Part Five - Being Really Balanced  

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What is Benedictine spirituality?
"When we are in rhythm with our own nature, things flow and balance naturally. Every fragment does not have to be relocated, reordered; things cohere and fit according to their deeper impulse and instinct."  John O'Donohue, Eternal Echoes  
Questions to Ponder Alone - What are the things that are claiming my life and distorting me? How does my work shape my view of my world? In what ways does my work and my attitude toward work serve to build up the world? If I could spend a Sabbath day anyway I chose, what would I do? How can I begin to see the world through God's eyes? What are the fears within me that keep me from  balancing contemplation and activity in my life?

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[Saint] Benedict was quite precise about it all. Time was to be spent in prayer, in sacred reading, in work and in community participation. In other words, it was to be spent on listening to the Word, on study, on making life better for others and on community building. It was public as well as private; it was private as well as public. It was balanced.

With the invention of the light bulb, balance became a myth. Now human beings could extend the day and deny the night. Now human beings could break the natural rhythm of work and rest and sleep. Now human beings could begin to destroy the framework of life and turn it into one eternal day with, ironically, no time for family, no time for reading, no time for prayer, no time for privacy, no time for silence, no time for time.
--Joan Chittister, Wisdom Distilled From The Daily (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1990) 74-75.

We’re supposedly a most creative country. There are two poles pulling at the modern concept of work. At one pole is the workaholic. At the other pole sits the pseudo-contemplative. Workaholics work because they have learned that what they do is really the only value they have. Or they work because they want to avoid having to do anything else in life, like family or prayer or living. Or they work because they don’t really want to work at all. What they really want is money, money, money. Pseudo-contemplatives, on the other hand, want to spend their hours gazing into space or processing. They spend every new year of life processing last year’s life. Nobody ever tells them, “It’s over, you can go on now.” Pseudo-contemplatives have missed the point entirely that Adam and Eve were put in the garden … in order to till it and to keep it, not to gaze at it. Not to live off of it. Not to lounge around in it like pigs in mud. They were put there to co-create it. Somehow or other in our Puritan heritage we got the idea that work is a punishment for sin. Work is not a punishment for sin. Even in the ideal world, a world in which there was no sin at all, before sin entered the world, Genesis is very clear: God expected us to take responsibility for the co-creation of the world. ...

Work is our gift to the world. It's really work that ties us to the rest of humankind and binds us to the future. It's work that saves us from total self-centeredness and leads to self-fulfillment at the same time. It's work that makes it possible to give back as much as we take from life....

--Joan Chittister

When we talk about everyday spirituality..., what I think we are really talking about is the need to achieve some way of entering those places of harmony where all the parts sing, where we hear the music of the spheres and we engage God, that great luminous darkness that is complete light and complete joy. We are looking for the way in which to take the spiritual that we do not know and the corporal that we know so well, and to bring them together.

From the beginning of mankind, certainly from the beginning of Judeo-Christian religion, there have been a number of ways of creating those little interruptions in normal life, those places where we can engage the mystery, those places of harmony and integration. A good Jew two thousand years ago would have known that one of the ways of interrupting life and meeting with the spiritual was the Sabbath. We used to keep the Sabbath. We used to set it aside and say, "Here is a time. Here is an interruption in one of the dimensions that informs life in which we will stop, and we will honor the Spirit of God." As a Christian we would take the host and say to ourselves, believing it, "We're about to eat the body of our God." And taking the chalice we would say, "We are about to drink the blood of our God who dared come among us and assume flesh and blood in order that that flesh and blood might spray out across all of human history and enter each of us." We would honor the time before that consumption and the hours after that consumption by an interruption of all other habits. We would hallow the time around that event--the Eucharist or the Mass or the Communion. That's what the Sabbath was, and it had built around it time and place.

Because we are creatures of dimension, if we wish to integrate all of the areas of experience into one place to meet the mystery, we must interrupt the dimensions. We must carve out space within the dimensions of time and place for that to happen. --Phyllis Tickle, "Everyday Spirituality"

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