Cover Image: Mediocre Monk

Mediocre Monk

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Grant Lindsley gives a very insightful, truthful telling of how one struggles in life, mind, and spirt in deciding to enter a Buddhist monastery. There have been numerous books on the subject of foreigners leaving their life behind to enter a monastery to become a monk. However, there have not been a lot about the daily struggles on what that life might mean or the hardships of living a monastic life. I once thought about doing what Lindsley did, but always thought that I did not have the right mindset or willpower to do it, and Lindsley showed me that I was probably right. Not only does one have this image of what that life entails, but the daily struggle between body and mind. The constant struggle of being hungry and trying to live the life that you think you need to obtain “enlightenment”. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is thinking about doing what Lindley did or wants to just live the experience through his personal journey.
Was this review helpful?
I did not  roll my eyes once during The Mediocre Monk! 
Books on spirituality and religion absolutely intrigue me, therefore I have read my fair share. More often than not, we come across the typical “ wealthy American, slightly entitled man” who can so easily quit his job, drop his life & fully fund a “spiritual adventure “ on the other side of the world. Most of these stories I find myself rolling my eyes at how out of touch they actually are for most people. 
Imagine my surprise as I started reading Grant Lindsey’s Mediocre Monk and found myself wholeheartedly enjoying his book. His writing style is humorous , self aware, and intentional.  
There could have been so many “eye rolling “ moments however the way he weaves his own shortcomings in his own pre perceived notions is not only hysterical but completely brilliant !! 
I enjoyed his entire Buddhist journey, I laughed at his own egotistical commentary and I cheered for him when he finally had a genuine “spiritual “ breakthrough.
Was this review helpful?
Grant Lindsley is deeply struggling with his friends’ death in a fatal car accident. Three out of the five people in the car perished, the grief from which caused Grant to leave his corporate job, family, and new girlfriend and buy a one-way ticket to Thailand to train in one of the strictest traditions in Theravada Buddhism—the “Thai Forest Tradition that seeks to follow the exact rules of the historical Buddha from over 2,500 years ago.” (location 3345 of 3370) His first Buddhism encounter was an intensive eight-week session in New Zealand “…as an undergraduate at Carleton College, where he majored in psychology and minored in neuroscience...” (location 3345 of 3370) In the Thai Forest Tradition, he eats only one meal per day, shaves off his head hair and eyebrows, and eventually get permission from the Ajahn to live in a cave in the forest. Unfortunately, there are poisonous snakes, scorpions, wild animals, and Laotian drug smugglers who visit the cave as well. He finds he is unable to force himself to become the true guru he believes he can be—he is restless, bored, hungry, and definitely has too much pride to be a humble monk. He tires himself out eventually, and it is then that he finds he begins his real growth, albeit not the way he expects it. He doesn’t become self-reliant by forcing himself to be alone nor does he heal from grief by trying to force himself; instead he finds comfort in allowing pain, accepting gratitude, and associating with others. 

“Mediocre Monk” is a very personal and moving memoir about learning and seeking  to embrace all in your life with acceptance and gratitude, even that which may be dangerous or painful. In the beginning, it is clear he is trying to oblige himself to achieve what he was looking for by living in the monastery, like forcing the proverbial square peg into a round hole. He purposefully chose the Thai Forest Monks for this purpose: “I was diving into the most intense monastic tradition I could find on planet Earth—because extremes also held me accountable. I needed from the outside what I couldn’t muster from within: discipline, insight, and self-reliance, all of which I thought I had gained the first time I went to a monastery. But they’d worn off. I had come to Thailand to get them back, to shove myself once and for all into enlightenment.” (location 63-76 of 3370) However, while not as he expected, he most definitely came away a different person, one ready to love and commit to his wife MJ (with the blessing of a Buddhist nun) and his family, growing into the man he always had the potential to become. We can all see ourselves in him as he lists his embarrassments and failures in detail as well as his subsequent successes. I truly believe that after his monastic experience and months of Buddhist teaching he grew to become his best self; he is no longer looking for adulation, praise, or forcing compliance, but living his experience. In his acceptance, he has learned what it means to be truly human.

I’d like to thank NetGalley, Grant Lindsley, and Girl Friday Books for the opportunity to read and review this ARC.
Was this review helpful?
Mediocre Monk follows the author through six months when he drops out of society to follow the teachings of the Thai Forest Monks (a strict sect of Theravada Buddhism) in search of enlightenment.  Part memoir, part spirituality philosophy, and a little bit of travelog, from the first page this book is unflinchingly honest and at the same time, humorous.

