From unMonastery to mindfulness: how we gather

noelito
5 min readFeb 23, 2024

I was baptised Catholic and went to a covent school…however, my journey to redemption ended at the age of 13, when I refused to be confirmed. It must be because I prefer being always in “beta”! But when I discovered friends of mine were developing unMonastery I was intrigued!

Everything seems to be prefixed with an “un” these days, unconferences, unguides, learning, etc. Often it’s where historical, often hierarchical ways of doing things are hacked into something more participative and horizontal. A monastery is definitely historical and disciplined, if not hierarchical.

“The unMonastery is a social clinic for the future… aimed at addressing the interlinked needs of empty space, unemployment and depleting social services by embedding committed, skilled individuals within communities that could benefit from their presence”

“The unMonastery: a commune for the internet age”

But unMonastery is different, in that while it creates connections between the opportunity technology gives us through people being able to influence and take part in projects that are being developed onsite, it also values the principles that make a monastery what it is, while using modern resources to enable other communities to create their unmonasteries.

Beyond this creative concept fusing open source and medieval culture, many people are increasingly looking to be more self-aware in a world, where we’re always connected, always wired, always…on demand. Not just more self-aware but more spiritual, even if less people are religious than before.

A friend of mine @caspertk co-wrote a publication called “How we Gather” to shine a light on organisations and groups developing spiritual ways to act collectively. They came up with a set of principles which underpin these new trends.

Those that stood out for me were

1. Community

The Dinner Party is a community of 20- and 30-somethings who all have experienced a significant loss, and who get together over homemade food to talk about it and how it impacts their lives.

I’ve started organising dinners where we come up with a theme, invite people doing exciting things on that topic and then they come and bring an ingredient or dish, like a “pot luck” hack.

2. Social transformation

The U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC) is an action network of artists and cultural workers mobilizing creativity in the service of social justice. Their People’s State of the Union involving hosts around the country organising local “story circles” to collect people’s experiences of dis/union.

3. Purpose finding

Millennial Trains Project (MTP) leads crowd-funded train journeys across America for diverse groups of young innovators who are thrown together for 10 days and 3,000 miles. Each learning journey combines personal development and shared discovery through mentor-led seminars and participant-led projects. Applicants get on board by pitching a project they want to advance in one of the communities where the train stops, and then racing to crowdfund the cost of their ticket.

I was involved in running a caravan trip which set out to document creative civic practices across several countries. Caravans went across different zones and we’ve produced a documentary.

4. Creativity

Camp Grounded is a summer camp for adults. Offered as a time for play, creativity and community, Camp Grounded caters to millennials who want to turn off their cell phones and be their true selves in the outdoors.

5. Accountability

Live In The Grey offers advice to individuals that encourages risk-taking, community building, and self-improvement. It also advises companies on how to adapt their cultures so as to attract and retain top millennial talent.

I’m also involved in Lambeth U Lab, where we’ve brought people together from across the local area to unlearn, reflect and make sense together of the challenges we personally and collectively face, in new ways.

How are you using more mindful and even spiritual ways of understanding and navigating the changes around you and your community?

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noelito

Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese