The Monk Life – Excerpt from my next book: Autobiography of a Shaman

As part of the strange and rich life story of a modern shaman, this article explores some of the characteristics and experiences that are unique to a destiny dedicated to pure service that we associate mostly with monks.  The real question it raises is are you or someone you know really on the destiny path of the monk without yet realizing it?


Monks, priests, nuns, yogi sanyasins, and renunciants of all creeds and cultures choose a life of pure service to the greater good, God, all-that-is, Source, Universe, etc.  They may be part of an institution or organized religion or spiritual tradition, ancient or modern, or completely independent.

Their life is characterized by living mostly outside of societal norms, often isolated, or cloistered with fellow monks, often with only the barest necessities needed to stay healthy and serve, whether in prayer, contemplation, teaching, healing, and/or serving a community in any way needed.

Any and all other societal norms for having more lavish personal experiences are just a distraction to the monk, and therefore fall away or are no longer pursued.  It is likely they came into life with this destiny, and/or discovered it somewhere along the way.

I was certainly of that nature in the very early years of my life, but went through periods of more typical pursuits as I was influenced by those around me.  At age 23, and after six years of college, I found myself making the decision to pursue the monk life.  Although I had a job related to my field of study, essentially to pay off my student debts, the rest of my time was devoted to meditation, prayer, studies of the world’s wisdom teachings, yoga (Bhakti, Jnani, Kriya, and Hatha), and Tai Chi, and Chi Gong. I was a vegetarian and renounced sex, romantic relationships, and any recreation that might interfere with my disciplined regimen.

Within 5 years of this daily routine, I had achieved a state of non-attachment, unconditional love, mastery, and bliss that most would know as enlightenment (although I later came to learn that enlightenment is really just lack of confusion, but that is another story).

Basically I had that state 24/7 – 365 no matter what was happening at my work or in the world at large.  And although prior to starting this discipline I had many unusual life experiences and death experiences that would cover a typical single lifetime, I was still naive enough to ask myself the question of what to  do for the rest of my life.

The question really stemmed from the perhaps mistaken notion that the goal of life was to achieve the state that I had already achieved, and I was only 28, so “what do I do with the next 70 years”.

In lieu of just dying, or in yogic traditions known as mahasamadhi, I figured perhaps erroneously that I had only two choices.  And if you notice from the last two sentences, this is where it may be a good idea to have a very wise mentor.

Well, I didn’t ask anybody, so I had my two choices:  move to the mountains somewhere and live out the rest of my life as monk, or quit all of my practices and jump back into life and see if I could live a typical life until the last five years, then do the same thing I had just done and die then.  I chose the latter.  And I’m not sure it was the best choice – I say with smile. I realize all the current wisdom, spiritual, and shamanic teachings would find a way to argue that regardless it was the best choice, or that it wasn’t really my choice, and has lead to where I am now of course.

But, recently I was inspired by a powerful conversation with my shaman to dive very deeply into the last three decades of my life since about the time I embarked on the monk and then subsequent husband, shaman, healer, and teacher journey with lots of roles in between, and I noticed something astounding.

What I realized was that every choice I made in life to serve just the greater good as my authentic “monk” self, have lead to my well being, ease, and joy; whereas on the contrary, every choice I made just to serve the more typical life or goals shared by most of society around me, has lead to mostly pain, loss, heartbreak, and regret.  Of course with the plethora of wisdom tools and healing techniques, I have managed to effectively mitigate the regret and get through the painful experiences fairly quickly and leave those stories behind and make the best of all of it anyway.  Nonetheless it has become a big part of my medicine and begs the contemplation about what happens when we jump on and off a chosen destiny path, and how it may apply to you or others that you know.

It also explains the disconnects between people trying to help me achieve the typical life goals of greater business success and wealth versus what I may have really needed help with – which is as much opportunity as possible to give my gifts to the world that I am good at in the ways that serve best.  Imagine for example trying to convince or give the Dalai Lama advice on starting a business so that he can get rich and have all the luxuries money can buy.  Most people wouldn’t do that with him, but fail to recognize that one doesn’t have to be formally recognized as a monk to be of that destiny; and in my case not able to articulate that to my well meaning friends at the time.  Instead, my mantra is “just enough”.

What also makes this confounding to most people around me is that to a non-monk choice of life, these painful experiences and regrets are something to fix, and can and very well should be fixed so as not to continue to wreak havoc in the typical villager’s life.  But to the monk, the unconditional and selfless servant by choice, these could be simply the inevitable results and signs of not staying on the chosen destiny line and a reason to get back on it.

I have often said that because of the strange and amazing gifts that the shaman is born with and ideally trained in, much of what applies to the typical villagers doesn’t really apply to the shaman – just as for example saving money for your child’s education doesn’t apply to someone who will never have children. This is why they are often found at the edge of the village, and almost certainly misunderstood and sometimes feared because they do not participate normally in the typical villager’s drama.

I am a proponent of spectrum, versus binary, psycho-social analysis; meaning all permutations are possible and likely exist as opposed to just one extreme or the other. But I have come to the heart-felt, scientifically tested, and deep knowing realization with the help of some very wise mentors (yes I finally asked), that where i am on the spectrum favors choices of pure service of the greater good and Source, over choices towards an expanded experience of what a typical society would call the good or more lavish life.  And to me there is no contradiction at all that as a shaman much of my work is to help my client’s expand their experiences of the good life or more lavish lifestyles.  Our roles and destinies are simply different, and it is natural for most of nature’s participants to expand in that way.

And when I have met someone who has also chosen the life of pure service to the greater good, and I have come across quite a number of them in the many years of my shamanic work, we have witnessed similar characteristics and experiences of their life choices.

So I wanted to share this when considering someone you know or your life experiences and who you are at the core of your soul, your chosen destiny, and whether or not regardless of doing everything possible to heal, fix,  and create a typical good life may seem to have fallen short.  Perhaps it’s time to avoid the confusion and enlighten yourself to, and fully embrace, the beauty of your monk life.

With Great Love and Respect,
Jon Rasmussen


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *