Happy Monday, friends! If you sent me an email last week, you know that I’ve been away for a week-long family vacation (which may help to explain my focus on rest and relaxation these last two weeks). Rest and relaxation are often paired together, but they are very different. Rest is universally about slowing down and getting back to who we are as people and as human beings. Rest is the category of contemplation, centering, and sleep. We all need rest and while our methods of resting may vary the goal is the same. Relaxation is quite different. For me relaxation is sitting somewhere comfortable, reading a good book, or playing with my nephew. When I have the money for it, I love a good massage and pedicure, but I can be totally relaxed with a big pot of tea or a bottle of sweet wine. Drinking tea while watching it rain or snow is my definition of afternoon bliss. Yet there are many people who relax by hiking mountains, going for long runs or bike rides, or going to the theater, among literally millions of other options.
While some folks excel at relaxation, others of us struggle to relax no matter what we try. I’d love to be able to tell you how well I did at relaxing last week, but in an effort to relax, I’m writing this Monday Moment before I leave for vacation. Perhaps the best relaxation for me is disconnecting and turning off not just email but turning off social media and even my news apps. I’m still trying to find somewhere I can go for a week or more and also turn off my watch and other time telling devices. Disconnect from everything except the rhythm of nature.
Relaxation is sacred. Throughout the gospels Jesus spends time relaxing. He reclines with friends at meals and often goes off by himself to pray and center himself. Every religion and spirituality, even the most austere, has some form of rest and relaxation built into its makeup. Many religions emphasize removing oneself from the larger society for a period of time or engaging in shorter forms of contemplation. Work can be contemplative as can eating. What is important though is that humans need relaxation just as they need rest.
Like all good things, though, rest and relaxation have to come to an end. We can only relax for so long before most of us need to reengage with the world and after a certain amount of time we have to move on. Just like the joy of arriving at a favorite destination, to truly appreciate rest and relaxation, we have to have leave them and have time away. We can’t rest from setting the world on fire—or putting out the flames—until we’ve gone out and done it.
How do you relax? How does relaxation form part of your spiritual or religious practice?
Let us pray: Jesus, you showed us that relaxation is a sacred act. Guide us into rhythms of rest and relaxation which allows us to engage with our communities and serve our neighbors. Show us how to relax and bring us out of relaxation ready to go back to doing life with and for others. We ask this knowing that you know us. Amen.
Blessings on your weeks, my friends! Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.