Add R&R to the three Rs as Building Blocks of a Balanced Life

Add R&R to the Three Rs as the building blocks of a balanced life. Rest and relaxation--call it recess, if you want--are essential times of stepping aside from everday responsibilities and work. Off-road, you can contemplate and appreciate life, see God in all creation, and breath in the Spirit, which is to say find inspiration live a creative life. So say two leading websites offering spiritual insights in their weekly newsletters.

"The purpose of holy leisure is to bring this balance of being, not a balance of time, back into lives gone askew, and to give people time to live a thoughtful, a contemplative as well as a productive life.…Holy leisure, in other words, is the foundation of contemplation. And contemplation is the ability to see the world as God sees the world," Joan Chittister says in explorefaith.org's newsletter this week.

"Real leisure, holy leisure, Sabbath leisure, contemplative leisure, has more to do with the quality of life and the depth of our vision than it does with play and vacations," she points out. "The great Benedictine abbot, Dom Cuthbert Butler, wrote once, 'It is not the presence of activity that destroys the contemplative life. It is the absence of contemplation.'...In Benedictine spirituality, life is not divided into parts, one holy and the other mundane. To the Benedictine mind, all of life is holy. All of life’s actions bear the scrutiny of all of life’s ideals and all of life is to be held in anointed hands," Chittister says.

Similarly, Speaking of Faith host Krista Tippett says "practices that calm and renew our emotions and our spirits together" are essential to a balanced life. Tipett interviews scientist Esther Sternberg this week in a program focussing on the mind-body health connection. Psychological stress can cause physical illness.

According to Sternberg's perspective, "Science—with its insistence on what can be seen and measured—took us away from our ancient intuition about the connection between health and emotions. But science now is bringing us back. Esther Sternberg's insights validate the experience of prolonged stress so many of us know. They evoke the full meaning of the phrase, "feeling sick." She even suggests a notion contrary to our culture of constant productivity: that vacations are not luxuries but physical necessities.

"Can stress make us sick? Can places of peace, prayer, meditation, rest, music, and friendship help us to live well? Each of us must answer these questions in the context of our lives, with our particular histories and our physical and spiritual details. But what interesting times we're living in when physicians and scientists begin to ask such questions along with us," Tippett says.

Feeling stressed? Your body is telling you to take a rest and pull your mind, body, and soul together, to be with God. No need to wait for Sunday if you need a sabbath now.

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