Or "why is this so different?"
People want to know what kind of monk I was, and why I'd leave it behind. I'll tell you that detail, but you may be more interested to hear the journey itself...
The meditation that I teach is what I wish I had back when I began in 1997. I needed something to help with my emotions, my stress, and my secret feelings of crushingly low self-worth.
Almost as an answer to my wish for help, I found some monks who taught me to meditate, yet the teaching wasn’t as clear as it could be. There were omissions; there was an aloof, remote mystique; there was specialness; and there was a lack of groundedness that kept me from recommending it to my friends.
But even though it had all of that going against it, it was changing my life. No--it was saving my life!
The teaching was incomplete and that eventually led me to find the teachers of the monks and take vows so that I could get to the bottom of what I was missing.
I found my new home. Under careful guidance, I was refining my awareness of the underlying fabric of reality and reliably experiencing a freedom that I only had dim memories of when I was small. For this, I am grateful to this day.
I thought I was home for good. And I thought that the monks had it all together.
Turns out monks are people too and they can have blind spots and unaddressed beliefs that can limit the development of their students. I had wanted these monks to embody some perfect, imaginary ideal, and of course that's an unfair projection upon them.
After 5½ years as a monk, I made a difficult decision to leave as I realized I was living in an insulated bubble world and losing my authenticity. I was acting like how monks are expected to act, talking like monks are expected to talk, and gravitating toward people who needed me to be that way.
It just wasn't for me anymore.
After that, I didn’t want to teach at all. However, when my regular, normal friends asked me to instruct them on how to meditate, I couldn’t say no. How could I? I knew what meditation could do, if taught properly. But I didn’t want to teach in the way that I was taught, either. I saw that it was set up to make them ultimately dependent upon me, to make me *special*, and I didn’t want that.
So I began to teach again, but questioned every little thing I had been taught. I questioned, examined, experimented, threw away what didn’t work, and kept what did. With the help of another ex-monk, we even questioned the very foundation we had been taught, and used some alternative forensic means to determine what was pure in our lineage and what was tacked on recently. (Turns out some ego-y stuff was grafted in about 2,000 years ago and no one was comfortable questioning "the way things are".)
I sought out new mentors to help fill in the blanks that even the main monks couldn’t address. Regular stuff, like when to use meditation for this or for that. And by “that” I mean the tricky stuff, like childhood trauma that plays out in obvious and subtle ways as an adult.
For those still reading who have spent much of their life on their spiritual growth, let me add that I’ve found that it’s not helpful to teach someone who simply wants relief, or who needs help to realize their life goals, for me to talk about esoteric stuff which sounds like magic. I know that if I teach properly, laying the groundwork responsibly, then all of that advanced stuff will naturally develop and integrate on its own.
Now my emphasis is to meet each student where they’re at and not add concepts into their mind. Rather, I want them to have an experience!
Above all, I offer everything that I’ve learned as a monk, and I continually question, refine, and ask, “Is this healthy? What about this?”
So now you know why I would leave the monkhood. Because as it turns out, monks are people too, and few monks truly want to question what they're taught. Human nature being what it is, they tend to fall back into the safety of the group's beliefs, just like everyone else.