Puber in the monastery – a memory of Ton de Nooy

Sixteen years old I was, devout, gospel rocker and fascinated by the visit of a real monk in our social studies class at Marcus College in Grootebroek, now Martinus College. We live by this memory in the year 1989. This man drew a cartoon of a monk on the flapover board asking if this was what we imagined. There he stood himself, sweater with hat, jeans, a fit-looking man with a somewhat stocky build. He asked crazy questions. Whether we could look one meter in front of us. Where our soul was in our body. The answer was that the soul encompassed our whole body; that’s what that drawing was for. We meditated some more. I found that scary, pious boy as I was, for fear of opening myself up to I don’t know what… Incidentally, I now teach meditation myself. Thanks in part to Ton de Nooy, because he was that monk.

As an extension of this visit, we received the extracurricular offer from our social studies teacher Cor Heldens, whether we wanted to come along to this man’s mini monastery on the North Holland coast. A monastery with one monk – Ton called it a monastery for that reason. We were there for a short weekend with a small group of something like five students and our teacher Cor. At that time, going to study theology had occurred to me. Indeed, from home I was a solidly Reformed boy from Andijk, well brought up with Bible reading and deeper conversations at home, neatly completed the path of church youth work. I had really come to believe personally, starting point of a long process in development shall we say. By now I am a congregational pastor in Roden.

For someone at this age, Ton was a fascinating identifier. Truly letting your faith determine your life’s course, not on the sidelines of a busy life of work, family and all sorts of things, but going full steam ahead. That he merged East and West into his own lived spirituality I took neutrally at the time. Now I realize how unique Ton was in this. Much had been on Athos, where he had been formed to the Greek Orthodox Church. Similarly, he had been to Tibet to take in how the Buddhist monks there shape their lives. Both met in Castricum in that converted West Frisian bell farm.

The floor of the prayer room was inlaid with stone tiles specially imported from Tibet. There was a robust dog walking around from that same region, one of those that you could pet because you wanted to, but was otherwise very self-conscious. Ton had had him locked in his cage that morning he told us, no idea why, and then the dog had demolished the cage to get out. Of such caliber, then. The dog also lay strategically at the intersection of the main path with a side corridor each time, watching everything carefully. Then you’re glad you have the vastness of the dunes right behind your mini monastery, where you can let this animal run free. Saturday night was filled with a slideshow about Athos, that crazy men-only island with a monastery and nothing else. There he had learned the daily order of the Orthodox monk and probably much more, but that didn’t stick in my adolescent brain.

The tiles may have been necessary because of acoustics. In fact, the Sunday morning of the lodge weekend we had a singing bowl concert. Never before had I heard such a thing, and whether it was due to colored memory, who knows, but later I never experienced it like that again. The sound engulfed me, came to us from all sides. There he stood in front of us stringing the bowls upside down on his hand, a technique that I myself later often amazed singing bowl owners with. And that sound! Ton was in front of us, but the sound came from behind, from above, from the side, from the front. The whole experience became being in the sound. He struck that big one, bells tolling with it. An experience of a higher dimension, I would now say.

Much substance of what I’m sure he said I don’t remember. What has always stuck in my mind is that there is a place out there in a remote corner of the Netherlands where I could always go again, to recharge, to get out of the flow. That he had passed away I got into somewhere my college days. That a progression has come and a hermit now lives, I read in Volzin in 2022. When I shared my memories by email with Thomas van Kleef, he asked me to turn them into a blog. Herewith my shared memory of an extraordinary man.

Walter Meijles

Pastor PG Roden-Roderwolde
esoterist and storyteller

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