It’s been a long time since I posted on this blog or wrote anything about my own personal journey. I do maintain another blog which I dupdate regularly but have been shy there about writing about my eremitical aspirations because it seems an affectation.
Declaring, “I am a hermit” after only a few months or a few weeks of real solitude, ie a novice at the beginning of the journey, seems pompous and preposterous. A terible self-conceit. Playing dress-up. Totally absurd. Yet every hermit, including those of long-standing must go through the early stages when they are still partly in the world. In fact these early days are perhaps some of the most difficult and challenging. I yearn to read about the experiences of other hermits; but so much of what is written is about hermits not by hermits, or is so coated in Christian mythology that the experience itself is inaccessible to a non-believer (though i believe the experiences, as hermits, of hermits of all beliefs is approximately the same. so i will percevere with this blog and write my thoughts in the hope of being helpful to others and clarifying to myself.
It is so easy to talk about wanting to be a hermit. And maybe it’s easy to write about being a hermit when firmly established. But in between these two states lies a chasm or desert (choose your own imagery).
Being an octupus
At what point do I start being a hermit and stop being of the world? I get up early in the morning for morning practice, eat a simple breakfast, then find myself suddenly overwhelmed by the memory of a friend, the caress of a lover, the laughter around a table, and I wonder if I can ever live a life away from that. Yet when i’ve given myself to all “that” I’ve found it inadequate and unsatisfying.
Once the round of doubts begins I take take up a whole morning arguing with myself about this. I can be a hermit in the world – live quietly yet still go to dinner parties. I can let this former life go. Why forgo any pleasure when life is short enough? Being “out” of the world – is this really what I want for my life?
Often I feel like an octupus – with so many tentacles reaching out in all directions for ideas, people, pleasures, places to cling to.
As each sucker examines what it’s clinging to, and finds it wanting, another tentacle quickly finds something else to cling to and examine. In Buddhist this is called Monkey Mind – leaping about from one branch of a tree to another. All my life I’ve lived like this – running from one project to another, one place to another, one book with answers to another.
It is exhausting. And yet, being able to see this confusion is already a gift of the hermitage. With fewer distraction I have to make my own! Perhaps at the bottom of this lies both my loneliness (which I did not exepct to find) and my need for other people’s affirmation.
Hermitage is a sailboat
My hermitage is a sailboat and each time a visitor has come to the boat and inevitably remarked on how lovely she is or how adventurous I am, my self-esteem has risen and I’ve felt recommitted to this life. A few days alone again and my doubts re-emerge. I love people and I love the world – and care passionately for both, yet
So far this summer I have twice tried to sell the sailboat but the deals have not gone through. One morning I almost gave her away but the arrivial of a friend inviting me to go out to sea in his boat took me away and by the time I returned the person I wanted to give my home to had gone and the thought has passed.
Years ago I had a rong made and took a vow that i would live on my boat for the rest of my days. I don’t wear the ring during the day because it would get in the way and would be damaged while sailing. but in the evening, when i change for evening practice, I slip the ring on my finger once more to remind myself of the vow I made when I was living that other life and that looked forward to my new way. Strange as it may seem, wearing the ring helps enormously. I hesitate to say there is a vibration from it that helps me be more steadfast, but I feel more sure – until the next waves of doubts assails me.