As I end a time of rest and re-enter the schedule of morning and evening prayer bracketing a day of work, I feel rested, centered, well and peaceful. Vacations are hard for me because I was not raised by people for whom rest was anything other than camouflaged laziness and because I live in a society in which what we produce translates into our worth.
My favorite flower is the lotus flower. It is not only beautiful, but is the flower which is symbolic in Buddhism for the spiritual and temporal life we live. It begins in the mud and feasts on decay for its sustenance. The flower stalk then proceeds from the mud up through water. This long stem of the lotus flower represents the move from earth (daily life) through water (the spiritual strivings we engage in as a daily practice.) Finally, the open flower on the surface of the water represents the opening to God in the connection made possible by the lived life (mud) and the practices of our daily spiritual work in life (water) so that in the light and brightness of the sun (God), the flower opens and receives its reward for its striving from mud through water.
I know that the daily offices – morning and evening prayer are a valuable – even essential part of my life and my conversion. Saying morning and evening prayer every day in the chapel with my five clergy colleagues and others from the congregation roots my day in the psalms and gathers me around my calling to be a priest and a human being. The psalms rarely neglect to highlight moments in my day and the prayers link me to thousands of years of others for whom daily prayer has been their practice.
And yet, a vacation – free as it was of the formal prayers at the cathedral morning and evening, was just as demanding – just as occasionally grueling. In our society there is guilt and even unspoken shame for taking rest. A society like ours which is predicated on sales and gross national product requires that everyone get into the making-spending-buying game. And yet the value of rest and re-creation is very much a part of our spiritual practice of becoming our best selves in God.
One of the benefits of meditating on flowers (and you will see many in this blog) is that their beauty reminds us of two things: that we exist in beauty and that we need not strive to find worth. In mid-summer, the stewardship of our rest and re-creation is an essential part of our spiritual practice.