What are your dream goals?

  • 12 replies
  • 594 views
*

WeepingCrow

  • Odd Recluse
  • *****
  • 30
    • he/they
    • Weeping Crow Blog
What are your dream goals?
« on: May 12, 2019, 09:06:18 PM »
If you had unlimited resources (or at least, reasonable resources), how would your monastic path look? Since this forum is exploring possible expressions of monasticism, how do you imagine your monastic life to look? What sorts of structures, literal or figurative, would you set up?

Early on in my journey (we're talking years ago), I had a vision of creating a type of "pagan retreat". While I wasn't thinking of the word "monastic" at the time, I imagined it set up in a way so that it was something of a spiritual B&B. Visitors would have the option of joining in worship -- because I'd be doing that anyway, of course -- as well as benefit from discussion and contemplation. I still have this plan, technically, although its biggest requirement is land ownership, which at the moment isn't accessible to me.

I know some others have suggested the creation of Homesteads, or Intentional Communities.... So I'm wondering, what other ideas do people have? And what does your dream world look like?

*

Lorna Smithers

  • *
  • 33
  • Awenydd devoted to Gwyn ap Nudd
    • She/Her
Re: What are your dream goals?
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2019, 06:15:46 AM »
So I'm quite new to polytheist monasticism and still figuring out how monastic I am and what my dream monastic life would look like.

At present one of the big questions is whether I would prefer to be remain a solitary monastic or live in a community. Right now I am happy living in Penwortham, where I have lived most of my life, and with the devotional practice I have developed for my gods and spirits over the years and with the service I do in my communities, litter picking my local valley and contributing to the poetry scene.

However, whilst I am a member of a few lovely pagan groups such as a Druid grove, a journey circle, and an open ritual group, what I lack is a community of other Brythonic polytheists to worship with, to learn with, to create with. That so few people in Britain honour our Brythonic gods surprises and saddens me. My big dream would be to create a sanctuary where people could come to worship the Brythonic gods, to learn about their myths, to journey, to dream, to create.

However, I am an introvert. Whilst I do go out in the community and give talks and workshops on the Brythonic deities I find it incredibly draining. I find socialising harder than the talky/workshoppy bits as I'm no good at small talk and don't have much to talk about outside of my spiritual life.

So there are push and pull factors as to whether I want to continue focusing on deepening my own practice and sharing what I have to share with the world from afar, or whether I want to start exploring ways of developing some form of monastic learning and retreat centre. I recognise this would probably have to be multi-tradition polytheist as there are not enough Brythonic polytheists in the UK. In relation to the possibilities of the latter I am looking forward to further discussions.

*

Lorna Smithers

  • *
  • 33
  • Awenydd devoted to Gwyn ap Nudd
    • She/Her
Re: What are your dream goals?
« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2019, 05:14:02 AM »
Stopping by to add a quick addendum to the above after re-reading Danica Swanson's about page for The Black Stone Hermitage*, inspired by this I'm wondering if it would possible to gain a balance between living in a home in this landscape and creating a monastic centre for worship, learning and retreat focusing on the Brythonic tradition in a similar way.

I'm currently living with my parents but am saving for my own home and aiming to stay in Penwortham. If I manage to buy a one bed bungalow I'm thinking I could have the living room as a sacred space for the gods and spirits and could occasionally open it up to share for others to worship the Brythonic deities and for small groups to meet to discuss and journey into the myths.

https://blackstonehermitage.net/about-the-hermitage/

*

Danica Swanson

  • CEO (Creative Endarkenment Overseer) at Black Stone Abbey
  • *****
  • 117
  • Contemplative Norse polytheist
    • she/her
    • Black Stone Abbey
Re: What are your dream goals?
« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2019, 12:42:37 PM »
Stopping by to add a quick addendum to the above after re-reading Danica Swanson's about page for The Black Stone Hermitage*, inspired by this I'm wondering if it would possible to gain a balance between living in a home in this landscape and creating a monastic centre for worship, learning and retreat focusing on the Brythonic tradition in a similar way.

https://blackstonehermitage.net/about-the-hermitage/

Thanks - I'm glad you like the idea, and I'd love to see variations on this approach. I like the flexibility of it, and it seems appropriate for practical and vocational reasons. I assume you're referring to this section, so I'll quote it:*

"The Hermitage is both a personal home and a concept in development that I am extending to others through hospitality. The vision is for the Hermitage to expand into an abbey, retreat space, and house of worship that will outlive me, and continue on to serve future polytheists who feel called to contemplative monastic life."

Practically speaking, using this rented space (a family-owned condo) I currently occupy as both a home and as a monastic religious outreach & hospitality "center" is the only way I could do this work at all right now, as I have no institutional/organizational support to help defray the costs of its upkeep. The location and size of the space (it's an open floor plan live/work studio with 554 square feet) definitely does limit me from doing certain kinds of work I've been preparing for, such as hosting incubation retreats in a subterranean space. I won't be able to do that type of work until I have dedicated access to a basement.

However, aside from the financial and spatial limitations...given that my calling is monastic, it also seems like an appropriate way for me to serve. After all, a monastery is both a living space and a religious center, through which the resident monastics extend service to their communities (both inward-facing and outward-facing).

Though it is where I legally reside, pay rent, and operate my business from a home office, I do not view the Hermitage (now the Abbey) as "mine." It's consecrated to Skaði and other Ásynjur. Its primary purpose is to serve Them. I am the guardian, custodian, and caretaker of the space. WeepingCrow and I work together in this space as well. When I host guests, they often comment on how the space itself speaks to them. I'm always happy to hear that, because that's exactly the work I've been entrusted with: to create the space as I'm directed to, and invite people in. I am not a spiritual director or gydja; I'm a space-keeper. A shrine-builder. A facilitator of proper monastic and worship space. To outsiders it looks like "just a condo," if perhaps an unusually decorated one. But to me and my visitors it's much more than that.

A couple of months ago a visiting repair person looked around at the shrines and asked me: "Is this Paganism? Witchcraft? I'm not into it myself, but I've read about it. I see a lot of interesting homes in my line of work." So we had a brief conversation about what I do. That means the space is doing its work; I'm only helping it along!

This question on "dream goals" is an inspiring one. I hesitate to go into further detail about my own goals and visions here, as I've been developing them for eight years and have written so extensively about them elsewhere. But I'm very interested to read about others' goals.

* Now that WeepingCrow and I have publicly announced the formation of Black Stone Abbey, I've decided to retire the Hermitage website after eight years. So it will be going away this summer. However, the Abbey will certainly have a web presence, and I'll probably incorporate some of the material from the Hermitage website. (I'll also be archiving all the earlier blog posts for future reference, though I haven't yet decided how exactly I'm going to carry this out.)

*

barefootwisdom

  • *
  • 34
    • he/him
    • barefootwisdom
Re: What are your dream goals?
« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2019, 07:14:35 PM »
At present one of the big questions is whether I would prefer to be remain a solitary monastic or live in a community.

I've been wondering the same. My own introvert tendencies lead me to a solitary path, but the sheer "adult practicalities," as I think Janet mentioned on another thread, as well as the more spiritual support that can come from the right community, speak in the other direction.

I'm reminded of a monastic community I once heard of in another tradition where, even though they live in community, outside of daily prayers they keep to themselves, apart from scheduled time for conversation one afternoon every week! So it may be possible to get the best of both worlds...

However, I am an introvert. Whilst I do go out in the community and give talks and workshops on the Brythonic deities I find it incredibly draining. I find socialising harder than the talky/workshoppy bits as I'm no good at small talk and don't have much to talk about outside of my spiritual life.