It’s evident from the get-go that the author has quite an ego (although possibly not too much larger than most twenty-five year old males) and that rather than running toward enlightenment, he was running away from grief.  The first story he tells is of meeting a female traveler when he lands in Thailand and being torn between wanting to be humble about the journey he’s setting out on but also wanting to be acknowledged and applauded for it.  This dichotomy plays out often through his first few months at the monastery: wanting to be seen as somehow special and more spiritual than the average seeker, yet still feeling like he’s falling short of the ideal he’s set for himself.

One of the more revealing parts that I loved was how he became annoyed with just about every other traveler when he first arrived at the monastery, in particular with one man who glommed onto him.  The author related his disgust with the young man’s brashness, yet it was pretty obvious the author probably acted and thought the exact same way.  This honesty and freshness made his eventual spiritual awakening that much more poignant.

It’s not all hours of meditation, or attempts at meditation, though.  There’s plenty of insight into the monk’s daily lives, monk rock stars, hidden caves, buddhist instruction and thought, drug smugglers, and trips to the outside world.  I was pretty impressed that the author remembered everything in so much detail, considering most of what I think went into his diary was pithy spiritual sayings.

Even though I really, really enjoyed reading this, in the end I wanted a little bit more.  The journey took place around 2015 and I would have liked an epilogue or final chapter on where his life took him; how he applied what he’d learned into his daily life.  There are hints of it, but I’d have loved to have seen how those six months and the lessons that he learned influenced the next several years without having to Google him.  (I did Google him; most links are connected to him still being active in Ultimate Frisbee).  Without that, it made the book feel like it was more of a good story than something that had a lasting impact on him.

Regardless, it was still a great read and I chuckled a lot.  And hey, laughter is always good.

Thank you to NetGalley and Girl Friday Productions for providing the ARC ebook.  I’ve left my review honestly and voluntarily.
Was this review helpful?
I really was expecting something more relatable than the story Grant shared. The entire time I was really hoping the narrative would shift and I would really start to root for Grant. Honestly I just really didnt like the story if felt like a highly unsatisfied person trying to make everyone understand how he did some hard things, wasn't a monk and is still living a psudeo wannabe monk life. It wasnt a good read and I feel badly for writing such a negative review.
Was this review helpful?
After a friend's traffic death, Grant Lindsley reacts by quitting his job and buying a one way ticket to Thailand, where he plans to enter a monastery, sit in silence, learn the secrets of enlightenment, and then write a best selling book sharing the aforementioned secrets. If this seems impractical and a tad presumptuous... it is. And Author Grant recognizes it as such, even if Monk-in-Training Grant did not. 

Spoiler alert... By the end of Lindsley's six month stay in the monastery, one of the biggest lessons he has learned is the importance of the *journey*. "Mediocre Monk" is the story of that journey, and frustration, hunger, and snakes are just a few of the chapters!

Transcending the topic of monks and monasteries, "Mediocre Monk" is about becoming, about striving and letting go, and about the importance of humor and community. 

My thanks to the author, publisher, and #NetGally for the chance to read an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. 
Was this review helpful?
Mediocre Monk starts out so well. It’s funny and self-effacing and so personal. Lindsley is quick to call out the shortcomings he has before right when the reader is thinking about his hidden and apparent biases. That quick response to an imaginary reader is hard to do and he gets it just right.

The introduction, set up at the monastery, and the original settling in story is intriguing and personal and kept my attention. But midway through the narrative, it became really stagnant. I didn’t follow the nuances of the different monasteries and the learnings in each of them. I got lost with the descriptions of the different monks and their backstories, and felt the chapters did little to divide the narrative up for me.

I felt personally invested in the author’s journey at the top of the book, and felt disinterested by the end.
Was this review helpful?
Thanks to Girl Friday Books and Netgalley for this ARC.

Mediocre Monk by Grant Lindsley follows the author's journey running from grief into the Buddhist forests of Thailand. He studies under different monks while attempting some spiritual growth and revelation, though finds it much more difficult than he imagined.

Lindsley is EXTREMELY self-aware in this book - almost painfully so. He is often feeling morally superior, despite making little progress in his own spiritual journey. It was distressing, but I also felt like I couldn't put it down. In fact, I read this book in just a few days and dropped all my other in-progress books just to finish it as I was so interested.

This book is filled with wisdom (from the monks) that Lindsley doesn't really seem to pick up, even if he remembers it. The title truly sums up his experience. It is a great book if you want to read about getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing a different culture and way of life.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and will recommend it to some of my Buddhist dharma friends.

