Italian monk in funeral attire, 1800's

Italian monk in funeral attire, 1800’s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been pondering over the notorious concept of time management. Can this unseizable human invention be managed in the first place?

Everyone’s favorite blogger and – i believe – as of currently the most popular & widely followed Zen master in English speaking world, Leo Babauta, has written this amazing post  where he expands on the ‘3 day monk’ syndrome ie. the tendency to obsess over certain things for brief periods of time; Leo concludes that “the key then is not being a three-day monk, but saying a 20-minute every-day prayer. ”

I can’t do that – for the life of me. Which is, i do meditate on a daily basis for over two decades now, but my interests vary and i really can’t strain myself to do things i don’t feel like doing anymore.

I don’t know about you – but my overprotective parents always pushed me into things they thought good for me, and – heck – choose not only my clothes and activities, but even people i was supposed to make friends with!

Thus i ended up studying subjects i wasn’t interested in, hanging out with people i didn’t really like and – to my teenage detriment – wearing clothes i hated.

God Bless them, but albeit i am 42 now and they are in their mid seventies and early eighties respectively, they are still doing their best not only to influence my choices – but to make them instead of me… and it’s just the way it is in these parts.

Of course, by now it’s down to subtle manipulation, but before it was sheer force – and it’s from there that i developed this utter inner revolt against anything i should be doing.

So,  if you feel like being a monk for three days – why wouldn’t you be one?

Who says we need to pursue every single activity persistently and continuously? What for?

There is plethora of methods and techniques out there how to stick with people and things one feels aversion to… Why would we?

I don’t get it. Unrelated to Leo’s post – as he does something very different and quite new –  every single spiritual teacher i had met in real life vented against ‘spiritual tourists’; but the truth is that’s against all the spiritual truths!  Why would anyone stick to a guru or a method they don’t like – more so for decades?! Enlightenment is a very disputable concept, no one knows what is it and God knows whether it exists in the first place! I’ve met people who claimed to be ‘permanently enlightened’, but i do doubt there is such thing – i saw them being angry and cranky and mean  and whatnot…  I experienced these exalted states of consciousnesses myself – and probably you have too; when you feel you are one with everything, when it is all peaceful and happy in a calm way and all answers are there and everything makes sense. These are the most joyous moments of my life and yet they never last longer than couple of hours or a day.

I am yet to see an enlightened master who is blissfully happy when driving in a rush hour – or while being involved in any other regular and highly stressful everyday activity; maybe it is possible – to be permanently zen – but indeed only if you are a monk.

But i digress. So you feel like being a monk for three days, and then going bungee jumping and whatnot the next three? Why not?

That’s more or less what i’ve been doing ever since i can actually choose what i want to do and i can’t complain about the results.

It is ok to be a monk for three days  and if you feel like being one every third week – or even every third month – for three days; in three years or maybe in thirty years, but certainly at some point of time, you will indeed arrive where you need to be, while skipping the metaphorical everyday self-whipping and wallowing in guilt.

Of course, i can’t attend to my cat every third week, but living with her is a choice i made consciously and i enjoy it – at least most of the times.

I haven’t decided about having children yet and it is definitely not a thing i’ll decide on lightly; i love kids but i am not sure i want such kind of commitment.

I am not sure about marriage either, my rule of thumb is: if i meet someone with whom i am happier and calmer than i am on my own – and it is like that over prolonged period of time – then yes, otherwise i don’t really see a reason to do so.

Both traditions i relate to – Montenegrin and Jewish – are deeply rooted in family values, but i am just not sure it will work for me. I love deeply and feel very devoted both to my parents and to my extended family, but is it what i want for myself – i am really not sure yet.

What i do know is that there wasn’t a way to pursue what i wanted  – while being married and having children, at least not where i am from. I do respect every woman who married young and raised a family – and this kind of genetic marathon is strongly encouraged by both traditions to which i belong, but i simply couldn’t see myself in their place; whenever circumstances started to smell of such an outcome, i had run away – and i must confess i don’t regret it the least.

Being married here is somewhat specific; most of the newly wed – at least for the first time – live with husband’s parents; it has nothing to do with material possessions (or the lack of it), it’s simply a tradition and the way it is. Even if the newly wed don’t literally live under the same roof with the parents – the latter heavily involve in their life, on a daily bases and i can’t stand that.

Most of my own girlfriends who are married – no matter rich or not – spent the first five years of their married life with his parents and that’s the part which i know i can’t make. Then, there is the endless promenade of siblings, cousins, godfathers and godmothers – the rule here is that one’s home should be always opened and the family – welcoming.  Of course, there is sociological explanations behind it – the institutions here are weak so one has to rely on their network of friends and family for just about anything, from medical appointments to finding a job; but that would exclude me time and to me personally, that is way more important than everything else put together.

I was called selfish – but i don’t think that knowing oneself and putting one’s own interest first is selfish, more so i think that putting extended family’s and tribe’s interest first, especially if it’s done merely due to social pressure, in 21st century is downright stupid.

And the  funny thing is – according to statistics, the richer the society – the higher is the number of single households and the other way around; so somehow i feel i am not the only one who sees the tradition shifting.

Also, when we look back – the history of  humanity is basically a history of endless suffering, so i am not even sure whether the models we’ve known so far work at all.

Montenegro is one of the most conservative countries in Europe, and according to many – the most conservative one; what i know from first hand experience is that patriarchy and stemming from it macho culture is equally damaging both to men and women –  luckily for both it is dying, even here. It is a long-lasting and painful dying, but by now it is obvious; still we are facing issues and challenges that West had overcame back in fifties.

Anyhow, it takes a girl a lot to be in her right to choose what she pleases to do; sadly or not,  for many of my generation it also means not marrying because for now it is difficult – if not impossible – to have a family and “to be a monk”, even if for three days only, and even only every third month.

“Strange Times to be a Jew” comes from Michael Chabon’s novel  The Yiddish Policemen’s Union which i’ve been reading and enjoying thoroughly, will expand on it soon!’s_Union