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Tuesday
Mar092004

The Vital Luxury of Rest and Solitude

This weekend at a youth leader's conference, I was challenged with this question: do I set aside time for rest and particularly, solitude? I had to answer not nearly enough.

The culture I live in places high value on being busy — often busy to the point of nearly breaking. We like to believe our energy is limitless; that we can do everything we want in life. Who needs rest? No time for that. Rest is for retirees. How false. We do have limits. Yes, I can do quite a bit with the energy I'm allotted, but not as much as I imagine or wish.

The mantra of the culture around me is: more is better. But what if, in fact, less is better? Would it not be better to focus my energy on fewer things which I truly love and have a passion for? Would it not be better to include rest and solitude as part of that list so I can sustain my energy expenditure on the things I love?

I believe my energy output is directly linked to the amount of rest I build into my schedule. In fact, I am starting to see that the busier I am, the more protective I need to be about rest. Sleep is one part of this, but I'm thinking more along the lines of resting mentally. Social time spent with friends and family, but even more importantly for my mental well being is time alone, to reflect, ponder and think.

This quote, taken from one of the handouts this weekend, captures how busyness steals away energy and chokes out time for solitude and reflection:

"The press of busyness is like a charm, its power swells... it reaches out, seeking always to lay hold of ever younger victims so that childhood or youth are scarely allowed the quiet and the retirement in which the Eternal may unfold a divine growth." -- Soren Kierkegaard

Solitude? Now there's something I don't currently get much of. I'm too busy filling my time doing things, being places, staying connected to the net and living life with music or television playing in the background. I am surrounded by constant noise and distractions which demand my attention and energy. They deplete me.

It's this environment in which solitude seems like a precious, almost wasteful commodity. To enjoy solitude feels lavish, expensive and impractical in a world of go-go-go! My busy self scolds me with comments like "How can you dare take time to think and contemplate when there's so much to do?" or "Hey slacker, there's no time for this! Back to busyness!"

Just think about it. How often do you have time to just take a walk alone to reflect on your thoughts, on life, on God? Have you ever just stopped to listen... to hear the things you normally filter out? Does taking an entire hour to be quiet, with no phones ringing, no email arriving, no IMs pinging, no music playing, and no TV droning scare you?

So, I reject the idea that solitude and rest are luxuries I can't afford. Really, they are requirements I cannot afford to miss. My culture demands that I maintain busyness to an insane degree. I reject that notion, along with the idea that I must do more and more.

It's time to refocus and put my energy into what I value most. To set aside regular times of rest and solitude for recharge and reflection. Will you join me?

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