Authentic leisure is good for everyone. It’s not just revitalizing; it’s healthy. But to make the most of leisure it helps to widen rather than narrow our concept of the term, which means not only to be free from the demands of routine work (even for just a weekend), but also to be mentally still and reflective.
Leisure is culturally misunderstood, says philosopher Joseph Pieper, who maintains that to receive the full benefit of time away from business and chores requires an ability to let things go, to be calm, and most of all to be receptive.
In his now-classic essay, “Leisure, the Basis of Culture,”Pieper explains:
“Leisure is the disposition of receptive understanding, of contemplative beholding, and immersion — in the real.”
This reality that Pieper says we’re to immerse ourselves in transcends the stuff of the material world. In fact it’s that hectic world that most of us want to escape, if only for a brief period.
I wonder if it was a particularly stressful moment in his world that caused the Psalmist to shut out the routine of ancient times, to be contemplative, and then to experience something of the spiritual. “Be still and know that I am God,” he said, and the comment suggests he reached a higher level of consciousness that someone might attain only in a moment of leisure and enlightenment such as Pieper describes.
When it comes to matters of health, that may be what we all feel we’re missing today. Contemplative time. Stillness. Prayer. Instead, what we’re faced with in a materialistic world is the normalization of risk and disease. Who wouldn’t feel jittery and want to be free from the anxiety?
Instead of feeling the need to escape reality, however, think of it as a time to act on the natural desire to contemplate the nature and harmony of the things of the Spirit — what some say is reality — and freedom to experience the rewarding effect such a state of thought can have on one’s health and attitude.
If the status quo isn’t working, why not go after the freedom that deep down inside we all want more of? Set the smartphone aside for awhile (better yet, turn it off), walk away from the television, stay off the computer—and do something life-changing.
One way to begin: take a moment to reflect on what that Psalmist caught sight of and wanted to convey. We should ask ourselves: in this moment of receptive understanding, of contemplative beholding, did he experience a departure from reality? Or was his experience noteworthy because he gained a clearer sense of reality?
If in that contemplative moment he was touched by the enduring presence and harmony of Spirit, that’s good to know. Maybe that’s the kind of leisure time we’re longing for. In any case, it sounds like it could be quite heavenly.
— Russ Gerber is a syndicated health blogger and a Christian Science teacher and practitioner. This post was originally published on PsychologyToday.com. Follow him on twitter @russgerber