself.

(2) The goal of the order is to work to create a culture where individuals whose actions benefit themselves at the expense of the group of all things are discouraged in that behavior and individuals whose actions benefit the group the most are encouraged in their behavior. The group of all things is all living things and all non-human made non-respirating things.

That second one is an awkward tenet- in time I hope it is refined. The basic message is "our group is the group of all things. When we evaluate good and bad, we consider the group of all things."

I leave the abstract tenets at that.

At this point, I do not wish to tangle with the extant Yo texts and principles. I would like for the monasticism I'm describing here to be seen as part of Yoism, because I think we will be stronger together than apart. I do believe that this and all the other aspects of the proposal will be in line with the existing Yo texts and principles, but I feel there is no need to enunciate more than those two abstract tenets for now.

As with non-monastic yoism, all aspects of the order will be open to revision by consensus of those participating in the order. In time, I envision different monastic communities in the order with many variations. What will stand as unifying these diverse communities may be nothing more than those two abstract tenets, combined with a focus on creating community for people who are not raising children and who are over age 17.


What are the specific details of the Yoan monastic community you are proposing to start? So far nothing sounds terribly monk-like.

I'll describe my current goals and practices and say what I would like in a monastic community.


(1) I wish to be a part of a community striving for 100% sustainability on the land that it owns or can reasonably expect to have access to indefinitely.

That is an extreme goal even by most ecovillage standards. This means that everything used by the members of the monastery will come from that land in a manner that they can reasonably expect to maintain indefinitely. That is the ideal. In order to find others to join me in monasticism, and in order to wish to live there myself, that ideal will be compromised, but there will always be awareness of and reference to that vision.

Bread labor less than 4hrs / day

(2) I wish to arrange the schedule and metabolism of the monastic community such that Scott Nearing's (author with Helen Nearing, of Living the good life) maximum of 4 hours of bread labor per community resident per day is maintained or improved upon. Bread labor is the labor needed to maintain the existence of the community and would include raising food, making necessary money, and administrative details.

In my own life within the larger community of the US, I have been able to maintain myself, and even save, working 4hrs/weekday in three different cities, in the past four years. I believe it is possible to establish a community focusing on 100% sustainability where the amount of bread labor per community member is as low as 10 hours per week. That is after all a thesis of anarcho-primitivism (http://www.eco-action.org/dt/futureprim.html ). However, I would be quite comfortable in the monastery setting I'm describing with a 20-hour workweek, with weekends left absolutely free. I am aware that in establishing the community, or depending on seasonal issues, as described in Living the good life this ideal may not be possible, but in the long-term, in the community I am a part of, it will be a feature (though perhaps with seasonal variation).

In browsing the ic reachboard, it is easy to find communal environments where 40-hour workweeks are mandated. But we can do much better than that.

What will the nuns and monks do with the rest of their time?

For much of it, they will be left to their own devices. This is meant to be an environment that will be appealing to anyone who values living simply and close to the earth- there are no other goals that we wish to require residents to slave to.

Personal practice

(3) However, unlike an ecovillage or a primitive band, the monks and nuns have an additional goal: developing a personal practice. I have recently been attempting to maintain a practice as described in the book The Life We Are Given by George Leonard and Michael Murphy. I would like to see some daily group practice similar to what is described in that book that would be a mandatory part of monastic residence.

Weekday schedule

An imaginary weekday schedule of the monastery might be as follows:

  • 5am rise
  • 5-6am personal exercise (for me a run or swim, if possible)
  • 6-7am Integral Transformative Practice Kata (mandatory group)
  • 7-8am personal exercise (for me weights)
  • 8-9am breakfast / break
  • 9-11 or 9-1 bread labor
  • 11 or 1 on: unstructured time.

Exercise / healthcare

In addition to the group practice, monastery residence should have additional exercises of their own including some amount of resistance exercise. (weights)

The monastery will most likely be providing for the healthcare of its residents, and as part of the deal, and because residents may remain at the monastery until they die, a fair amount of intense exercise should be required. For both older women and older men weight training is one of the most beneficial exercises for prolonging quality of life (in addition to practices like yoga).


I personally aspire to be a raw food vegan. But I also aspire to maintain a decent level of exercise, and some amount of animal protein seems to help. Since it seems likely that others interested in this kind of monastery will also be vegan or aspiring vegan, I may be able to have other vigorously exercising vegans to learn from. If animals are eaten, ideally they should be raised on the monastery land.

Weekly aspects of the practice

In the manner of Yoism, there will be a weekly gathering, most likely also serving as outreach to the larger community around the monastery. My preference is for this gathering to be Friday night (similar to Jewish Shabbat). Unstructured time is very important to the process of deciding and acting on what is best for one's self- which I also call "unschooling the self"--giving one's self time and seeing what one does with it. And the weekend should remain 48 hours of such unstructured time. While I expect that I and many other monastery members will maintain our weekday schedule on the weekends, that is our choice, and not a mandatory part of monastery life. I realize this division of the week and all aspects of scheduling are arbitrary and welcome alternative suggestions. What I've written here is what I know will work for me-- so at least one person will like it!

Annual observances

We are a growing movement. By default, I tend to behave like the Quaker approach of "every day is holy, no one day is holier than another" but if we were to have festivals, I imagine we could look to the pagan community for some earth-based approaches.

A note on community.

I wish to keep the mandatory meetings and meals where attendance is required to a minimum. Beyond the weekday group practice and morning meal & friday night gathering, I would hope that individual freedom on the monastery would not be constrained any more. Doing so would get in the way of one of the basic goals of the monastery: to allow the individuals to devote themselves to the work/play that they choose.

