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
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
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
channel on http://www.patheos.com.