The Five Practices

everyday practices for the everyday mystic

The traditional versus the everyday monk

Most of us equate monastic habits with images of traditional monasteries and convents, whose halls and small rooms house men and women devoted to God, ensconced in religious clothing, rituals and practices.

Oblate Medallions

Traditionally, if a lay person wanted to associate with a monastery they would become an Oblate. But what of those among us who don’t feel that form of sacred calling or holy compulsion? Rather, what of those who find themselves so deeply integrated into the everyday world, that a call of a different sort emerges?

Experiences, these days, seem to be taking a back seat to technology. But like the ancient Taoist sages climbing through the millenia to talk with quantum physicists, so too shall technology and experience meet.


An everyday calling, in everyday life

The emergence of an everyday calling sounds far different than the ringing of temple bells or the melodic chants crying out in a Buddhist monastery or Catholic convent. Because what we frequently encounter in today’s world can be the lonely inner cry of anyone of us, for any number of reasons. Hence, one of our vows declares:

In a world that’s gone crazy, I will Abide

My personal break from the mold was a gradual discovery of what worked and what didn’t. My deepest realizations occurred as a result of my Jiu Jitsu training, where my teacher constantly implored his students to apply what they were learning on the mat into their personal, everyday life circumstances, goals, problems and relationships.

Over the years, I’ve encountered many mystics and intellectuals who have become friends and inspirations. Early in my blogging days, I came across Jon Zuck, a Christian mystic, who as far back as the mid-1990s had a website called The Wild Things of God.

Then there is James Souttar, whose insights into Sufism and mystical Christianity I trust without reservations. Like Jon, James would likely never think of himself as a monk in everyday life, and if you look at his writing here on Medium there may be very little to give it away. But that’s kind of the way it is with everyday mystics, isn’t it? You’ll typically never know who they are, because their deepest thoughts are found in the quiet, hidden recesses of their private lives.

And then there’s my brother, Scott Walter, whose teachings and Great River Institute remain an enormous influence on me. Yet his school is pretty much hidden away in the Blue Ridge mountains.

Most of the men and women that I’ve met — particularly those I’ve met through their blogging and writing — seemed to have discovered the web and then abandoned it. They originally soared in with high hopes and enthusiasm, spent some time blogging, and then nearly inevitably slipped away into obscurity, anonymity or service.

Along the way, I’ve observed their practices, as well as mine. And while not a single one of us would ever tell you that our practices are the practices, I think that collectively we have some things worth sharing.

The Five Practices of the Everyday Mystic

  1. Study and Training — formal or informal, reading or seminars, certifications or degrees. The so-called initiate never backs off. Study is a constant thread throughout their lives.
  2. Prayer and Meditation — there are many forms of prayer and meditation. For some, it’s as simple as breathing. For others, it’s a ritual or time set aside each day. For anyone, it’s about finding a better or deeper form of connectedness.
  3. Application and Integration — application is set at the very center of this list of practices because if you don’t apply it, what’s the point? The everyday mystic is practicing applying and using it in anything and everything they do and encounter.
  4. Modesty and Humility — if you meet an ordinary mystic, you might not even notice them. They’re not usually the star attraction. They tend to live small. They’ll tend to give you their last dollar, and are unobtrusive in helping the needy. They also tend to be givers, not takers.
  5. Devotion and Tirelessness — the dedicated everyday mystic can’t turn off the switch. It’s not that they are uninterested in other things. It’s more like their ‘devotion’ is something that’s burned in so deep that it’s never quite out of sight and mind.