The Monk Manifesto: Seven Principles for Living with Deep Intention

Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 7:27am

The Monk Manifesto: Seven Principles for Living with Deep Intention

Monk: from the Greek monachos meaning single or solitary. A monk in the world does not live apart but immersed in the everyday with a single-hearted and undivided presence, always striving for greater wholeness and integrity.

Manifesto: from the Latin for clear, means a public declaration of principles and intentions.

Monk Manifesto: A public expression of your commitment to live a compassionate, contemplative, and creative life.

The Monk Manifesto

  1. I commit to finding moments each day for silence and solitude, to make space for another voice to be heard, and to resist a culture of noise and constant stimulation.
  2. I commit to radical acts of hospitality by welcoming the stranger both without and within. I recognize that when I make space inside my heart for the unclaimed parts of myself, I cultivate compassion and the ability to accept those places in others.
  3. I commit to cultivating community by finding kindred spirits along the path, soul friends with whom I can share my deepest longings, and mentors who can offer guidance and wisdom for the journey.
  4. I commit to cultivating awareness of my kinship with creation and a healthy asceticism by discerning my use of energy and things, letting go of what does not help nature to flourish.
  5. I commit to bringing myself fully present to the work I do, whether paid or unpaid, holding a heart of gratitude for the ability to express my gifts in the world in meaningful ways.
  6. I commit to rhythms of rest and renewal through the regular practice of Sabbath and resist a culture of busyness that measures my worth by what I do.
  7. I commit to a lifetime of ongoing conversion and transformation, recognizing that I am always on a journey with both gifts and limitations.

The idea for the Monk Manifesto emerged several months ago while I was away on a retreat. Last spring was a very full season of my life, and I was claiming a few days of silence to listen. I was in a threshold space, moving into my own work more fully. I knew my call was to spread ways of being a monk in the world to as many people as I could.

I wanted people to see that there are companions who also hunger for ways of living with deep intention. I wanted to start a movement of monks. I don’t know exactly what it will look like, but, like most things in my life that are life-giving, it begins by following a thread, a sense of awe at the invitation being offered to me, even if I can only see the edges.

( fusion-of-horizons / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).)

I attended the World Congress of Benedictine Oblates in Rome last October and our theme was inter-religious dialogue. I am very aware that I have far more in common with my brothers and sisters who are committed to a contemplative way of life no matter their religion (or perhaps even none) than I am with those in my own faith tradition who use religion to exclude and draw ever-stronger boundaries around what (or who) is holy and what (or who) is not. My desire is to discover where we might find companions across perceived boundaries.

These principles emerged out of my own inner journey of living the Benedictine way (which is my primary spiritual community and commitment) and my outer journey of teaching about various strands of Christian monasticism (including Benedictine, Celtic, and desert traditions). However each of the principles I set forth can be found across contemplative traditions.

Like many people, my practices cross boundaries and include yoga and a love of Jewish rituals. What would it be like to create a common language about what it means to live in meaningful ways in the modern world?

Each principle is the umbrella for a whole set of practices. Practices help us to embody new ways of being. As we commit to living into a particular practice, our hearts are shaped by the daily engagement. Practices provide us with sacred containers through which we can foster presence to our experience and cultivate a radical sense of compassion for ourselves, our community, and creation.

I purposely selected the word “resistance” because it is a concept which roots me in a tradition and practice of nonviolence where we stand in resistance to the powers of destruction at work all around us. Some of the violence is overt: daily abuse, neglect, loss of human life, the unraveling of ecosystems. But much of the violence is subtle, like the violence we participate in each day as we push our bodies to the point of exhaustion and our spirits to the place of despair.

I believe deeply that we need both a sacred yes and a sacred no in our lives — things which we wholeheartedly embrace and those which we create boundaries around of what is not life-giving. For me, naming both is a practice of balance and awareness.

The Monk Manifesto is not meant to be exhaustive, but there is fruitfulness in claiming what is important in a given moment of time. There are many things that could be added, but part of its power is its conciseness. I hope reading it prompts your own reflection on how you would articulate your declaration of integrated living.

