There’s not enough time and too much to do, with one thing after another and demands at every turn. Monks may seem serenely slow or easily well-balanced, but we, too, struggle with busy, full lives. It takes constant intention to strive for a healthy rhythm. Here are some suggestions from what I’ve been learning about balancing time for what matters most, both inside and outside the Monastery.
Most important and most difficult: I’m learning to stop. Rest. Period. Like periods in a sentence. Like rests among notes of music, we need to stop regularly. Without punctuation, words pile up one after another, unending, becoming meaningless. Punctuation creates limits, necessary space to separate and define coherent thoughts. Stops define clauses and sentences so one can make meaning of the words. Together, notes and rests create rhythm, making music.
François de Sales, the 17th century Bishop of Geneva, was revered for his insights about prayer. His recommendation for prayer: every day, “half an hour’s listening is essential except when you are very busy. Then a full hour is needed.” (1) François de Sales presumes three things about prayer:
1. Our prayer begins and ends with listening.
2. When life is very busy – like when you’re beginning a new school term, or a new internship, or a new job, or when life is very full – our discipline around prayer can easily be lost and yet it’s all-the-more important.
3. It’s essential to demarcate some time each day for prayer.