By eight o’clock this morning I had made my prayer, done half an hour’s lectio divina, prayed Vigils and Lauds in community, written a column for The Universe, answered half a dozen emails, updated our Facebook page with a prayer intention, tweeted, had breakfast and said good morning to Bro Duncan PBGV. And that is the ‘non-work’ part of the day! I think you will understand why I am keen that we should relax the pace for a day or two, but how? We cannot lessen our prayer; we cannot turn visitors away; we must still shop, cook, eat, wash our clothes, do the housework, just like anybody else. We must still do the work that provides much of our income or the bills won’t get paid and our charitable outreach will fizzle out; we must still try to respond to the many enquiries, comments and appeals for help that come to us via the internet because that’s a commitment we have taken on.
I suspect many of you are smiling to yourself, ‘Welcome to my world.’ Change just a few of the obligations, or the times at which they occur, and I’m sure most of you, unless you are now retired, have exactly the same sense of pressure. It is one of the hallmarks of life in the twenty-first century. We either have no work, or too much. Too much to do, too little time: no wonder we feel tired.
I have no magic answer. The best I can do is share with you a little trick I myself make use of constantly. Forget the idea of long, lazy hours of leisure: they will never happen, unless you are lucky enough to be able to afford a holiday. Try instead to cultivate brief moments of silence and awareness throughout the day. Stop for a moment and look out of the window. Note the light and shade, the white line of the horizon, the sound of footfalls on the pavement perhaps, or the swish of tires as cars pass by; smell the air, wet with rain or smokey with diesel; maybe touch the surface of the windowsill and feel the grain of the wood. Register all these for a moment, and then say ‘thank you, God.’ Nothing more is necessary. If you can’t get out, just look at whatever is around you now, as though seeing it for the first time, and say ‘thank you’.
If we live each day in a spirit of gratitude, with short moments of prayer woven into the fabric of our lives, I believe we can cope with most things. We may still get tired, become grumpy, make mistakes, feel down or out of sorts. Prayer isn’t a ‘solution’ to any of these. It doesn’t protect us from life. It opens us up to Life itself.
For another view of things, do read the Revd Stephen Cherry’s blog post (which I had missed). I think only no. 8 applies to monasteries, but there are some very helpful ideas in his list: http://bit.ly/X82r4I.