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Christine Valters Paintner

is a Benedictine oblate and the online abbess of Abbey of the Arts, a monastery without walls offering classes and resources to nurture contemplative practice and creative expression. She is the author of several books including Water, Wind, Earth, & Fire: The Christian Practice of Praying with the Elements.

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This is a beautiful statement of living principles. As the industrial ego dominated and destructive world begun a few centuries ago draws to a close, and we emerge into the ecozoic era as coined by Thomas Berry and others, these principles provide a clear and encouraging direction for each of us to take. Thank you so much for creating and sharing them.

Thanks so much Dave, may we move forward into an era of great love for all.

Since I submitted this piece to On Being I have actually added an 8th principle to the Monk Manifesto:

8. I commit to being a dancing monk, cultivating creative joy and letting my body and "heart overflow with the inexpressible delights of love."

Perfect addition.

I only want the critical insights from the combination of critical thinking and compassion that connects the dots. And leads to caring behaviors. I really don't need the other seven zen-line suggestions.

Thanks for your input Thomas, we do offer an online study at our website that fleshes these all out in much more depth. This is just a way for people to get an overview of the principles

Perhaps Tom, you are seeking logical explanations to comprehend this way of thinking/being when in actuality these processes are not of the mind to intellectually understand. Instead they are ways to be (guided by other vital parts of our body, mind, spirit and soul... This takes practice. Personally, these practices help me, but each person discovers spirit on their own. May we all remember Patience in this process. Be easy on yourself. You are only human, after all!

I love the universality that this writer brings to the concept of the monastic -- how the sacred yes and the sacred no reflect a deep balance and the monk manifesto reflects a deep commitment to a compassionate life --active and creative. thank you!

You are most welcome Gayle, thank you for your comment and highlighting the balance at work!

This post speaks so loudly to me, as I continue to ponder how it is we can strive to live rich inner lives and lives of meaning in a world that fosters superficial living and shallow connections through technology. Furthermore, as a person of faith, I have struggled with the notion of religion for the very reason that those who profess themselves as "religious" are often the ones to elevate themselves above others, which is the opposite of what we are called to do. I certainly share in your
"desire to discover where we might find companions across perceived boundaries."

Wonderful to know we are kindred spirits Katharine and thank you for reflecting with me on this.

For the past two weeks, I've been keeping a new habit (if not a practice, as you have defined the term) of reading the latest On Being blog posts in the morning before I begin my workday. Thank you for these wise, soul-enriching and elegantly articulated words. Yes, they will inspire me to write my own manifesto as well be more consistent about my practices.

I love that you have been inspired to write your own manifesto Elaine, may it be a guiding light for your journey!

I have been a brick mason for thirty five years. I have built and repaired the businesses and houses of many people. Yet, after reading this blue print... I think I have found the plans to finally build a home for myself.

What a beautiful metaphor Lee, thank you for that image.

Thank you.
You have articulated much of what I have been thinking. By some 'coincidence' I was just turning over a recent conversation in my mind - and realizing that openness, interest, and welcoming religious and spiritual diversity is a core value for me; deeply embedded in what it means for me to be a Benedictine Oblate. The practice of welcoming the stranger "as Christ" is the practice of spirituality for me.

I love those serendipities, Elizabeth, when our own heart's longings are affirmed again and again.

Having listened to Krista Tippett's programming for many years and then joining the Abbey of the Arts a year or so ago, it is nice to see Chistine's rich post here today. I think I recognize the church in the photograph as possibly one of the painted Orthodox Monasteries seen in north eastern Romania- Bucovina, Northern Moldovia maybe? Does anyone know?

Thanks Pat for chiming in here as well. Wonderful to have you as part of the Abbey. I don't know the origin of the image.

Yes , yes...every word echos my heart! Thank you! Gratitude for your work, your eloquent voice! Christine introduced me to Brother David Stend-Rast years ago and began my journey as a monk in the world full of gratitude for the gift present in the present moment!

Br. David continues to be a mentor and inspiration for me. Thanks for the very kind words Pat!

These are wonderful principles. I especially love the last one. Embracing the dance give us permission to let go. At my son's wedding in May, it started to rain. The band was under a tent but all of the guests who had been dancing retreated to the dining room except for two young children who continued dancing to the music, arms spread, and faces lifted up to the rain. I wanted to dance but I thought what about my dress? Embracing the principle of dance and joy allowed me to say "so what about my dress" and join my granddaughter in the act of expressing pure joy! Actions and decisions on how to be can be made using the principles as guidelines.

