Do monks typically avoid stimulus coming from their environment?

In terms of physical activity and lots of stimulus in the environment, do monks withdraw from large gatherings and spend a lot of time in solitary, peaceful rest and some communication with a few other monks?


If you take note of the images on this website, you will note two things about the physical environments we inhabit: they are filled with light, and they are very simply designed and furnished. Cistercians learned centuries ago that living in light filled rooms of stark simplicity (and dim lit rooms too), is an aid to fostering contemplative prayer and “mindfulness” of the mysteries of God. “Withdrawal” or “flight from the world”, as it is traditionally called is, of course, foundational to our way of life and self-understanding.

We are, by temperament, men and women who tend to gravitate toward solitude as that place where God, in the person of Jesus Christ, becomes more real for us and can be known intimately. Though we live in community, we are also solitaires. Communication with each other is disciplined and circumscribed. Actually, the entire block of time from the end of Compline in the evening until after mass the following morning is generally observed in our monasteries as the “Great Silence” in which there is no communication between monks / nuns at all. Then there are places of silence: The church, the cloister garth, the refectory, the monk’s cells and the corridors adjoining the cells. All this helps to create a very quiet environment.

Our life is a sign to the church and to the world, pointing people toward the truth that their vocation in Christ is to “go apart”; to die to themselves and be raised again as a new creation. Silence, solitude, and simplicity of life, are all values that monks cultivate in order to provide this witness to the world.