As Guestmaster I would receive guests on retreat, give them a two-hour tour of the monastery, show them to their room and tell them what time to be back up at the main building for meals. One Friday afternoon I welcomed a very young couple (18 or 19), went through my routine and awaited their arrival at supper so I could introduce them to the other monks. 6 pm came and went with no guests so I went down to the guesthouse. I heard scrambling around in the room and so I waited. When the door opened a cloud of pot smoke rolled out of the room and into the hall. Having been in the Navy I knew what I was smelling was not incense. “What do you think you’re doing?!” I blurted out in astonishment. “Oh,” the guy glibly responded, “Just chilling.” After a repeat performance the following day I put them both on a bus for home and told them not to come back until they were all grown up!
For my whole monastic life I have been known as being direct. I try to be considerate and kind but not in any way that muddies the tough message I might have to impart to someone as spiritual counsel. Maturing is tough business! Yes, it’s true that you’ve been dealt a rotten hand but good Lord… how many times are you going to insist on playing it? All too often the problems that keep reoccurring in our lives do so because we refuse to face up to and address them. Others excuse our immaturity and let us get away with spiritual irresponsibility! The fact is that the only way that one becomes mature is by exercising maturity!
About two years ago I was called to a local hospital to anoint a man who had suffered a massive heart attack was in a coma. I went and prayed over him and with his wife, I anointed him, and he died a few hours later. He was not much older than myself and such an experience makes you think. While climbing up Diamond Head with my brother Dan in 2010, with my heart threatening to lurch right out of my chest I wondered what would happen if I suddenly died up there? How would they get me down? Would I collapse and tumble all the way down? Would my death on the trail ruin someone’s day? My point is that any of us can die at any time, and we therefore need to work on growing up… emotionally, psychologically and spiritually… and work on it right now! We need to stop whining about our life and address its difficulties. We haven’t got as much time to do our spiritual work as we might like to think! And in the end I am the only one who will have to give an accounting for my stewardship over the “hā” entrusted to me for however many years!