Q: When I went to a monastic retreat a few months ago my “lost spirituality” of childhood came back with full force, to my surprise. Since then I am constantly thinking about God and meditating, it’s like a fire inside me. I read many books to get more ideas. It’s so strong that I have even considered joining an order, giving up my ordinary busy life. Is this a “calling”? I’m afraid that it could be just day-dreaming, a romantic feeling or even escapism. What should I do in this situation? — A., Japan

A: Dear A., it could be a calling. I would take it slow though. Consider establishing a disciplined daily practice. Get up each morning early for prayer and meditation. Practice again in the evening if you can. Try to conceive of your daily tasks as part of your practice and bring your whole mind and heart to them. Don’t think about joining an order. Instead, imagine you already have done that, and practice every day, just as you are.

Meanwhile, plan on attending another retreat, especially one in which you would have access to a spiritual teacher. Discuss your situation with the teacher and get some feedback. If you are meant to join an order that is something that you can best discern with the help of someone who is experienced in these things. But committed serious spiritual practice does not require that you join an order. The real question is: Can you keep up a daily practice after the fire is banked, and becomes a glowing ember?

Zoketsu Norman Fischer, Zen Abbot