Peter Kowalke

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Planning, Monastic Style

By on November 16, 2014

The value of holy company. We are told that we are the company we keep, and spiritual people tell us that we should spend the majority of our time in holy company. This will uplift us and show us the right path.

Like many people, I had heard these words. But I didn’t fully understand the lesson until 2011, when I lived and worked at a Vedanta monastery in Delhi. Holy company makes a huge difference, and if anything its importance is undersold.

Surrounding yourself with holy company isn’t about getting spiritual lessons 24/7. When I was living in the monastery, there actually was very little instruction. And when I did talk with the monks, the conversation was often about mundane things. Holy company isn’t about grabbing spiritual gems.

Well, not directly at least.

What surprised me during my first prolonged stay in a monastery was the indirect effect of holy company. It wasn’t that the monks were teaching me, or that I could define a concrete list of things I had learned. The main value of holy company, for me at least, was the subtle uplift it brought.

When I was at the monastery, my spirituality just was more potent. There were more insights. My behavior started to change. I grew more calm. Among other changes.

We all learn by modeling others. As kids it is obvious that we model others, but the process doesn’t stop in adulthood. And that is the main value of holy company: We have good models, which helps us act according to our values and grow spiritually.

In our daily lives, most of us are surrounded by  quiet selfishness, by materialism, and by a host of other beliefs and actions that go against our spiritual beliefs. We can counter this bad learning through regular attendance of religious services—touching back with what we actually believe. But even better is living and working alongside people who are dedicated to living their spiritual beliefs on a daily basis.

This is the real reason to surround yourself with holy company, and this was what I found living in Delhi at the monastery.

This week we bring you a light and slightly quirky essay I wrote while living at the monastery. Enjoy.

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Peter is a relationship coach, writer/producer, and R&D monastic. He splits his time between San Francisco and Asia. Read more about Peter.