Questions on SBNR and New Monasticism

This is in response to some great questions by T.S. on mentoring young people and how the SBNR movement fits in with interpspiritual New Monasticism…T.S.’s post is here:

In terms of mentoring, we don’t believe that the mentors need to be close in age to young people. Sometimes just the opposite. One of the points we are making is that many of the traditions, with their theological frameworks and dogmatic formulations, are no longer speaking to many young people in a deep way. One example of this is the explosion of the SBNR movement. Yet, these traditions contain great wisdom, and most of our great living spiritual masters have emerged from one of the traditions. We feel that this wisdom needs to be passed on, but it cannot be done in the traditional way of one committing to a specific tradition and receiving mentorship from within. So one question that arises is: how to pass on this wisdom?

Adam and I have found that a methodology similar to what the Snowmass Conference has developed is very promising. This harkens back to individual people’s biographies…their personal stories of transformation and the Divine, the Buddha mind, or whatever it is they have found that has brought them insight, wisdom, and greater expansions of love and compassion…and that by sharing these stories, insights, and experiences in an intimate and personal way becomes a way of transmitting their wisdom to others. Through sharing their experience, and sometimes even respectfully challenging each other on the interpretation of our experience, the process leads into a transmission that begins to happen, where one begins to receive the transmission of the other’s wisdom, of their lived spiritual experience and maturity. This differs from the traditional model because this transmission isn’t necessarily beholden to, or interpreted within, the traditional framework that the experience arose within.

So that spiritual mentorship becomes more about deep friendship and sharing, and the movements of the spirit that occur among us. In this framework, I think there is ample room for mentors from no traditions, because it is not really about being in a tradition, or being in multiple traditions, or being in no tradition, but about one’s lived experience and how to create space so that it can be passed on to a younger generation. Because there is so much wisdom that is contained in the traditions (I think of a Father Thomas Keating, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and even Brother Wayne who was a very committed Catholic), I think it is important that we find ways to bridge the gap between the traditions and the interspiritual movement, of which I see SBNR as a large part.

In terms of our own tradition, Adam and I would not say that we work from within a specific tradition…our methodology has been much more one of following the “guidance of the holy spirit.” Note that this is just one way of describing it, but it is a way of cultivating a deep relationship with life, and finding it becomes a real <em>relationship</em> that then guides us, often deeply into varying traditions at different parts in our journeys, and at times into receiving deep wisdom and mentorship from people who claim no particular tradition. But underlying the journey is a definite sense of guidance. faith, and trust. Interestingly, when I look at the personal stories of other “spiritual aspirants”, from whatever tradition they come out of, I often get the same sense of “archetypal story”. This shows to me that the spiritual journey is much more about being a human being than being a Buddhist, Catholic, SBNR, or whatever. I think this is part of what interspirituality is pointing towards. So I think we have a profound resonance with the SBNR movement, as the interest lies in the spiritual dimension of the human being without being beholden to a religious tradition.

On the 7-yr program, right now it is in the visionary stage, but is meant to model the more traditional time period for “monastic formation”, where often monks and nuns do not take final vows until after a period of 7-10 years. It is a way to build a framework for people who are interested in undergoing a similar rigorous process of “spiritual maturing”, less about intellectual study or pastoral training, such as in a bachelors or masters or interfaith/minister degree, and more about a deep contemplative process that can be mentored, including psychological shadow work, contemplative practice, and intellectual study, and can be tailored to each individuals needs. For some, it may be being drawn more to a particular path, such as Sufi, or Catholic, etc, or it may trace out a much more broad path. So I think it is a vision to model just what you mentioned, a rigorous and deep contemplative training that leads one into a formal commitment to “monkhood”. Of course, we are redefining monkhood in some radical ways in the manifesto, as we expand it to include those in relationships and working actively in the world. Yet, the idea of the spiritual warrior and the complete giving of ones life to the spiritual journey remains the same. (and also a quick note that “monk” can refer to a man or a woman in its original use).