- rest in the wilderness -
“Summertime, and the living is easy?” Maybe not so much.
I overheard two moms at the supermarket lamenting over how “insanely busy” their lives are now that school is closed for the summer. When the kids are in school, they put them on a bus and are basically free until the children come home again in the late afternoon; but the moms complained that, in these summer months, they are involved in programming virtually every waking hour of their children’s days - taking the kids for lessons at the local pool, baseball practice, arranging “play dates” with other kids, engaging a tutor to help improve math skills over the summer break. It’s an “insanely busy” time of the year.
I am reminded of an article I read a while back written by another “very busy” mother who reported something her fifth grader said to her as she was about to pack him up and cart him off to 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.
It all makes me wonder if maybe we have come to the point where we over-program way too much in our lives? Sometimes all of us need to just take some time to "flop on a couch" and do nothing as we make our way along the path of life.
As I see it, many people nowadays find that their lives are “insanely busy,” regardless of who they are or what they do in life - always busy at work or at school, insanely busy even on “days off,” catching up on chores, working at home, and of course always pecking away at the computer, browsing through the internet bombarded by a constant barrage of texts and tweets. People are even “insanely busy” during the lazy days of summer, planning out the lives of their kids, planning for their own vacations and, even when vacation comes, sitting on a beach with a computer or a smartphone in hand catching up on work that needs to be completed.
Perhaps “rest” has become a lost art in our own times, an art that needs to be revived once again to help us grow in wisdom and to live more fully. As Socrates once observed:
Beware the barrenness of a busy life.
I also wonder if today’s culture of “busyness” has even affected the way in which many people engage their own spiritual practices: busy going to church or temple, overly obsessing about “getting in” those daily prayers or engaging in “proper” meditation techniques, counting breaths, watching the clock to be sure enough time is being devoted to practicing mindfulness – “insanely busy.”
Sometimes you just need to rest from it all. Sometimes the best spiritual practice is to sit under a tree, enjoy a cool drink and just do nothing - summertime is a great season for doing this.
I am reminded of one of my favorite “sayings” from the monastic writings of the 4th century 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.’