The collage at the top of this website contains links to twenty-eight stories and articles, listed on this page in chronological order. Browse them by passing the mouse cursor over each image and see the caption just below it.
Send any comments, observations, protests or corrections via my contact page, here.
Welcome to the personal website of author, teacher, blogger and web artist Stephen Schettini. Here you’ll find stories, articles and outtakes from his memoir The Novice. This site is an example of his painstaking design work (note the collage above with multiple links, as well as links to some of his other sites, top and right).
This website began in 2002 as a platform to promote my Quiet Mind workshops and to present mindful reflection. Since then it’s expanded to include stories from the cutting-room floor of my memoir The Novice (which originally counted nine hundred pages). You’ll also find here previously published articles, topical issues from my workshops & seminars, and suggested readings. Please visit my blog at thenakedmonk.com.
Growing up in England, I tried to solve the latent insecurities of my life by latching on to a series of belief systems: I began as an enforced Catholic and, when I realised I couldn’t swallow that any more, pursued communism, sixties counter-culture, spiritualism, astrology, divination and, most usefully, Buddhism. The banner that heads this web site recounts that life in images, each one a vital strand linked to a corresponding story or article.
I lived as a monk in the Tibetan tradition for eight years, at times alongside other Westerners, before practicing Theravadin Buddhism in Sri Lanka and deciding eventually to head off alone. Others went on to academic or teaching careers; I practiced for a further twenty years before starting my Quiet Mind Seminars.
Most important to me is to teach mindful reflection. Those who attend my seminars are like me in wanting to explore themselves without joining any belief system. With no desire to become Buddhists, they’re fascinated by the great practicality of what the Buddha taught.
The Buddha too was of like mind. Having lost faith in his domestic responsibilities, he followed a homeless life and awoke to the realisation that happiness was found in the mind, not in the pursuit of pleasure. He spent his life teaching not just a philosophical system of beliefs, but a way to awaken. I’ve spent mine trying to follow him, along the way seeing how hard I've worked to consciously and subconsciously maintain my slumber. I share my findings, but claim no other-worldliness.
I set out for India when thousands of Westerners were trekking Eastwards. Of the hundreds who were ordained
with the Tibetans in the 1970s, the vast majority of us eventually gave back our robes and sought some sort of rapprochement with our Western roots. For most of us this wasn't a rejection of all we'd learned from our Asian teachers, but a desire to integrate it more fully.
In pursuit of normalcy, most of us married; some became parents. The challenge was to bridge the insights of Buddha’s homeless life with 21st century realities.
That challenge has stayed with me, indeed, consumed me, for thirty-odd years. I never returned to my teachers — I carry them with me — and only recently renewed my friendship with former Buddhist colleagues. However, I never outgrew my youthful enthusiasm for a purposeful life. Physical-emotional comfort isn’t a bad thing, but neither is it a substitute for true happiness; that I seek through mindful reflection, an attentive lifestyle of mindfulness and radically realistic thinking.
Years of meditation, studying and reflection have led me to believe that the Buddha Siddhattha Gotama was what I can only call a humanist and skeptic of the first order. He had no time for the religion of his day or the eternally inconclusive debate as to whether or not there is a creator God. His question wasn’t why are we here, but here we are — now what? Clearly, he saw philosophy as a way of life to be put to use, not as an emotional crutch or a merely conceptual structure.
I've tried to express that attitude in the pages of this website. I no longer belong to any tradition; my understanding of what the Buddha taught led me away from Buddhist institutions. As paradoxical as that seems, it’s a common theme of our times — not just for me, and not just for Buddhists, either. How many good Christians hate church?
My mission is to transmit the essence of the instruction I received as plainly as I can. That means understanding the faulty premises underlying the way we pursue happiness, and the difficulties of living in a culture that so expertly manipulates them.
I hope you find this website helpful.