A Box of Sky

In the middle ages, monastics living in cloistered communities had access to a limited amount of sky. I can imagine solemnly walking from morning prayers to the courtyard garden in an abbey in Europe, hungry to soak up the vibrancy of plants and herbs. I would then turn my head upward to the sky framed by the four walls of a stone inner sanctum,  where monks and nuns were called to live in private community, to hold the world up with their prayers. They had a system of influence and communication for their time.

Durham Cathedral Cloister, England

The 21st century has brought a movement sometimes known as “monk in the world,” and promoted by such renowned spiritual teachers as Christine Valters Paintner (Abbey of the Arts), Caroline Myss (Entering the Castle), and Glennon Doyle Melton (Momastery). But what does it mean, exactly – monk in the world? I’m not a nun, but I am a spiritual, Christian lay person. Being able to share my spiritual experiences in the online community affords me a virtual cloister where that box of sky is not my window on the universe but is a window for the universe into me. It then connects me to others working to nurture the mystical side of  humanity, forming a wide fanning network of influence. It’s a system for our global times.

Earlier this week I set up a YouTube channel for an online class I’m taking in a master’s level communication program. I’ve used YouTube before, to store private videos and to make public videos for my professional work in the Church. But this time, I set up a channel to go along with this blog, Creative Monastery. I’m exited and nervous. Setting up a YouTube channel on which I will risk posting videos for the whole world (or no one depending on SEO and level of interest) to see is a daunting move.

It is intimidating to work from a concept hundreds of years old, that of hiding away from the world in order to influence it from a place of inner sanctum, privacy and relative safety, and hope to help transform it for the modern world. Stepping out from inner spiritual sanctum to be vulnerable in the world, to attempt to offer bits of healing and wholeness by exposing my voice through digital media, is a loud, public practice.

Two Doorways, Monk Bretton Priory, South Yorkshire, England

So I’m going to start by using my YouTube channel in an online class. I know I’ll be working out kinks and learning new tricks to learn to execute my work successfully. Although I plan to make my posts on YouTube public, it is likely that my classmates will be the only ones to see them for a while. The class is a small group of about 12, which constitutes a safe space in which the students are wishing each other success and are there to offer each other constructive feedback – kind of like in a small cloistered community. We’ll be there at the finish, cheering each other on like mama birds sending their babies out of their nests as they take off to soar in an endless sky, seeking to reach their full potential.

Beginning by using YouTube in this online class is like taking those first tentative breaths of fresh air in the morning before looking up at the blue box of sky through the stone courtyard, a blue box of computer screen in today’s world. Through digital media, my voice, as well as those of my fellow classmates in their own ways, stands a chance to break free of the cloister and be an influence on the vast world beneath a spacious sky. I hope you see us soaring up there soon.

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What experiences have you had in releasing your voice to the world through digital media?

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