Saturday, June 6, 2015

Insanely Busy

"A Place of Rest- 
- on a hot summer's day -

“Summertime, and the living is easy?” -for lots of people the opposite is true.

The other day I came across an article in a local newspaper written by a mom who was lamenting over how “insanely busy” her life is during the summer months. When the kids are in school, she puts them on a bus and is basically free until they come home again in the late afternoon; but in the summer months she is involved in programming virtually every waking hour of their day.

She takes her kids to sports’ camps and to lessons at the local pool. She arranges for a weekly visit from a tutor who has been hired to help one of her children improve his math skills. She schedules regular  “play dates” so that her kids can gather with other kids in a “safe and supervised environment.” On top of all that she is constantly engaged in monitoring her children’s online activity. It’s an “insanely busy” time of the year.

In the same article, the mom reported on a recent exchange she had with her fifth grader as they were about to take off for some sort of summertime event:

‘When are we leaving?’ my kid asks.
‘In 20 minutes,’ I say.
‘Do I have time not to get ready?’
That’s the conversation I had with my fifth grader, the implication being that he’s
constantly getting ready for the next activity and he wanted a little more time
not to get ready, to not do anything,
 maybe to flop on the couch awhile and play with his elbow.

I can certainly understand why concerned parents would want to keep their kids occupied and out of trouble over the summer months, but this little exchange between that mom and her son made me think that maybe we have come to the point where we have over-programed our lives.  Sometimes all of us need to just take some time to just flop on a couch and do nothing as we make our way along the path of life.

Most people nowadays find that their lives are “insanely busy,” regardless of the time of year- always busy at work or at school, insanely busy on days off, catching up on chores, working at home, and of course always pecking away at the computer, browsing  through the internet, a constant barrage of texts and tweets. People are even insanely busy during the lazy days of summer, if not planning out the lives of their kids, then planning for their own vacation times and then engaging in a constant buzz of activity when vacation finally comes.

Perhaps “rest” has become a lost art in our own times, and yet it is a necessary discipline on any spiritual path.

As I see it, the culture of being “insanely busy” has even affected the way in which a lot of people engage in their own spiritual practices: busy going to church or temple, overly obsessing about “getting in” those daily prayers or the proper meditation techniques, counting breaths, watching the clock to be sure enough time is being devoted  to practicing mindfulness.

Sometimes you just have to rest from it all, sometimes you just need to take the time “not” to get ready, not to do anything….otherwise busyness does indeed turn into “insanity.”

On this hot summer day in the desert I can walk out on the trail in front of my house and within a short distance I will arrive at an oasis of palm trees wonderfully springing up in the midst of all the heat and sand, inviting the weary traveler to stop, rest, put up your feet and have a cool drink, especially on a hot summer’s day.

Whenever I see that oasis I am always reminded of what is probably my favorite saying of the Desert Mothers and Fathers:

When a wise old Abbot was asked how he dealt with
any brother who fell asleep during public prayer, he replied,
‘I put his head upon my knees and help him to rest.’

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