Historical Context

Before the European Invasions, there was a native people called the Toltecs who dwelt high in the mountains of the Americas. Somewhat akin to the Tibetans, they were a highly spiritual people. Persons from any tribe who felt called to the life of high spirit were welcome to join them. In Christian culture there were spiritual oases called monasteries that were populated by persons called to live a life focused on communication with the Divine. We call these people monks and they exist today, not only in monasteries but here among us. In the case of New Monks they are us.

While the Toltecs and the Christian Monks lived on mountain tops or in monasteries, the New Monks live in the midst of the marketplace – in towns, in cities and in the countryside. We wear neither robes nor habits. As a New Monk saying goes; “The world is our monastery and our habits are in our hearts”. Fine romantic words but true. And our challenge is formidable: to bring the contemplative consciousness that is our heritage into the competitive hustle of the business world, the political world, and the sexual world where so much human suffering is generated. As we do so, these arenas are transformed, and the traditional monastic vows turned upside down. Poverty gives way to abundance, chastity to intimacy, outward obedience to inward attunement. If this is your spiritual calling, you are a “New Monk”.

Current History

Some forty years go Sunder Wells, a catholic convert, underwent a spiritual transformation that she felt to be a call to the monastic life. However, as the wife of an Air Force officer and mother of two young children, such a call made no sense. With the support of her Jesuit spiritual director she decided to attempt to live the life of a “monk in the world”.

Over the years she encountered others who had experienced this same call, and together they formed a friendship and support network which became The New Monk Project. At one time there were over 300 worldwide members of this network which welcomed contemplatives from all religious traditions.

Eighteen years later, her children grown, Sunder became a student of Zen Buddhism and began her personal journey into what is now known as an Integral Spirituality, drawing upon the wisdom of all traditions of East and West, including that of Native People all over the world. Each “New Monk” follows a unique spiritual journey response to the inner word which becomes more clear as we learn to listen.

The present form of the Project grew out of a recent bequest left by Sr. Mariquita Platov, a Russian Orthodox hermit. This required us to incorporate and formalize our structure, create an office and staff, launch a website and test the waters to see how many new New Monks there may be now on this cutting edge of an integral spiritual path.

You may contact Sunder personally at sunderwells@gmail.com.