Pope Emeritus Benedict once said, “We live in a society in which it seems that every space, every moment must be ‘filled’ with initiatives, activity, sound; often there is not even time to listen and dialogue … Let us not be afraid to be silent outside and inside ourselves, so that we are able not only to perceive God’s voice, but also the voice of the person next to us, the voices of others,” (quote source).
The Church fathers, St. Benedict in particular, wrote about the need for Otium Sanctum or Holy Leisure. It refers to an ability to rest and take time to enjoy beauty, to be at peace through the activities of the day, to pace ourselves.
I’m on a bit of a health journey, and I have a health coach who’s journeying alongside me. Earlier this week I battled some intense emotions that in the past had me reaching for food. See, I tend to medicate my problems with food, hence the need for a health coach. To help me plow through those emotions without doing something stupid to torpedo my progress, my coach asked, “How would you normally ‘treat’ yourself?” My response was, “Wine and cheese!” Now here I thought she would suggest I treat myself to a bit of both, but she responded with, “Drink some water and get busy with an activity.” Accountability for the win. She continued on and suggested I treat myself to something relaxing.
Relaxing … holy leisure … doing something which you are in no way compelled to do that brings you great pleasure.
My daughter had religious ed class that same evening near one of the world’s largest collections of flowering crabapple trees. Yep, right here in Des Moines. Washington, D.C. has cherry blossoms, we have crabapples! Just so happens the trees are now in full bloom. So in search of some holy leisure time, after dropping off Lucy, I headed over to the Arie Den Boer Arboretum at the Des Moines Water Works Park and just sat in the middle of 1,200 crabapple trees in full bloom.
The smell was glorious. The intense colors of the flowers was a foretaste of Heaven, I’m sure. The smiles on the people gathered in the park for picnics and pictures were contagious. Holy leisure. It was the exact reset button I needed to rest, to enjoy beauty, and experience peace.
Where are you finding holy leisure these days?
P.S., I’m so excited about all the tips I’m learning through my online photo school, and I want to share one more photo. I forgot to mention that having my camera in hand also played into that holy leisure dynamic!