Art of Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson




August is not what it used to be.

I remember when I was growing up August was the deep end of summertime. Summer ran from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with Independence Day roughly in the middle.

August was the perfect month for reading and cooling off with nice, light beers. Some people went swimming, but I preferred my liquid refreshment in a tall, cold glass. We knew, in August, there was plenty of time before we needed to prepare for fall.

Now August has become a sort of pre-autumn. Back-to-school sales begin on Independence Day, stores use Christmas-in-July to try to increase revenues, and the tsunami of pumpkin spice is already building momentum.

August does not even get its own set of candidates debates for next year’s election.

It is true here in the land of endless summer we have little difference between summer and fall. Even in places where seasons change the weather, though, we have already begun the rush into “the holidays.” If we count college football as one of our holidays, we are well into holiday season.

I try to take the opportunity each August to spend time thinking and reflecting. It is a good time to look back over the last 12 months and try to consider what could happen before next August.

My connection to the monastery I visit the most is strong in August. It is a good month the drive up to Big Sur and spend a few days listening to stillness.

I am what is called a lay Oblate, a person who is committed to following specific practices and who lives outside the monastery. I was received as a lay Oblate several years ago on August 31 and I try to visit each year near my anniversary.

The monastery where I go is a hermitage and the monks there are also hermits. One of the most attractive things about my time there is the stillness. People do not speak unless they are in the bookstore or walking on the long driveway.

The monastery is a beautiful place close to Highway 1 in the town of Lucia. It is on a hill covered with trees which overlooks the Pacific coast. There are many more stars in the sky at night than there are in Los Angeles.

Driving through Burbank I turn to head north on the 101 freeway. It takes me several hours to drive up the coast and concerns seem to fall off me with each passing mile.

I have written before about the craft breweries and tasting rooms along the way I drive.

The trip becomes even more significant as I drive past Heart Castle, when I lose cellphone reception. There is no wifi at the monastery.

The monastery has a guesthouse with nine rooms which looks out over the ocean. There are also individual small cabins at the monastery, keeping with the idea of a hermitage. I often stay in one of the cabins.

People ask me what I do when I am there. It is somewhat difficult to describe. I get a good deal of rest. Sometimes I read or write.

The monks at the monastery meet for services four times during each day and I usually meet with them. Most of the services involve Gregorian chant and listening.

Each day begins with a service before the sun is up. There is another morning service, one around noon, and one in the afternoon.

After a few days of stillness and rest I drive back to Los Angeles. If I leave after the second morning service there is very little traffic until I get as far south as San Luis Obispo. Just before Hearst Castle there is a place on the coast to watch elephant seals and the parking area is usually my first opportunity to discover the emails and messages waiting for me.

Each year my August drive to the monastery feels more like going home. I start to realize during the spring months how eager I am to get back to the hermitage and spend some time being still.

I encourage you to start a habit this month of taking some time to rest and listen to stillness. It does not necessarily need to be several days. Maybe an hour or so would be a good way to start.

What beer would you pair with the reflective aspects of spiritual life?

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor in Pasadena, California. He is passionate about craft brewing, listening, and monks and monastic life. Greg is a recovering attorney. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk. You can email Greg at StrategicMonk@gmail.com, and he writes a blog for the Contemplative channel on http://www.patheos.com.

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