Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Holy leisure

How happy are you?  How busy are you?  Could the two be correlated?

On her blog, The Blue Room, MaryAnn McKibben Dana reported on a study that showed that the happiest people manage to be busy without feeling rushed, and conversely, the unhappiest people are those who report having an excess of free time.  Part of me wants to reject these results as I often bemoan the pressure and stress of our hectic lives that, I speculate, zaps our happiness and contentment.  But on the other hand, I have experienced the results myself.  After a very busy academic year, I longed for the freedom and time of summer to relax and dream.  It was wonderful...for about two weeks.  Then I found myself bored and unmotivated, unable to do any productive work even though I had unlimited time for once.  Then I was disappointed in myself and felt unfulfilled.  There is something about balance, taking rest when it is needed, but also having the slight push of deadlines to motivate actual effort.

So how does this fit into my idea of sanctuary?  As I've mentioned, life will not slow down, and demands and needs are relentless.  How can we be busy, and yet not feel rushed?  Part of it, I believe is to follow the Buddhist koan of "simultaneous inclusion", the ability to be both busy and not busy at the same time.  I wrote about it after reading the book One Who Is Not Busy, The: Connecting with Work in a Deeply Satisfying Way .  It's being totally engaged in a task, so focused we lose track of time.  We are not rushed, but live in the moment, totally connected to our activity (be it work or play).  It's the opposite of how I usually function, always thinking about what's ahead and what is left to do.

So this is my goal for finding sanctuary this year--not necessarily to retreat to a monastery (although that would be nice), but to fully engage in each moment, and trying to find balance in my needs for rest and play.  My spirituality professor in seminary introduced us to the concept of "otium sanctum", Latin for "holy leisure", and gave us a weekly assignment to find these times to nourish our spirit.  It's different for each person as we have different needs and passions.  Here are some of my favorite ideas for holy leisure:

1. lots of reading

2. writing and reflecting

3. gentle exercise like walking and yoga

4. time alone

5. time with my family

6. a walking conversation with a friend

7. going for a drive at night

8. coloring

9. cleaning (yes, I'm strange)

10. organizing (see above)

11. exploring a new part of my town

12. watching a movie with my husband

13. watching a documentary or TED video

14. running

15. prayer walks/labyrinth

16. listening to old music

17. being by the water

18. taking a nap (I think I'll end with my favorite)

So what's your favorite holy leisure activity?

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