Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Contemplative Leisure

Western laziness consists of cramming our lives with compulsive activity, so that there is no time at all to confront the real issues”.
-Sogyal Rinpoch
In my monastery days we had a lot of leisure time.  At the time there were approximately one hundred monks in the monastery so most of the community only worked in the morning.  Of course there were chores like cooking meals or milking and feeding the cows that required more time.  Because I was a young man with a lot more energy than I have now I often volunteered for additional work.  I especially like working at the cow barn and on the farm.  The leisure time of most monks was spent in study or contemplation.  When the weather was nice I enjoyed wandering in the woods and fields of the monastery’s 2000 acres.  Most of my life, however, I have been a married man with a wife and family.  True leisure was often very difficult to find.  There’s an obscure scripture passage that says, “God made man and rested.  God made woman and no one has rested since”.  OK, I made that up but it’s not too far from the truth.  Sometimes I will be resting in my contemplative leisure and my wife will sit down on my sofa and say, “I should be doing something”.  I usually look at her and say, “Why”?  Our culture has little appreciation for contemplative leisure.  In a culture of doing, I have always preferred being.  I have been much more successful in my being than in my doing.  Just because I prefer to "be" doesn’t mean I am lazy.  I just limit my doing to what is necessary.  I abhor busywork that has no point or purpose.  It is only in leisure that we can confront the real issues inside us.    

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