In this section we will learn what it means to live a balanced life, and how this can be achieved.

The Balanced Life

Rhythm and Balance

Closely linked with the ability to relax, is the need to develop a more balanced and holistic lifestyle. People who have sought to grow in areas of spirituality have often seen the need for tuning into the rhythm and balance of nature. This is one of the hallmarks of Benedictine spirituality and we can learn much from it.
 
The rule of Benedict legislates on every aspect of life and nothing is considered as unimportant. The life of the Monk is to be balanced between the physical, spiritual and social.  In contrast to some of the severe ascetics’ practices of the Middle Ages the Benedictines considered balance, proportion and harmony to be an important part of life. I am sure that this is good news for those of us that do not like hair shirts or self mutilation!

Hey That's Not for Me?

I am sure that many of you are thinking – yes that’s OK for them - monks can give full time to spirituality, but does he know how busy I am? I have a full time job, family and lots of commitments, it’s not that easy. No it probably isn’t that easy, but we all need to assess what we are doing if we are to remain healthy and also connect with God.
 
As human knowledge has grown people have tended to specialise in one thing or another, with the subsequent loss of balance in life - the handyman may seldom read a book, while the accountant calls in a plumber to renew the washer.  The teacher is too busy to do their own cleaning and ironing. And none of them get round to taking a stroll through the park. In other words, we may be too focused in one area of life, so the interrelatedness of body, mind and spirit eludes us. Together these elements make up the whole person, and the Rule of Saint Benedict reflected this with its emphasis  on the rhythmic succession of prayer, study, work and relaxation. Rhythm reflects the natural order of nature. A baby's heartbeat. Autumn followed by winter, and winter by Spring. Nature and the body is in perfect balance when things are functioning well. We need to have pattern to our lives if we are to engage in the discipline of Contemplation.

 
The need for balance in our world today is evident as the workplace places more pressure on individuals and families. We need quality time both for ourselves, the family, and our relationship with God.
 
I believe that it is possible to create a wholistic life balance in today's world. It may however need radical action. Maybe you need to take time out and ask yourself this honest question.
 
 
Do I have the work life balance right and if not what do I need to do to rectify it?   
 
Here are some ideas of how to approach this problem, and to achieve a more balanced lifestyle.
 

  1. Think of all the different areas of your life. Try to make headings for each area. for example these could be :-
    • HOME LIFE AND FAMILY 
    • WORK              
    • RECREATION AND HOBBIES    
    • SPIRITUALITY
  2. For each of  your headings, spend a little time thinking about what you would like each area of your life to be like. Try to imagine the very best way you would want it to be. Consider which areas are not given enough time and effort, and think about improving the balance.
  3. Get an overall vision or goal for each of the sections. For example you might feel that your family have been taking second place to your work, so you have chosen the overall goal -
    • Be a more caring parent
  4. Now break this down into steps that are specific, practical and achievable - for example
    • We will go out as a family twice a month.
    • We will eat together for at least 4 meals per week
    • I will spend quality time listening to the children read 5 times a week.
  5. Ensure you do this for every area of life so that each part gets its emphasis. Remember life needs to be  rhythmatic and balanced if we are seeking to live a more spiritual and contemplative life.

An Example of a Balanced Life

Some have seen an example of harmony and balance in the lifestyle of Leonardo De Vinci. He was born during the period of the Renaissance when the writings and treasures of antiquity were rediscovered.  He was known for his wide range of interests and talents. 


His life can be viewed as immensely challenging to us in the 21st Century. He is a good example of somebody who was interested in all the different facets of the human experience.  He had a natural curiosity in life and enjoyed both the arts and sciences.
 
Finding the time to rectify the balance in life and connect with God is not always that easy.  Going on retreats or conducive holidays may be a helpful place to start. Prioritising and creating space in which you can engage with the issues is essential. If you can't get away easily, you will need to plan when and where you will begin - it could be in the car or park during a lunchbreak, or even an extended visit to the bathroom!
 
If this page has whet your appetite then you may wish to find out more. Why not purchase a book or two from
 
"The World Inside Bookshop"
 
There are some excellent books available.They have been specifically chosen to help you develop the Lost Art of Contemplative Prayer.

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