Whether your week has been extra challenging or par for the course, Sundays can be a restorative day of rest. For me, the healthiest way to “power up,” take a “rest from stress,” and reconnect to truth, love, beauty, and joy is through holy leisure.
The Latin word “Otium Sanctum” is defined as “holy leisure.”
It refers to a sense of balance in life, an ability to be at peace through the activities of the day, an ability to rest and take time to enjoy beauty. It’s an ability to pace ourself and be at rest, even when involved in activities.
For me, otium sanctum is more than sleep.
To me, otium sanctum is nourishing rest within and between activities. It’s more than just lying on the couch, or simply not working. If you’re wondering what that might look like, here are some examples. Last week, when I was working on today’s article, I allowed myself time to also admire birds as they flew by, listen to the songs they sang, play with the sunshine on the leaves, sense awe in the strength of the trees, breathe the sweet scent of the flowers, feel the breeze on my skin, and acknowledge peace in my heart. These are all ways I rested and balanced myself, while I worked. By doing this, I sensed leisure and joy, alongside the concentration required to work.
Why is rest important?
So why do I consciously make this choice to change my focus from work to rest? Because I experience balance, joy, and nourishment. More than just eating a healthy meal, this type of true nourishment supplies vital energy to every area of our being. It instills within us a knowing of our worth and belonging—regardless of what happens or how difficult things may seem.
To live, requires rest.
Not simply sleeping, wakeful rest is a requirement of life. How do we know? We can take a look around. Everything in nature must rest or risk becoming miserable and die. For example, if we own a horse, we cannot simply feed it and ride it. It will either die of exhaustion, get sick, and/or be depressed—unable to function well and enjoy life. If instead, we feed it, ride it, and give it some time to frolic in the fields and sunshine, and we will see a fresh stallion who is ready to ride.
My personal experience
Until my early thirties, I did not rest. Sure, I did fun things like take trips, watch movies, and get together with friends, but I did not mentally or emotionally rest—my mind was never quiet. I was also a workaholic. That’s not something I say lightly in the attempt to be complimented or pitied—it was a real problem. I defined myself by my accomplishments, so when I took time off to rest, I criticized myself for not having accomplished “anything.” It may sound silly, but to me, I did not see the difference between “rest” and “laziness.” At that point in my experience, I had not yet learned the power of rest.
After years without rest, I became exhausted and very ill.
I began to feel hopeless that I would “always feel this way,” because I did not know how to “fix” my problem. Something needed to change, but I didn’t know what. So I kept working too much and sleeping when I got sick. However, I did one little thing differently. Instead of feeling hopeless—like nothing would ever change, I simply asked one question to that deepest part of myself that I call Life or God. The question I asked was, “what do I need to know to be well?”
I chose to be open and willing to receive answers.
I noticed that I felt drawn to read an online article, so I followed that lead, and I stumbled across the words “otium sanctum.” I decided to look up what that meant, and began my journey into healing my perception of myself and work. As I kept reading and explored what otium sanctum was, I began to notice that I felt a lot of tension in my body. Once I became aware of it, I said inwardly, “I willingly release the tension in my shoulders.” I instantly felt relief. I also felt inspired to release more of the stress and tension I was carrying throughout my body.
Although I didn’t have all the answers, I already felt better.
I decided that I should stick with this “otium sanctum” rest thing, and did it more often. I allowed myself “otium sanctum” breaks every day at work for five minutes, then ten minutes, then fifteen minutes, alone under the trees in the Arizona, orange-blossom breezes. I felt a vitality during those breaks, which brought with it, the hope that I had been missing.
Over time, taking rest breaks created an unanticipated, and highly-sought after result.
I felt appreciated and cared for—by me and by life. I felt receptive and open to new ways of being without “doing.” I felt refreshed by this downtime, and discovered that it was anything but lazy. And, I began to heal and love myself and life more. During these “otium sanctum” breaks, I began to ask more questions of life, and listen to the answers. Otium sanctum was my “inner door,” which opened into meditation and regular “communion” with Life and God.
What say ye?
Can you relax with ease, and experience holy leisure without feeling guilty or lazy? If not, what would it take for you to allow it? I encourage you to take some holy leisure today, and be nourished. As for me, I’m going to take some “otium sanctum” time and will write more about the metaphysical and spiritual experiences that arise from that time over the coming weeks.
Always with love,