Saturday, July 11, 2015

Taking Delight

"A Hummingbird's Nest" 
- in my meditation garden -

Yesterday I decided to take a little respite from the heat of the summer sun so I walked into the local Starbucks, ordered a cool drink and “put up my feet” for a few minutes of rest. It was then that I realized that I was essentially the only person in the entire place who was actually taking a little rest—everyone else was busily doing stuff.

The vast majority of my fellow patrons were pecking away at a computer or an iphone – even people who came in as a group were looking at a computer screen rather than actually having a conversation with one another. I suspect some were doing business, a few people had spread sheets laid out on the table next to them. Others were busily searching the web or texting or browsing social media; but everyone was busy doing stuff.

The Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, would probably say that the people in that coffee shop were all “running, running, running.”  No one was just lying back and enjoying the moment. It was an almost perfect icon of everyday life in today’s popular culture.

Today the Western Christian church remembers the life of Saint Benedict, often referred to as the “Father of Western Monasticism.”  Back in the 6th century Benedict wrote a “Rule of Life” for his monks - a rule still followed to this very day in monasteries of men and women throughout the world. Benedict was a big proponent of finding  “balance” in the everyday routine of life.  To this very day, a monk or nun is devoted to spending equal time each day praying, studying, working, and resting.

I suppose most people get the fact that a monk should pray every day (in fact most monks stop at seven appointed times each day to pray.) The fact that monks should devote time to reading or studying probably also makes some sense. It even makes sense that monks should spend part of the day working (for Benedict this meant engaging in some sort of physical labor); but it’s kind of hard for people to imagine why monastics are committed to devoting intentional, devoted quality time  “resting” every day.

For Benedict a daily period of rest was as essential as saying your prayers.   

A devoted period of “rest” does not necessarily mean that you have to get enough sleep nor is it necessarily a time for taking an afternoon nap (although there is certainly nothing wrong with doing that). A time of “rest” is a time of respite - a time to take a break from the routine, a time to get away from the heat and the rigor of everyday life.  Sitting in a coffee shop, putting up your feet and enjoying the moment might actually be a perfect example of what it means to “rest.”

Interestingly enough, most monastics of all religious traditions include a daily period of “rest” as a normative part of the routine. In fact, a balanced life including a devoted time to “rest” is seen as a necessary discipline for anyone on any type of spiritual journey-not just for monks or nuns.

In the beautiful creation poem found in the Hebrew tradition, after the busyness of the six days of creation, even God rests for a day.  In the poem, God stops, looks at the beauty of His creation, and marvels at how “good it all is.”  People in the Bible stories are also invited to follow God’s example - take a day off, a Sabbath day to marvel at how good it all is.

I think the poet and ecologist, Wendell Berry, “hits the nail on the head” when he says:

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.

It’s the weekend, a Sabbath time, a time when we might all take some respite from the busyness of the everyday routine - maybe get unplugged, talk with friends and with the people we love, maybe take a walk and look at flowers or just sit on a rock and watch grass in the field, taking delight in it all, marveling at how good it all is.

A hummingbird has built a little nest in the fig tree of my meditation garden. I stop and look – such a delight.


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