As a fellow introvert, I hear you, on all of this. For me, there's something about the formal structure that makes it a lot less draining, perhaps simply because I don't have to figure out what's going to happen next, and how I need to relate. Also, when I'm in medium-to-large groups, I just very literally have a nearly impossible time of tuning out the other conversations that are going on, to focus on whomever I'm talking with. Since all those different streams of speech are coming in, I just get overwhelmed, shut down, and burn out.

Over the last year in particular, conversations with friends and family have sometimes been, not unpleasant, but just weird, as all of the things in my life that matter the most to me have been part of my spiritual work.

I'm in the habit of talking with my parents on the phone most weekends, since we love each other but live rather far apart.  I do not at all want to suggest that my spiritual and devotional practice is getting in the way of those human relationships (if anything, the nourishment I receive from doing the Work makes me better able to be a son, a family member, whatever else).  But it's just a bit weird when I have so little to say, because everything that happened which was so important to me, is either too intimately personal to share, or we simply have so little common frame of reference. And so some weeks, I think I leave them with the sense that I "didn't do anything" that week, when in fact it was full to bursting!

*

Danica Swanson

  • CEO (Creative Endarkenment Overseer) at Black Stone Abbey
  • *****
  • 117
  • Contemplative Norse polytheist
    • she/her
    • Black Stone Abbey
Re: What are your dream goals?
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2019, 12:25:25 AM »
I'm reminded of a monastic community I once heard of in another tradition where, even though they live in community, outside of daily prayers they keep to themselves, apart from scheduled time for conversation one afternoon every week! So it may be possible to get the best of both worlds...

Sounds lovely to me. Ideally I'd like to be part of a "laura" or "lavra" - a cluster of hermit dwellings surrounding a central chapel or other religious gathering space where the hermits can come together at scheduled times for prayer, worship, meals taken together in silence, etc.

I've been involved in intentional community efforts before, but I never found a situation that suited my needs for both extended solitude and deeply-integrated-into-daily-life contemplative practice. I always ended up feeling like a monastic-without-a-monastery.

As a fellow introvert, I hear you, on all of this. For me, there's something about the formal structure that makes it a lot less draining, perhaps simply because I don't have to figure out what's going to happen next, and how I need to relate.

That's a good point about the value of formal structure for introverts. Having the structures in place can free up a lot of cognitive energy that might otherwise be spent on navigating social environments that can easily drain us.

Also, when I'm in medium-to-large groups, I just very literally have a nearly impossible time of tuning out the other conversations that are going on, to focus on whomever I'm talking with. Since all those different streams of speech are coming in, I just get overwhelmed, shut down, and burn out.

Same here. In my case this effect is so pronounced, and so stressful for me, that I simply don't do medium-large gatherings anymore if I don't absolutely have to. I make exceptions here and there when necessary, but I try to plan ahead for it and pad my schedule with "buffer time" so I have sufficient time to recuperate.

...conversations with friends and family have sometimes been, not unpleasant, but just weird, as all of the things in my life that matter the most to me have been part of my spiritual work.

...some weeks, I think I leave them with the sense that I "didn't do anything" that week, when in fact it was full to bursting!

Beautifully articulated - thank you for that. My situation is similar. There's simply no context at all to help my family understand what I'm doing, or why all of this is so important to me.

*

barefootwisdom

  • *
  • 34
    • he/him
    • barefootwisdom
Re: What are your dream goals?
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2019, 08:22:31 AM »
Ideally I'd like to be part of a "laura" or "lavra" - a cluster of hermit dwellings surrounding a central chapel or other religious gathering space where the hermits can come together at scheduled times for prayer, worship, meals taken together in silence, etc.

This term is a new one to me, and a valuable one. Thank you for expanding my vocabulary! ;)

I've been involved in intentional community efforts before, but I never found a situation that suited my needs for both extended solitude and deeply-integrated-into-daily-life contemplative practice. I always ended up feeling like a monastic-without-a-monastery.

