"Stop and Rest"
- At the Desert Retreat House -
Over the holidays we spent some time in New York City- a far cry from the peace and quiet of our desert home. At one point of our visit as we walked down a very crowded Manhattan street I turned to my wife and said, "Do you notice how fast everyone is moving?" Business people in suits on their way to work or a meeting, students with backpacks on their way to class, even tourists on vacation with kids in tow on their way to visit a museum - all moving at breakneck, even chaotic speed on their way to the next thing in their "busy" schedules.
As I walked along that Manhattan street last week, I thought to myself that the sight of all those fast-paced people constantly on the move is perhaps a perfect icon of contemporary life in today's popular culture.
Back some 1500 years ago, Saint Benedict wrote a Rule of Life for his community of monks, a rule that governed the "flow" of everyday living. Every day the monks were to observe proportionately balanced periods of "prayer," "study," "work" and "rest" as a path to living a healthy life in mind body and spirit - prayer time, time in the library, time working in the fields, and a sabbath time of daily rest that went beyond just going to sleep at night.
I have always thought that Benedict's Rule of Life is not only a path monks might follow, but a direction for any single one of us who walk a spiritual path on the road to wisdom and deeper truth.
We are people with minds and intellects, we are incarnate in our bodies and we are all spiritually-prone to seek transcendence - so it seems to me that we need to take care of and feed all those parts of who we are.
When I observed those masses of people on the move last week, everything seemed out of balance to me. Everyone was working, moving, thinking, plotting, planning, negotiating their way around - even tourists ploughing through the crowds on their way to a museum or a Broadway show were "working." I wondered how many of those folks would spend a time of prayer or quiet time that day? How many might take time to sit down and read a book, study or reflect? How much time would actually be devoted to really resting, taking a breather, doing nothing?
My guess is that we all know a lot about work and even when we aren't working we are working, I'm not so sure about the other stuff.
I really enjoyed our vacation back East over the holidays, but like many people I came back home needing a vacation from the vacation. On this Sunday morning, in the wake of the holiday season, it's time for me to get some balance back again: daily quiet and meditation time, a time each day carved out for reading and studying, and most especially an intentional period of rest-- some daily "sabbath" time, maybe taking a leisurely walk, maybe just sitting in my garden for a spell and staring at the flowers or just sitting in the quiet of sunset and taking it all in.
Now that the holidays are over, we would probably all do well to take some sabbath time.
Wendell Berry once said:
Sabbath observance invites us to stop. It invites us to rest.
It asks us to notice that while we rest, the world continues without our help.
It invites us to delight in the world's beauty and abundance.