California, here i come

My destination is locked in, sir. Come January I will leave the ice and snow of the Dakotas and make my home among the palm trees of sunny Southern California. Santa Monica is my specific destination. It’s on the coast, still a part of Los Angeles county.

To me honest, I’m not much of a city guy. So, adjusting to the L.A. area might be a bit of a stretch for me. Hopefully, though, like a good yoga pose, it will stretch me in good ways.

Over the years, I have greatly appreciated the teachings of James Finley. Years ago, in the 60s, he was a monk at Gethsemane, the monastery where Thomas Merton resided. In fact, Merton was Finley’s spiritual director. Finley left the monastery in hopes of taking the contemplative path to those outside the cloistered walls. He became a spiritual retreat leader and a psychotherapist for trauma victims. He is now semi-retired, living in Santa Monica.

At this point, the primary thing that matters to me is walking the contemplative path. I’ve been studying the contemplative approach for the last several years and I have incorporated many contemplative practices into my life as spiritual disciplines. I am still pursuing pastoral ministry, but at this point, my strongest intuition is to seek mentorship in the contemplative way. I’m not sure how long my stay in L.A. will be. It could be temporary, six months or so, or it could be a longer term stay. I’d like to keep that a bit open-ended.

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Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

26 thoughts on “California, here i come”

  1. The contemplative path is actually not so much about introspection. It’s about learning to live, spontaneously, in the most healthy and life-giving manner, without introspection! =)


    1. Hi Buffy,

      That’s a possibility. I’d really love to visit.

      I’ve been trying to drop you a line about something unrelated, mostly I’ve been using FB messaging, because I don’t have your email. Do you have my email? Drop me a line when you get a chance:


    1. Ha, ha. Stalking? Well, in the spiritual tradition, the spiritual seeker usually pursues the sage, definitely not the other way around. You remember Fight Club? When someone wanted to join, they were required to stay outside for several days, to prove that they were serious. They would be told that they were not wanted, that they didn’t have what it takes, that there was no room. If they were persistent, they were allowed to enter. That idea is taken straight from Buddhist and other Eastern monastic traditions, and I suspect this is also present in the Western Christian monastics as well, though I’ve not heard of it.


    2. Fascinating. Fight Club is a sort of aggressive nihilistic monastery isn’t it? I’ve never really thought about how someone gets accepted into a monastic novitiate in the Catholic tradition. The contemplative life is a discipline after all, so demonstrating one’s physical and psychological endurance might be pretty good criteria.


    3. To be clear, I don’t anticipate any similar exercise when I go to SoCal! =) I simply cited that as an example of how, in the contemplative/mystical/monastic traditions, the spiritual seeker initiates the desire to learn from the teacher.

      It is somewhat similar, perhaps, in Western education. I mean, to learn from the best teachers, a person in the U.S. or Western Europe generally has to bust their ass to get the right grades, make the right contacts, and have the right references to get into the schools that have the top teachers. It’s certainly less romantic, though, than the monastic tradition of waiting on the doorstep for a week or so!


    1. Thanks Lori! How are things up there in northern Dakota? I see you had a few roadtrips that didn’t produce the desired results. (“It’s the journey, not the destination”???) Things are cooling down and getting blustery around here.

      Do you have plenty of wool socks on hand?


      1. Yep, we’ve arrived at “blustery” too. We do have wool socks – thanks for asking.

        So! I drew names from among those who guessed the meaning of my brother’s band on my blog back in grkejtk mumble mumble,kaitkust June. You were the lucky winner! Shoot me your mailing address somehow, if you’re okay to receive a cd (not going ultra-ultra-light).

        I’ll explain the meaning there too, but when my brother was young, he played baseball and wasn’t much good. There was another kid, Marshall, who was often told to go play catch with Luke during warm ups. The coach would throw him the ball and say, “Marshall, catch.” Years later, when Luke was in college, he delivered pizzas and once went to a run-down house with dozens of toys strewn about the lawn. He was certain a poor tip was coming. A lady answered the door with a kid or two in arm and several more at her feet and totally surprised Luke by being super sweet and super generous in her tip. The sign on the mailbox said the husband’s name was Marshal Ketch (or so). Anyway, that family ended up being among his favorite customers, and he was always sure to grab up that delivery when he saw their address on the screen.


  2. Okay, so maybe you are just going to show up out there. That’s how the explorers and pioneers, the adventurers and missionaries used to end up in California. As you know, I’m quite intrigued by the open-ended pilgrimage…


  3. Moving to LA was certainly a shock for me…at least coming from Portland. Its an interesting place where a lot of people live, but many don’t have roots here. Even the ones from here don’t always seem to be rooted in the place. Myself, I still can’t believe I’m still here over 4 years later (though I have plans to move shortly after the new year myself). Good luck on your journey 🙂

    (I also just happened across a Benedictine Monastery in Big Sur last weekend you might be interested in checking out…they’re a Catholic order: Sadly the great Episcopal monastery above Santa Barbara was burned to the ground a few years ago in a wildfire…they are now sharing a space in Santa Barbara proper with some Episcopal Nuns:



    1. Thank you for commenting, Rhino Ryan. My former girlfriend is Episcopal, as am I, and she spent a bit of time at that monastery north of Santa Barbara before it burned. It’s sad.

      Thanks for the link to the Benedictine Monastery in Big Sur, and thank you for passing on the tips about L.A. Where will you be moving?


      1. Yeah…I know of your blog through Tamie…

        The plan is to move back up to Portland (OR), where I’ll be closer to my family (both biological and friends).


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