Yes. I've long ago lost track of where or from whom I got the seed of this idea, but someone once suggested that the most intimate thing two people can do is not, as our culture sometimes suggests, to look into each other's eyes, but rather to stand side by side, looking intently out at the world together. To my mind, this encapsulates much of the frustration I've had with "building (intentional) community" merely for the sake of community. It's the equivalent of staring at each other, when instead we could be looking at a shared goal that is bigger than and partly outside of ourselves, bigger and beyond the sum total of the human beings who are involved. Instead of looking at each other, we can look outward together, in our shared adoration and contemplation of the Holy Powers.

Beautifully articulated - thank you for that. My situation is similar. There's simply no context at all to help my family understand what I'm doing, or why all of this is so important to me.

Thank you.  For your sake, I'm sorry (though not surprised) to hear that you face these same struggles, though for myself, I take some comfort in knowing I'm not alone.

*

silencem

  • *
  • 9
    • he/him
    • Walking the Heartroad
Re: What are your dream goals?
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2019, 10:59:57 AM »
I want a library.

Or rather - I discovered I had one and in discovering this, realized how important this was to me.

Because so much of my spiritual education has been self-guided, I've read a lot in order to learn more about the path I hoped to be part of and to figure out what exactly what happening to me. (Amazingly, books couldn't tell me either of these things.) In this pursuit I ended up with a lot of reading material and even some cool music and art.

Once I figured out that it was a library I wanted, not just a collection for personal study and edification, I started thinking a little differently about the books. I always figured I'd pass them along to some pagan library institution or temple or fellow student at some point so that the rarer volumes didn't get lost along the way, but why wait? Why not figure out ways to make them available now? So that's something I'm currently working on.

My library isn't even half the size of Danica's, but perhaps that means I'll have a shot at actually getting it cataloged and available. My hope is to be available for research requests (in keeping with fair use blah blah blah).

Also, I really really want to leverage my artistic skills in service of the wider polytheistic community. A bit of background - for the past couple years I've been volunteering at a local Hindu temple doing some specialty sewing for them. Getting to directly participate in the nuanced image worship that I'd been taking part in as an observer for the past few years has been extremely edifying, and I want to bring some of that juice to polytheism. We have a lot of artists serving people on individual levels, and that's really fantastic, but there are also a lot of shortcomings when it comes to community-level engagement and cultivating the kind of longevity that many of us here are hoping to see. It's great to help individuals with their devotional practices, but no additional work is required to help many individuals. Only the context is different.

So I guess basically I dream of artistically supporting and serving a community.

*

Lorna Smithers

  • *
  • 33
  • Awenydd devoted to Gwyn ap Nudd
    • She/Her
Re: What are your dream goals?
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2019, 01:17:00 AM »
Danica and Barefootwisdom, thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings on introversion. I'm relieved I'm not the only one who finds social interaction draining and has little to say about everyday life as my main focus is my spiritual path. The one boon I do have is that my mum is spiritual too. She is nominally Christian but was a Rosicrucian at one point and taught at a Steiner school and has always been aware of the spirits. She told me about fairies and taught me Tarot. When I discovered Paganism being of a nature-based spirituality clicked with her. She understands my relationship with my gods and I can talk to her about it and she enjoys listening to my poetry even though she doesn't actively worship any gods herself.

Danica, I do quite like the sounds of a 'lavra' with a balance between personal space and shared worship, prayers, and silent meals.

Barefootwisdom, I certainly think community would be easier if folks were mainly silent and there were only limited times of conversation.

Silence, sharing one's art is very important to me too and will always be central to my practice whether alone or in a community.

*

kkirner

  • Druid and nature mystic
  • *
  • 24
    • she or they (both work for me)
    • The Wild Druid
Re: What are your dream goals?
« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2019, 06:05:11 PM »
This is a really interesting conversation (and sorry I'm coming late to it); I see a lot of myself here.  My whole family is very introverted; I'm actually one of the most extroverted of us, and I still find social interactions draining.  I am married, and I keep my shrine room and sanctuary for myself as "my" space, along with a small art studio shed.  My wife has her own spaces too.  I'm introverted enough that living with even one person is a challenge that I meet with having my own dedicated spaces that I can retreat to in silence and request stretches of time to be uninterrupted.  So the idea of living in intentional community, if I didn't have my own dedicated space, isn't feasible for me with my personality.

However, I have always loved the idea of separate small dwellings (like fully contained tiny homes for each person/couple) with some communal spaces, including a large shared kitchen, library, art room, music room, bioregenerative garden, and temple space.  My wife has always been open to this kind of model too, and we tried twice to make it happen.  With our first house, we tried to start a co-housing situation in Los Angeles with like-minded friends, but no one was able/ready to commit to it and we were out-priced of everything large enough.  So we bought a single-family home.  When we sold that one last year, we tried to find fellow Pagans or polytheists that wanted to go in with us on a 35 acre oak grove with a house, which had plenty of room to expand with 1-2 other full-size homes, plus room for an outdoor workshop patio and a number of glamping tents.  However, no one could/was ready to do this, so we were again out-priced.

So, at this point, I'm not sure the dream of a community space will ever come to fruition, and instead I'm thinking about how to use my current, normal sized home and property into a space that functions as our home, my monastery, and a retreat space for Druid and polytheist monastics (coming one or two at a time). My home is my Druid grove's primary ritual space. I installed the art studio last year and my shrine room and this year hope to put in the fencing to maintain a little meditation garden behind it. We're looking at affordable options to put in a glamping tent (like a safari tent) and we have large lanai space with an outdoor bed, a garage that opens to the backyard that will get set up as a lounge and mini-kitchen space, and we have one house bathroom that opens to the backyard pool area. We are thinking of funding it through renting the tent through AirBnB and then opening for free to a limited number of retreat-seekers each year. We'll see how it shapes up.  I was inspired to try to offer more when I saw Danica's space in Portland.

For my retirement, monastic type polytheist friends and I have talked about trying to start a monastic farm sanctuary on my mother's property in the Western foothills of Oregon.  She has a large house and we've installed a large shed that will eventually be made into a tiny house.  Plenty of room, perennial wells and stream, plenty of space for gardens and animals (5 acres).  It's currently her hermitage, which she calls "Heaven Haven" and has cultivated a relationship with the land spirits.  I adore visiting and it's always the perfect place to write.  But again, we're all middle-class, so navigating how to save the place from medical debt as she ages is going to be the big challenge.  We're exploring LLC options to protect it.  I wish our nation didn't make it so difficult to not only own property, but to maintain it for perpetuity.
"The three foundations of spirituality: Hearth as altar; Work as worship; and service as sacrament."
~ Irish Triad

*

Danica Swanson

  • CEO (Creative Endarkenment Overseer) at Black Stone Abbey
  • *****
  • 117
  • Contemplative Norse polytheist
    • she/her
    • Black Stone Abbey
Re: What are your dream goals?
« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2019, 11:32:45 PM »
...sorry I'm coming late to it...

For the record, there's never any need to apologize for "lateness" on this forum. Threads can be revived at any time even after they've lain dormant for months. In fact, I hope that they will be picked up anytime someone takes an interest or has additional thoughts to add! I strongly and heartily encourage commenting on old threads. If the original poster doesn't see your response, someone else certainly will. That's one of the many reasons we started this forum: to reduce the pressure to respond to threads within a short time frame. As a contemplative, I like to take my sweet time to read and ponder in a leisurely fashion before responding, and this forum permits us to do that in ways that social media platforms do not.

Old threads also provide a way to help us avoid having to cover the same ground over and over every time someone new joins. With Facebook groups there's no easy way for the new folks to find and review what's already been discussed. But here we can simply point them to existing threads that address the topics of interest.

So, at this point, I'm not sure the dream of a community space will ever come to fruition, and instead I'm thinking about how to use my current, normal sized home and property into a space that functions as our home, my monastery, and a retreat space for Druid and polytheist monastics (coming one or two at a time).