What a beautiful image Julie, so delighted to hear you cast aside your cares and entered into the cosmic dance!

Love the scale and beauty of the simple intention to practice the steps daily .....

Thank you Honnie!

Thanks for the inspiration. I enjoyed the idea, definition, that being a monk doesn't necessarily mean being cut off but being a part of life, if only of your choosing.

Yes Kathleen, I have found being a monk in the world very liberating.

Continued thanks to Christine Paintner for her transparency, creative expressions of faith, doubt and mystery, and for her sacred assistance in helping so many of us be monks in the world.

Wonderful to see you here Bob, thank you as always for your generous support.

Hello Christine. I, too, am a Benedictine Oblate. I am associated with St. Vincent Archabbey in PA. I'm confused. I attended the world congress in Rome the last time it met (2013)and didn't remember seeing you there so I checked the list of attendees and you aren't on the list. Also, our topic was:The Role of the Oblate in the World. How does an oblate become an abbot or abbess?

Hi Paul, your confusion is understandable! I actually attended the Congress in 2009 and submitted this article the following year. I was delighted to find out it was published now, but it did make a couple of details out of date. Apologies for that! Greetings to a fellow oblate!

Thankful that the Manifesto concluded with dance (Journey).
Beginning with silence, it is refreshing to realize we are headed
Somewhere active. Too often the spiritual seems static.
Grateful for the spirit of the Monk's Manifesto.

Thank you Middleton. I discovered after years of spiritual practice that the greatest fruit was dance, so it had to be included. :-)

Let us grow toward that which cannot be named with a little help from our friends.


I can deeply resonate with these principles from the perspective of my own Zen practice. However, I feel calling them a "monk's manifesto" retains a tendency to split off the possibility of contemplation from leading a lay life. Attention, simplicity, and compassion can all be cultivated by laypeople in everyday life and not only in the context of retreats, though these often provide a dramatic introduction to a new kind of experience. All my best wishes for deepening and expanding this movement....perhaps our paths will cross one day....

I agree completely Barry about the invitation for all to be included in the contemplative life. I try to reclaim "monk" as an inner archetype we all possess and as possible beyond the walls of the monastery. Thanks for your kind wishes!

thank you.

you are most welcome Howard.

"......I want not, I need not......I am free..."
Thank you for this joyous presentation.

You are welcome CC! Delighted to share it with others.

The quiet of the woods is sacred to me. The sound of waves is sacred to me. The touch of my cat's tongue is sacred tome. In these sacred moments I find oneness with the universe and God.

Yes, I feel that so keenly too KC, in fact some of my work revolves around the image of the earth as "original monastery."

thank you for the simplicity and clarity of the Monk Manifesto and this article.

Delighted to hear that Rose.

thank you for the simplicity and clarity of the Monk Manifesto.

Just lovely! The sentiments, words, music and artwork all contribute to the contemplative, uplifting effect of the video. Thank you so much...

Thank you Kleomichele! So grateful for your words.

People discover what monks call living with deep intention in various ways. Alienation is often the beginning, either by choice or through involuntary solitude. Nature abhors a vacuum. The senses are most fill-able when we have lost the way or feel empty. A lot of things I thought I wanted eluded me, but I found richer friendships and arts that jolted me out of apathy. Now fifty years since my arousal, years that seemed dismal going in, have engaged me completely.

Thanks for your reflection here Michael. I agree so much with what you say, in fact I have written about the "spiritual practice of being uncomfortable" in other places as a central way for us to expand ourselves.

Each day is precious.Each moment of silence and self reflection necessary to keep calm & balance. Each time we just listen to our inner thoughts can help us be here Now.Each day set 3 priorities & be patient with yourself.

Yes Martha, beautifully said.

I would like a copy of this e-mailed to me. Thank You!

Thank you so much for the wonderful inspiration I really enjoyed the dancing monk finding joy!

Thank you for this manifesto. It will help my reflections as I seek to transition to a monastic way of living & working. I'm exploring through the Franciscan spiritual tradition (with a heavy dose of Henri Nouwen thrown in for good measure).