You will like this book if you like: travel, spirituality, Buddhism, self-growth (or lack thereof), miserable adventures, and grief.

A review will be posted to Instagram the first week of April and a StoryGraph review will be posted shortly as well. I did add the book to StoryGraph's database yesterday so it is now available to be reviewed there.
Was this review helpful?
I found Mediocre Monk to be an engaging, fast read. Lindsley writes in a way that is conversational and entertaining. I appreciated his honest take on his adventure in the forests of Thailand. Mediocre Monk would be a good read for anyone who likes to explore other countries, cultures, etc. through literature.
Was this review helpful?
Mediocre Monk A Stumbling Search for Answers in a Forest Monastery by Grant Lindsley. ©2023. Advanced Reading Copy. Uncorrected Proof courtesy of NetGalley. Published by Girl Friday Books, Seattle. 5 Stars. Publication date is set for 11 April 2023.

An excellent read. Told with clarity and insight, the account of Lindsley’s pilgrimage is textured, reverent and humorous, showing that grief’s impetus is not a one-way trip but a circuitous journey and an invocation to everything that is hidden.

The writing has a natural, down-to-earth quality and, as the story gently progresses, you find yourself experiencing the subtle dance that takes place between the reader and the author's narrative. Highly recommend.
Was this review helpful?
Four friends have stolen aboard the Titanic. They're after the Rubaiyat - a book inlaid with priceless jewels. Josefa is a charismatic thief, Hinnah a daring acrobat, Violet an outstanding actress and Emilie a talented artist.

It is Josefa's plan, but she needs all of their skills. Despite their very different backgrounds, in a world of first-class passengers and suspicious crew members, the girls must work together to pull off the heist of their lives.
Was this review helpful?
Finally...a book about Buddhism that us regular guys can relate to...Lindsley lets us know how our preconceived notions of this belief system aren't quite right. Easily read,
Was this review helpful?
It is both to its credit and slightly to its detriment that the Grant Lindsley we meet in the opening pages of "Mediocre Monk" is the Grant Lindsley we end up with as the closing pages arrive and we get the ending we've long expected in this engaging but fairly predictable journey of one man's rocky journey toward spiritual growth. 

Lindsley was working in the corporate world when he was rocked by the unexpected death of a friend. Already familiar with Buddhism, Lindsley's grief led him to abandon the corporate world in order to train in the Thai Forest Tradition, a particularly strict sect of Theravada Buddhism that seeks to follow the exact rules of the historical Buddha from 2,500 years ago. In the mountains of Thailand, Lindsley shaves his head and eyebrows, eats one bowl of food a day, and lives in a cave, his solitude punctuated by brushes with snakes, scorpions, and drug smugglers. 

In other words, he does whatever he can to escape. 

However, as the title makes obvious, it turns out that Lindsley is a mediocre monk at best. In fact, I'd dare say that one of the challenges of "Mediocre Monk" is that I never for a single moment bought into the possibility that this journey toward spiritual growth was going to end up any other way than by a return home with a likely book deal. The journey itself is a delight and there's little denying the impact it had on Lindsley's life. There's just never any doubt that Lindsley isn't quite cut out for the life of a monk. Lindsley struggles with the strict rituals, hunger, restlessness, curiosity, and even the humility that is a constant companion for what it means to lean into being a monk. While discussions of ordination are present, it's obvious that while this journey does have great purpose that purpose does not include Lindsley abandoning his life back in the U.S. for a life in the mountains of Thailand.

This isn't a bad thing. It doesn't particularly hurt the book (as evidenced by my positive rating). However, there were times I longed for a bit more suspense as little cues would be dropped about Lindsley's future whether his consistent desire to write or his regular references to a particular friend. Amidst all of this, however, is a remarkably engaging tale of how Lindsley's desire to escape turned into his increased awareness of a deep need for community and human connection in his own journey for personal healing and spiritual growth. There's tremendous power in experiencing Lindsley's various Aha! moments along his journey and there's something quite inspiring in watching as he realizes that true enlightenment doesn't always come within the mountains of Thailand but also in living daily life, experiencing grief, winning Ultimate Frisbee championships, and becoming a writer who takes these unique life experiences and shares them with a wider audience all while still embracing the Buddhist path as central to it all. 

By becoming a mediocre monk, I suppose you could say that Grant Lindsley becomes a more fully realized and healthy human being in all the roles and responsibilities he will acquire in the future. "Mediocre Monk" is an incredibly engaging and often very funny tale of how one man's effort to live a simpler life was actually far more complicated and how the real reward came when he learned to live the life he was born to live.
Was this review helpful?