The Long Pilgrimage

When I left the monastery, my initial plan was to get a job, buy a car, and rent an apartment. It seemed like the obvious thing to do.

My first stop was living with my parents for a few months. They graciously agreed to host me during this transition period in my life. It was a good, familiar landing zone.

I tried a few things. My shitposting volume went up. I started a podcast. I also started Saturday Night Metta, when I realized there was no weekly meditation group dedicated solely to loving kindness, at least that I could find. I ran a meditation course. Started learning Tai Chi, and dancing regularly. I found a sangha I really liked. I made a music video, and made plans for a second one.

I also started a job. I was doing good work: working for a non-profit with a mission I believe in, working on interesting projects, using all of my various skills to serve their organization. I liked the team and the work. And yet: something scratched at me. I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the side projects I was working on. And I wasn’t convinced that working a traditional job at a non-profit was the way I could be of most benefit.

When I was working on my personal projects, I was having fun; but when I was “working”, I wasn’t – I felt low energy, irritable, and out of place. Even though it was non-profit work, and I believed in the mission, and I liked the people. All that didn’t cut it.

Besides, it wasn’t just about me – I was getting a lot of positive feedback about my personal projects. My podcast began to develop a small audience, and it seemed like guests enjoyed talking to me as much as I enjoyed talking to them. People really liked the loving kindness meditations I was doing, and started attending them regularly.

I just couldn’t bring myself to follow through on the plan. To get a job, a car, and an apartment. I couldn’t see myself doing it.

I started to craft a new plan.

I asked friends if I could stay with them for 4-6 weeks, and found a number of people willing to host me. 4-6 weeks is enough time to spend significant time with someone, to get to know an area, to make plans (like scheduling podcasts) – but not too long.

I’ve been on pilgrimage before: once for four days in Vermont, and another time for six days in California. I loved how pilgrimage worked as a spiritual practice. Pilgrimage requires simplicity, trust, surrender- an acceptance of the current moment, a release of any attachments, a response to what is asked of us.

This feels similar to my past pilgrimages, but also different. It’s the long pilgrimage. It’s indefinite- maybe I’ll live this way for a few months or a year, and maybe I’ll live this way for the rest of my life, the way Peace Pilgrim walked on pilgrimage for the final 28 years of her life.

I could be okay with that. I plan to give my life to being of service, and I don’t have plans for a house or kids or a retirement fund.

Looking back on it, I can see my stay with my parents as my first stop on my pilgrimage. Being home – a good place to start. I laid many good foundations for this life there. Meeting my current sangha. Recording a number of excellent podcasts, finding my voice. Starting Saturday Night Metta. Beginning to do Metta Dance regularly. Recording the first music video. Starting my Patreon.

I’m writing this essay in the final week of my time in Portugal, my second stop. This trip has also been incredible. Much has been clarified – I’ve gained new skills and seen deeper into my own purpose. Learning a little Portuguese. Learning to move smoothly. Stretching. Starting to draw. Starting a 100×100 challenge thread, even if playfully. Starting these 100 1,000 word essays. Getting the tattoo. More than I can say.

I’m getting ready to go to Austin next, with my host @coyotespike. Looking forward to spending more than a few days in a row with Timothy. Seeing old friends in Austin, like Emily and James and Danny and Pamela. Meeting new friends in person – there’s a lot of Twitter people in Austin.

I hope that when my friends look back years later, they’ll remember the time fondly – that they’ll remember me not just as a good houseguest, but as someone who brought true joy and benefit into their lives. Where we both left our time together being better friends, better people – clearer who we are and how we can serve the world.

So much is possible when two people are together in the same space. What exactly is possible arises from the people, the place, the time, the context – but given the right people, it can be tremendously transformative for both people.

Rather than experiencing the predominant isolation, separation, and loneliness that is so prevalent in our times, we can play together, enjoy each other’s company; we can learn together, grow alongside each other.

I’m a lay person now, but I’m still trying to live a life inspired by the monastic training I did. I live a simple life, based on simplicity and generosity, dedicating my life to being of service.

I’m a wandering quasi-monk, on the long pilgrimage, living my life for the benefit of all beings.

P.S. If you’d be interested in hosting me in your home in the future for 4-6 weeks, please let me know! ❀️