I think that's an excellent approach. We need structured religious retreats designed to suit the needs and theologies of polytheists! 

I'm a veteran of a failed intentional community effort that collapsed on the launching pad. I learned a great deal about what not to do. If I had it to do over, I'd start with a more "normal" sized home with room for expansion when and if that became appropriate, instead of trying to plunge in all at once. (With the caveat that "normal" in the United States is "enormous" by my standards.)

My long-term strategic plan for appropriate monastic housing is inspired by the Beguines. Little by little, they built enclaves of homes clustered in the same vicinity. They built lay monastic communities by starting with one home, building something there that attracted the interest of others, and then helping those others find and purchase homes nearby so they could move closer together. And when they died they bequeathed their property to the enclave so more Beguines could join. The challenge is that this is very very difficult to do in the States, for structural and cultural reasons.

We are thinking of funding it through renting the tent through AirBnB and then opening for free to a limited number of retreat-seekers each year. We'll see how it shapes up.  I was inspired to try to offer more when I saw Danica's space in Portland.

Subsidizing the marginalized/low-income folks through the intake from the more comfortable retreatants sounds like a good approach. I look forward to watching your project develop. I'm pleased that you took inspiration for such a project from the humble space I maintain for Black Stone Abbey, which is a mere 554-square-foot studio condo at the moment!

For my retirement, monastic type polytheist friends and I have talked about trying to start a monastic farm sanctuary on my mother's property in the Western foothills of Oregon...navigating how to save the place from medical debt as she ages is going to be the big challenge.  We're exploring LLC options to protect it.  I wish our nation didn't make it so difficult to not only own property, but to maintain it for perpetuity.

Indeed. After many years of research and failed projects, I've sadly and reluctantly come to believe that much of what I wish to do with Black Stone Abbey will never be legally and culturally possible in the States. While there are many reasons I've come to that conclusion, perhaps the worst and most intractable is the constant threat of bankruptcy and homelessness caused by medical debt.

That said, your mother's property sounds lovely. I hope you can find a way to protect it!

Even those of us in the States who do manage to start monasteries will face major challenges. The Maetreum of Cybele had to fight tooth and nail just to maintain their status as a religious convent. And there are a lot of zoning regulations and other hurdles that favor "single family homes" and so on, which presents another layer of difficulty with property expansions even for those who get past the land purchase stage.

*

kkirner

  • Druid and nature mystic
  • *
  • 24
    • she or they (both work for me)
    • The Wild Druid
Re: What are your dream goals?
« Reply #11 on: May 24, 2019, 10:19:22 AM »
Quote
Little by little, they built enclaves of homes clustered in the same vicinity. They built lay monastic communities by starting with one home, building something there that attracted the interest of others, and then helping those others find and purchase homes nearby so they could move closer together.

I love this model. Alas, I don't think it's possible in Southern California, where we have such high housing costs and competitions between being near our work (due to the traffic), but I think this is a model that could work in some locations or for people whose jobs are tele-commuting friendly and able to locate somewhere cheaper/more rural.

Quote
Subsidizing the marginalized/low-income folks through the intake from the more comfortable retreatants sounds like a good approach. I'm pleased that you took inspiration for such a project from the humble space I maintain for Black Stone Abbey, which is a mere 554-square-foot studio condo at the moment!

My wife has multiple disabilities at this point and simply can't work full-time. We've been encouraged by others who AirBnB that it would be possible to have her gain a modest income from hosting glamping folks, and then this would also serve to pay off the improvements we'd make. My goal for all retreatants would be to be free/by donation (except for bringing their own food; we'd provide a mini-kitchen and gas BBQ). At least, this is how I'm conceptualizing it so far!