Thank you for offering a pattern for living which is both sustainable and an invitation to increasing wholeness. We live in a fractured society, and so to offer a way of integration and peace is truly Good News for those who long for it with great hunger and thirst.

There was so much about this piece that spoke to my heart and encouraged me to reaffirm my own practices and commitments to living more simple and with an open heart. Thank you for your practice.

Wonderful reflection!

Thanks for this. It gives vibe to an inclination to become more and more is a corporate monk in my career, being salt and light in corporate and bureaucratic organizations and networks where so much violence is done to self society and planet yet also so much good and where there is the need for continual influencers of more good than violence.

Lovely contribution to a superb life for all livingness.

I so want to pour these thoughts onto the top of my head long enough to make an opening into my spine, pausing to pool around my heart, filling my soul and lending me courage to be faithful to the intent. I like this, it is not dogma, it is seems a good road map for today and ones to come.

I "found" The Monk Manifesto - or it "found" me - in the most accidental, circuitous way... and it is the prayer that clarifies the deepest, most raw yearnings in my heart.
Thank you...

My sister forwarded this reflection to me! She knows me so well as it spoke to exactly where I am at now in my life. it really confirmed the path I have decided to take in the past two year. Thank you Christine for your openness and willingness to listen to the calling of your spirit/heart and sharing it with the world.

May I ask: Where is God in this manifesto?

I answer, in an intuitive reaction, everywhere.

I ask myself what it would be like to make this a part of my life.
I'm going to try it and see. You too?

Dear Merle,
I saw this today and thought of you.

As a traditionally trained medical doctor practicing general and geriatric medicine for over 40 years, I have struggled with a sense of inadequacy in dealing with the spiritual aspects and needs of my patients. I've corrected this neglected deficiency in modern medicine by starting an integrative, holistic practice. Your Monk Manifesto fits perfectly into my personal spiritual message to patients. But often many are agnostics, atheists or are simply stilted in their journey to self-awareness and enlightenment. How would you introduce the principles of your manifesto to those suffering patients who long for peace but have yet to leave the helter skelter of their external world for the trip inward toward a greater understanding of their life's meaning and mission?

This summer, living with no newspaper delivery, no TV, no radio, and only internet service when I chose to take my computer to a nearby cafe or library, I found myself more and more relaxing into--not happyiness, but "joy," a deep and quiet ringing joy.I was reminded of a poem I once wrote; "My soul is the silence/of a bell/ ringing." Curiously, I had plenty of time to keep up with the news; only that I was not dwelling in the drama and excitation of screaming headlines. Voltaire was poking fun at the idea of tending your own garden, but I think that too is part of this Monk Manifestation.

This essay resonated deep in my soul. A declaration of integrated living. Very inspiring. Thank you.

Although I cannot so eloquently word my philosophy on life, I believe I have been trying to live to a similar code for years. Of course, I get stuck sometimes in the very real chaos created by the people around me and forget to be intentional about my moments, my love, my presence, but it is still a goal. I do find it hard to maintain when those around me crowd in and make noise both of the physical and emotional/psychical sort, but navigating that path is also a part of living on this earth and finding equilibrium. It is a very personal journey and one I do not share with most. I find it a relief to find others on a similar path.

Interesting read

This beautiful piece, written and video, has left me breathless. I am grateful!


Thank you :-))))

I was going to garage sales in Santa Fe. I went to a corner unit which had a Buddha sitting on a table outside the entrance. I asked how much the Buddha was and the woman replied, "Its not for sale." As I walked away she said "Have a happy moment!"

Hello Christine,

Just a quick note to let you know that I enjoyed your manifesto and have provided a link to it in the Interprize Group's weekly newsletter for this week. We are focused on helping people live fully post core career, pursuing grand ambitions of deep personal meaning. A part of their success is in establishing emotional balance and your 7 principals are powerful for reflection. If interested, you can read this week's newsletter with your manifesto here:

Warmest regards,

- Bill

Stunningly lovely, calming, simple... thank you for following your inspiration and creating this precious vignette. My website is not up yet, but within a few weeks, it will be, and my goal is to use art to bring the world together. By teaching the appreciation of the awesome, may we share in a reverence for each other. I feel showered with gentle love from your post and the splendid art. Thank you.

