I discovered contemplative prayer when I was 24 and it changed my life. After about a year of praying on my own almost daily, I discerned that I wanted to join with other lay people in a community that shared the values of quiet prayer, simple lifestyle, and social justice. I was pretty adamant about wanting to do this as a lay person rather than as a religious, as a witness that lay people are called to live out these values too. The social justice part of the formula was easy: As a physician’s assistant, I helped to found a clinic in Washington, D.C. offering free medical care to the poor, and I served there. Simple lifestyle was easy, too: most non-profits don’t pay a salary that enables extravagance! But in the end the community of prayer component was elusive. I helped form groups that shared my goals but they would always be transient; people would move on to other things. I continued to live in these informal communities until I was 34. At that time, when things fell apart yet one more time, I heard myself say, “Oh nuts! What will I do now? I think I’ll join the Carmelites.” I was astonished by this, but I reasoned that if I was driven to mutter something like this in a moment of despair, I had better take it seriously. It was one of the best things that I ever did in my life. I found a wonderful stable community that treasures contemplative prayer, lives simply, and holds all the cares of the world before the loving gaze of God.