Saturday, October 10, 2015

Stop and Rest

"Oasis in the Wilderness"
- Outside the Desert Retreat House -

A few years back, when we first moved out to the desert, I promised myself that I would reduce the everyday “busyness” of my life - more quiet time, time for rest and walks. At first I found that I was able to take the time to stop and rest but it didn’t take long before the busy demands of the everyday world caught up with me. Like most people I know, I can find a way to be busy most of the time on most any day – scheduled appointments, writing, lectures and classes, chores of various sorts and of course there is always the internet or email messages and texts.

Today is Saturday - a weekend. Interestingly enough the very word “Saturday” means “sabbath,” or “rest.”  Our ancient ancestors thought that taking some time to stop and rest was so important that they named a day of the week for it - perhaps a way of reminding one another to take the weekend as a time away from the busyness of the everyday routine.  

Nowadays weekends tend to be even busier than Monday through Friday.  Many people work on weekends, and if they are not actually at work they are at home catching up on the work they were not able to do during the week. In many other cases weekends are a time to get to the “to do” list and accomplish all those numerous other tasks and chores that were put off.

As I think of it, being busy is almost a “badge of honor” in today’s popular culture. People sometimes brag about how “insanely busy” they are to indicate how important they are.

I often wonder if the phenomenon of always checking for messages on a cellphone or constantly “texting” with others is a subtle way of showing everyone around me just how busy I really am. There is a sense in which “busyness” can be just one more tool in the toolbox for building a big strong ego, and big egos are always a roadblock on the spiritual path. 

I have a busy day ahead of me and so this morning I decided to turn to one of my favorite poems by Mary Howe as she beautifully describes her very busy day doing errands accompanied by her little girl:

We stop at the dry cleaners and the grocery store
and the gas station and the green market
and ‘hurry up honey,’ I say, ‘hurry, hurry’
as she runs along two or three steps behind me
her blue jacket unzipped and her socks rolled down.

Where do I want her to hurry to?
To her grave? To mine?
Where one day she may stand all fully grown?

In the wilderness just outside our home here in the desert, stands a beautiful oasis of palm trees – nature’s way of reminding me that as I walk through the wilderness of life I need to take the time and make the time to slow down, stop and rest, unplug for a spell, turn off the computer, maybe pour a glass of iced tea and just sit quietly under a tree in the heat of the day – doing so is hardly wasting time, doing so is finding 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.

Like many people in the world, I have a busy day ahead of me – not that busy that I can’t stop and rest; and while I do so the world will continue on without my help.

Socrates adds this note:

Beware the bareness of a busy life.


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