When I was eighteen I took a gap year before going to University. I knew I would be studying psychology so I decided to get some work experience and got a job as a nursing assistant in a large hospital for people with mental handicaps. On my first day I was given a list of patients to help with their bath. I went to find the first one and helped him to wash himself as best I could. When I stepped out of the bathroom to take a towel I found that all the other patients on the list were standing naked outside the bathroom, all with their towels neatly folded over their arms and I realised how institutionalised life here really was.
My duties were simple and routine. Bathing, dressing, shaving, serving food and calling for a nurse if anything happened I couldn't handle. The job was like looking after big babies, having to try to see what they were asking for when they were upset. I had to put myself in their simple shoes and keep my eyes on just the basic necessities of life. I came to love them. I was amazed how content they could be with so little in life. The experience was an immensely earthing one and I began to realise just how simple life could be if you did not think about it too much. I could see the suffering of all my intellectual craving. Perhaps you can too if you have the same craving, reading this article in its deliberately simple style!
As for me, going on to college I was left with a nagging doubt about all the thinking. I wanted to try to help in what seemed like bigger ways and thought to use my brain, but in my vacations I would go straight back to simple nursing with a sense of relief.
As a monk, thankfully, I have rediscovered the simple life. Now, however, this simplicity covers even my thinking. Even though the deeper realities that emerge out of the contemplative life can be hard to describe, as an experience they are completely simple and clarifying of all our life experience.
I offer this for your reflection