Life can be overwhelming at times. To face life challenges and mitigate the growing demands, we can take a few lessons from the austere lifestyle of Carthusian monks. Absolute seclusion forms the basic lifestyle of these monks chained by strict discipline in all daily activities.
The life of a Carthusian monk is way different from other monks where seclusion and disconnection from the outer world rule. The Carthusian order was established in 1084 by St. Bruno on the concept of seclusion, silence, study and prayer along with a stringent diet plan comprising specific foods and excluding some.
The only goal of the Carthusian order is contemplation, which is to be achieved by the purity of heart and charity. This will lead to peace, liberty and joy. It is a long journey to unify the heart with the contemplative rest through continuous prayer and seclusion.
How a Carthusian monastery was designed?
In the monastery, the priory in which each monk dwelled was spacious and substantial enabling him to enjoy a good standard of life. It is a private cell having a cloister to meditate and a garden surrounded by high walls to facilitate absolute disconnection from the outer world.
A monk can focus on his spiritual and religious development through study and prayers without any worldly care. The living room of the spacious cell would be decked with few pieces of furniture. The bedroom is quite spacious. The mattress usually made of stacked cornstalks and a straw-filled pillow provided the comfort of sleeping.
Each priory has a small library and a workroom with all sorts of tools. The monk can design his own furniture and eating vessels. He is allowed to do some gardening to produce his own food.
The lifestyle of Carthusian monks:
The monks dwelling in the same Carthusian monastery rarely met one another excepting on Sundays or at the church and Mass, which was less frequent. Even when they dined at the refectory, no talking was permitted. They had to follow a strict timetable which included a daily ritual of 8 offices (or prayers).
To respect the absolute silence, inaudible announcements in the form of notice boards were visible. These boards bore simple instructions like “time to walk”, “time to shave” or “time to launder clothes” etc.
The Carthusian monk’s diet:
Seclusion is one of the prime objectives of Carthusian monks. It is obvious they have to eat and drink alone. Currently, they normally have a mid-morning meal and a second light meal after the vespers. Their diet mostly comprise of eggs, fish, pulses and vegetables grown by them. They never eat meat.
The lay brothers bring the food and drink to the cells passing them through a hatch created beside the door. Fasting is a regular feature that calls for special permission. They drink beer or wine occasionally. The eating habits, however, varies with each monastery with no major variations from those mentioned.
6 Important life lessons to learn from Carthusian monks:
It may apparently seem the life of these monks to be extremely punishing. In reality, it is so at the initial stage but after getting accustomed, they turn out to be happy and enriched persons.
We may think that these men are up for a totally fruitless and thankless cause by making tremendous sacrifices almost alike to spiritual suicide. But on deeper thinking, we can dig out few life lessons for the betterment of our lives.
1. Create well-ordered lives:
Observe the constancy of the routine of the Carthusian monks.This definite trait helps in building dedication in every work we do. With a determined effort, we can set our daily life schedules and have a better grip on time.
This can spell a lot of difference in our mental peace and frustration and success and failure of our lives.Imagine the tensions and chaos arising from a disorganized life or the inability to maintain our time schedules. The Carthusian principle can usher in a lot of orderliness and help in keeping ourselves contained and happy.
2. Avert devilish diversions:
The Carthusian monks never teach us what not to do to avoid distraction but demonstrate it effectively through absolute seclusion. Take a pause and scan your thoughts that how much time and energy do you spend on unnecessary things.
The stacking of material goods beyond a certain level definitely brings in perplexity and turmoil. The same holds true in gathering excessive unusable knowledge or information. What are we going to achieve with this unwanted knowledge-load? Many of us remain engaged in works that hinder us in accomplishing our goals. These are devilish diversions.
The best people in leadership are able to skillfully segregate essential and non-essential things. Here is the point for seeking absolute seclusion. This gives you the power to contemplate and ponder about your life’s goals and keep you focused.
3. Save your health:
Take the simplicity of Carthusian monks’ diet. The monks maintained excellent health in spite of their minimal consumption. They never enjoyed desserts, delicious dishes, soft beverages or meat. Their consumption, till date, is much below the average consumption of an individual.
Yet, these monks are active and alive going through the rugged lifestyle. Given the escalated medical expenses that we face today, emulation of this lifestyle to a certain degree may save both our money and health.
4. Prayer guides your thoughts and actions:
It is not that one has to follow the eight offices of the Carthusian order. How many hours in daytime do we devote for prayer and worship? A daily devotional session is not only good for our spiritual wellbeing but it also helps us reset our mind and body. You become more focused and attentive. More you pray more present you are to people with whom you interact. Praying helps you sorting your priorities enabling you to deliver better.
Another important aspect of praying is to unplug yourself from the world. Take a short break for 1-2 days every week and go to a place where you can pray and contemplate. It is a way to get out of worldly activities and nourish your spiritual soul to view things from a different perspective. Your mind will be full of peace.
5. Maintaining calm:
Appreciate the absolute silence maintained by the Carthusian monks.It instills calmness in us.We desperately look for silence to get rid of all sorts of noises buzzing us all throughout the day.
Not many of us could cut ourselves off from all the noise. The constant urge to react and respond to things happening around us ceases if we can maintain absolute silence for some time. It helps us to organize thoughts before letting them go disarray.
6. You get the ownership of your schedule:
This is the major impact that Carthusian order can have on one’s life especially in today’s context when we are continuously bombarded by external stimuli. We have lots of things to take care of. But if you divide the entire day into bit-sized pieces, you can gain the ownership of the schedule. You will learn to sort and segregate your activities ably.
Modern advancements have helped us a lot but we should not be slaves to those things which can do more harm than good. Sometimes, we need to experience certain extreme things as the Carthusian order to seek the alternatives that can be incorporated in our daily lives. This will make us feel that life can be simple only if we wish to make the choice.