I think what helped to see what you've done with your studio is just how much you were able to do in a small space, which really helped me feel like it was possible to do a lot with my own space. It's hard when you see only really big communities like Buddhist sanghas and monasteries to envision what you could give in a small location. Seeing how you made your space work for its purposes and streamline your daily practice really helped me enormously. I plan to make a lot of changes to my own shrine room this summer to help me maintain daily practice with less set-up/tear-down effort and reconceptualize the flow of my shrine room and art studio (my art studio is also a spiritual space of a different sort, and part of my goal is to figure out how to maximize the integration of the kind of works I feel called to make for me and my community and the ability to integrate that crafting with ritual practice).

Quote
And there are a lot of zoning regulations and other hurdles that favor "single family homes" and so on, which presents another layer of difficulty with property expansions even for those who get past the land purchase stage.

Oh, yes. It's so so hard. My wife and I's first desire was to buy land in Topanga Canyon in LA and put multiple tiny houses around a courtyard to maximize flexibility. This was not feasible in terms of zoning and the California Coastal Commission. We know another Druid who tried to start an intentional community with others; this imploded for interpersonal and zoning reasons. Everything is set up in ways that make it very hard to do anything big and long-lasting without a lot of funds and lawyers involved. The nice thing about my mother's place is it's very rural and wooded and no one bothers to check on how you use your land. So if you put out-buildings on it and people live in them, no one would really know unless you're tapping into the electricity (but there's ways around that with self-contained solar).
"The three foundations of spirituality: Hearth as altar; Work as worship; and service as sacrament."
~ Irish Triad

*

Danica Swanson

  • CEO (Creative Endarkenment Overseer) at Black Stone Abbey
  • *****
  • 117
  • Contemplative Norse polytheist
    • she/her
    • Black Stone Abbey
Re: What are your dream goals?
« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2019, 08:12:15 PM »
I think this is a model that could work in some locations or for people whose jobs are tele-commuting friendly and able to locate somewhere cheaper/more rural.

Yes. My job is location-independent right now, and I'm slowly but surely working toward building multiple streams of income through online sources so that this model will (hopefully) become possible for the Abbey over the longer term. That's an attractive prospect, because it would keep me free from the tethers of standard location-dependent employment, and it would enable me to live anywhere that I can afford to while legally running an online business. However, I'm also stuck in the city for the time being. Eventually I hope to relocate to a more rural location.

I think what helped to see what you've done with your studio is just how much you were able to do in a small space, which really helped me feel like it was possible to do a lot with my own space.

Necessity is the mother of invention! I've lived in this small space for 11 years now, and while there's plenty I appreciate about it, it's also been a thorn in my side for a long time because, no matter how much ingenuity I manage to summon up, there's a long list of important things I hope to do with the Abbey that I will simply never be able to do as long as I remain here.

That said, the work I'm tasked with - no matter where I am - is to create spaces that speak to people in certain ways, so knowing that it had this effect on you is gratifying. It lets me know I've done something right. Thank you.

[...] Seeing how you made your space work for its purposes and streamline your daily practice really helped me enormously. I plan to make a lot of changes to my own shrine room this summer to help me maintain daily practice with less set-up/tear-down effort and reconceptualize the flow...

"Less set-up/tear-down effort" is absolutely critical for me. I don't do too well without a dedicated space that is demarcated from the main traffic flow somehow. And the fewer steps I have to take to set up, the more likely I'll be able to maintain a daily practice. So one of my main goals in designing the space was to remove as many structural barriers as possible. That way I can work on autopilot, even on days when I'm exhausted.

Everything is set up in ways that make it very hard to do anything big and long-lasting without a lot of funds and lawyers involved.

Indeed. And with such a punitive and woefully inadequate social safety net, a cruel and exorbitantly expensive "health" "care" system, and countless other vectors of normalized structural and financial violence, good luck acquiring a lot of funds. And good luck holding onto your assets if anyone in your family needs long-term care for a serious illness. The U.S. is set up to drain maximum time, work, and money from everyone but the super-wealthy. There are Catholic nuns who have been forced to shut down their monasteries after decades of faithful service because the church made no provision for their health care in their elder years. It's maddening.