Day 1: Christ in the Desert Monastery

Thank god for Laura’s iPhone. Not because I am itching to surf the net or make calls here at the monastery, but because it has a flashlight. The Christ in the Desert Monastery is in a very remote part of New Mexico. It sits alone in the middle of a vast mesa with 600-800 foot cliffs on either side. It is 27 miles from Abiquiu and 13 of those miles are along a muddy and often difficult to navigate track that takes an hour to traverse by car. I arrived here at 2.30pm and was met at the guest house door by a huge spider whose body was the length of my palm. My little room here has a mud floor, concrete platform with a mattress on it and tiny solar light. After a cup of tea, I went straight to None at 3.30pm. This is one of the 7 prayer cycles a day. The monks sing through the psalms (mostly) in a gentle mellifluous tremolo just above a whisper.  Outside the service, everyone is supposed to maintain silence here at all times. So during a hearty dinner (spicy sausages, asparagus, rice, salad and grapes – hardly the thin penitent fare I expected), I decided to practice mindful eating (relishing each bite). It took me so long that everyone else finished and left before me. So I walked the 1/3 of a mile through the canyon back to the guest cells alone in the pitch black under the stars. Laura’s iPhone was my guiding light and my comfort. Tomorrow I’ll be up at 3.15am for Vigils at 4am.

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