I would hope that administrative meetings and meetings like the Quaker meetings for business can be kept to a minimum or arranged in such a way as to disrupt the lives of those they matter to as little as possible.

Our place in the group of all things

There is one communal duty of the monastery related to the second tenet that does need to be maintained, and that will have at least some role in the Friday gatherings, if not other aspects of monastery life as well. This also relates to the "planetary villager" concept ( http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC01/Gilman1.htm ).

In keeping up Derrick Jensen's example, at least some people at the monastery need to stay tuned in to what's happening in the outside world, good and bad, related to the group of all things. On one hand this can be seen as simple self-interest- as some of these events could affect the monastery. More accurately, it can be seen as an aspect of the monastery members' practice of developing a global consciousness. Individuals will be left to decide whether to act on the awareness, but a maintenance of the communication and research necessary to create this awareness is a mandate of the monastery community.

Other issues.

This is a monastery. Surely there must be more regulations!

There are many other issues that will need addressing:

  • Where will the monastery be located?
  • How will the monastery buy its land and pay taxes / insurance / self insure / fund good works?
  • Will members be allowed private property?
  • How do people join or leave?
  • What about sex?
  • What about amplified sound & other questions related to technology use?
  • What if someone wants to practice the violin or start a monastery school with lots of kids running around?
  • What about disabled or ill members?
  • What about growing old and dying?
  • I believe those issues will be manageable if the basic vision above appeals to enough motivated persons.


Alright, so you've defined some possible characteristics of the monastic life, how are you going to make it happen?

On some level, this is already happening. The monastery is at 2241 Casemont Drive in Falls Church, VA. My schedule approximates the one above- but without the Friday gatherings, and I'm currently funding food and health insurance from savings. However, for many reasons, I plan to move the monastery, preferably by November. The main reason is that it gets cold here in winter. Another reason is that there's only room for me here.

To make this a reality I will be presenting this idea to various audiences and asking for feedback, especially from people who would like to make something like this, or some variant of it, happen.

I will also be researching other similar efforts by getting a hold of the FIC communities book and looking at existing monastic communities, or other communities with similar features.

It is conceivable I will find an existing community that I could be comfortable with.

It occurs to me that if I have land and a means of providing the kind of lifestyle I'm describing here, many will be interested, but the more of a long shot this seems, the fewer that will be interested.

My hope is that there are others like me who are already and could continue to live a monastic-like life on their own, but by my efforts in advertising this proposal, we can find each other, and if reasonable, pool our presences and our resources, and eventually work towards an effort on a larger scale.

One issue that could be a problem is if one individual has significantly more resources than others to devote to the project. But that would also be an opportunity that could be evaluated should it arise.

So there you have it. I am excited to see how this vision grows and is refined and made real.

I welcome all comments, criticisms, and reactions.

-- ColinLeath - 09 May 2003

I like this idea. Many members of Yo where already considering buying a large parcel of land somewhere in the north east, its too bad you have such an aversion to cold (I love the winters, and the falls and the springs...but there is a secret to enjoying them that many people find it nearly impossible to learn: dress warmly.) Anyway, if you would reconsider your aversion to the north east and look for properties around here, I bet the YO members and board of directors would be interested in putting up real money to purchase a property for such a project.

-- IsaacKriegman - 09 May 2003

Zac and Dan, Thanks for your encouragement and offer of help!

I was in NYC the past two winters, and even went on a winter campout MLK weekend to Harriman SP (via commuter rail) to practice primitive skills.

The advantages of being able to live and work in the Northeast are great, especially if one is in the business of growing a cult/religion/monastic movement (access to people), and if one prefers not to use a car.

I tried. And the result is affirmation #5: By November of this year (2003) I will either be some place where the temperature does not (except rarely) fall below 5 degrees celsius, or I will have solid plans in place to be there shortly.

You probably noted the YoMonastic proposal's emphasis on fitness. I find for myself that not needing large amounts of clothes and not having to worry about hypothermia or slipping on ice contributes a lot to my physical activity. I also like to dance outside, and thin jazz shoes or bare feet and below freezing temperatures don't go together.

(Thoth has this problem as well http://skthoth.org/SKTHOTH/Wish_Listx.html - but I think he's in NYC to stay, regardless)

However, here is a story of neo-primitive living in Wisconsin for some cold-weather inspiration: http://www.eco-action.org/dt/wildup.html

It is also possible that in warmer regions, the need for shelter will be greatly reduced. While land might cost more, we would not need to build an extensive indoor space.

In Monterey, CA, I imagined my ideal dwelling space as simply a roof! As even in the winter, one's hands remain warm enough while sitting still outside to do things like write and read books.

I'll be letting the proposal sit for a while. Getting it out has let me become quiet. The vision feels good, and I expect I'll be continuing to work in that direction.

-- ColinLeath - 10 May 2003

Related links

Here are some sites related to this proposal. The last three are existing projects that relate to what I proposed. The last two I might actually like working at/with.

I also note that while New Orleans and surrounding areas meets my temperature requirement, I've been leaning towards AZ, NM, and Southern California, even though the winter nighttime temperatures can be very cold. I'm not sure why exactly- something about the desert? The dryness of the air? My allergies? Enjoyment of not having it rain much?

-- ColinLeath - 12 May 2003

AdaptiveLearningCommunity - does this differ from the monestary idea, and if so how?

-- One of the Kreigman Brothers

Just a bit on Colin's visit to MadreGrande monastery.

-- ColinLeath - 14 March 2004

Colin Leath <>    

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