I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can feel as though life is just too busy and chaotic. I look at my diary and it is difficult to know where to begin. In our busy world, it can be so hard to make the time and space for the important things. Often relationships, prayer and exercise have to come last on the agenda… or do they?
A professor of philosophy filled a jar with rocks and asked the class if the jar was full. Everyone said that it was. So the professor proceeded to pour pebbles into the jar and they filled the spaces. He again asked the class whether the jar was full, and everyone said that it was. So he poured sand into the jar, and it filled up the rest of the space left by the pebbles. He proceeded to teach the class a lesson about priorities in life.
The rocks represent the really important things such as family and friends (relationships), exercise and pastimes (physical health), faith and prayer (spiritual health). The gravel represents the other things of importance: such as work or school. The sand represents the stuff of little importance such as possessions and wealth.
He went on to explain that if we fill the jar of life with the sand first, then there is no space for the other stuff. Similarly, the same may be true if we fill it with the pebbles first. In both these instances, we leave no space for the rocks – the really essential stuff. It is so very important to fill our lives first and foremost with the stuff that really matters. We can lose possessions, money, even our job and so long as we are healthy in body, mind and spirit and have good relationships, then we will still thrive. But if we do not live in good relationships with one another, if we do not look after our minds and bodies, if we do not nurture our souls, then a significant part of us dies and the best job in the world or the largest bank account will not compensate.
In its focus on holistic living, the monastic tradition has a lot to teach us here. The rule of St Benedict has endured as the most influential monastic rule in Christianity since the 6th Century and in our busy age, it is seeing a huge resurgence. That is because it teaches the art of balance as an essential spiritual discipline. If work, rest, recreation or prayer get out of balance with one another then a person will encounter difficulties. For most of us we get the balance completely wrong because we misunderstand what is most important. As we enter into this British summer, make sure you spend enough time with those around you, looking after your mind and body and nurturing your soul. Get those things put into your diary first. Once you have these things in good balance the other things will slip into place.
With much love and every blessing,