I would add one thing to this magnificent elequent expression that resonates joyfully with me! It is somewhat contained in your definition of "Monk" and in the principal of community. It is about having people to keep me honnest, to whom I am accountable, who have my blind spots. Some call this family. Monks need people who challenge their sanity constantly and consistantly. Growing up in the western world, we have been wired for self deception. My solution has been to develop relationships where radical honnesty is one of the foundations of our committment to each other. So I would add a "I commit to radical honnesty and accountability, to be monitored on a daily basis in loving dialogue."

Also, what do you mean by "single-hearted"?

I feeling joy and inspiration at reading your "Monk's Manifesto" and look forward to more. Thank you.

Thank you for this--so well put and I intend to share it! I like the "sacred yes" and the "sacred no." Great food for thought. I find it quite interesting how many otherwise ordinary people around me are quite interested in the tiny house movement, or at least in substantial downsizing of possessions and a household/property to maintain. I think it's a very telling impulse that speaks to the subtle violence to which you refer--"as we push our bodies to the point of exhaustion and our spirits to the place of despair." Also, perhaps, some sense of the need for a more deliberate and equitable life for all.

This is a beautiful expression allowing for both awareness and balance. Thank you.

When I read the Monks Manifesto, I remembered the saying of a friend from the sanctuary days. "Walk the hallowing way," he said.
Thank you Christine for the manifesto, and for the stirring of my memory.


I read and reflect upon these points every day. Thank you for them as they have brought me focus and a sense of community while allowing, even encouraging my individual creative and contemplative path...across the borders of world religions and remembering our natural environment and selves... Thank you!

Needed more time to read and contemplate the graphics which were also partly obscuring the text.

what a perfect gift for this afternoon when I'm struggling with disappointment and embarrassment. Thank you.

thank you -your words bring a light which lifts the dredges that seem, some days to mount around my feet. I see I am delighted.

This is so beautiful and touches my heart. I love the part where it says "to exclude and draw ever-stronger boundaries around what (or who) is holy) and what (or who) is not."

this is really beautiful and calls to me in a way that nothing else does/has today... Thank you for sharing. When there is so much to challenge me in my life, this timely reminder invites me 'back into the fold' and for this I am so grateful.

There is a danger in making believe we are monks or nuns. If we live in the world, we aren't. Even if we are Oblates, as I have been since 1980, we aren't vowed contemplative monks or nuns.

What contemplative life does provide, however, as does a study of the Rule of St. Benedict, is a framework for living that is rooted in the same understanding of the Kingdom of God as is found in the monastery. An understanding that all is God; that everything we do affects everything else; that silence and solitude are absolutely necessary for a healthy, authentic relationship with God. This is monastic and this is real.

We must continue to search for guidelines like those in this article for our LAY life outside the monastery. And must constantly guard against making believe we are anything other than lay people seeking to see the Rule of St. Benedict (or any other monastic rule or way of life) as a way to more fully live our lives in the world.

Simply....beautiful! An incredible gift! Thank you..

I first heard this at Torah Study in September 12 from Rabbi Stacy just before the start of the Jewish New Year . I am a Buddhist married to a Presbyterian , study with Buddhists, Christians and Jews and find the thread that binds us. This manifesto speaks to all of us. Nice to hear words of encouragement for pursuing the contemplative path, even a few minutes a day can bring some quiet and reflective moments to our lives.

Love Christine's work.

Just Beautiful!!

Always to be reminded why we are here

it's hard to read when some of them are going so quickly...slow it down because the handwriting is difficult to discern since it's in script.willhav ego gothruoghit again to get all the words. nice though...! ! ! e.e.

How beautiful. If even a small percentage would allow these simple truths into their lives...Oh My...we would know peace. Thank you.

Thank you , thank you. I hardly know how this message drifted into my awareness, and yet you spoke directly to my soul. I no not where this will take me, but my heart says Yes and my feet are stirred to follow.

I am hungry, hungry, hungry (perhaps starving) to learn and experience everything on the contemplative path . . . you sound like you've been on this road a while, you go, girl. Can't tell you how much I liked your manifesto!!!