Please read the following excerpt from Space for God: Study and Practice of Spirituality and Prayer by Don Postema.
Questions to consider for your paper:
What does it mean to live your life with awareness? Do you think it is possible, as Emily questions, to realize every, every minute of life? Do you agree with the idea of leisure as described by Josef Peiper, why or why not? Identify how any part of this passage and the practice of yoga (any aspect of yoga) are similar. Please give personal examples to illustrate and demonstrate the connections. This paper is about what you think, feel and have noticed during this semester thus far, of your yoga practice. There are no right or wrong answers, simply your thoughtful observations. Feel free to disregard my questions and choose your own, if you wish!
“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it–every, every minute?” Emily, a young woman in Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town asks that question.
In the play Emily dies in childbirth but is granted a unique experience: the Stage Manager allows her to return from death to live one day of her life with her family. Although Emily has high hopes for that one day, she is disappointed. Just before she returns to her place in the cemetery, she reveals her frustration to the Stage Manager:
Emily: We don’t have time to look at one another. (She breaks down, sobbing.) I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed…Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it–every, every minute?
Stage Manager: No. (Pause) The saints and poets, maybe–they do some.
Emily’s observation challenges us to live with awareness, realizing “life while we live it–every, every minute.” We need to be reminded to appreciate all that is going on around us and inside of us, to be in touch with other people and ourselves, to be mindful.
To live so deeply is a special challenge, for it is so easy to be superficial. We are so busy! We have so many urgent things to do, so many people to meet, so many books to read, so many events to attend. Either our jobs demand time and overtime, or we are unemployed and spend much of our time either looking for work or worrying about not finding it. Our families need lots of time and energy. Our studies could fill every working hour. Our houses or apartments or yards beg for our attention. We promise to do things for the church or community organizations. Problems in many parts of the world concern us, and we are frustrated by not being able to do anything. We simply don’t have the time–our calendars are filled with appointments: doctors, dentists, music lessons, potlucks, concerts, sporting events, meetings…
Someday after driving the children around, or mowing the lawn, or putting in some overtime, or coming in from a ball game, you might fall exhausted in a chair. And maybe, instead of falling asleep, your mind will look over the day with its knocks and opportunities. You may even find some questions lingering around the edges: “What am I doing in all this activity and noise? Where am I going?”…
Perhaps we need to flop into a chair more often–before we are exhausted. We need more leisure time to touch those inner dimensions of our lives, to ask some fundamental questions or just to be.
“Leisure is not the inevitable result of spare time, a holiday, a weekend or a vacation. It is, in the first place, an attitude of mind, a condition of the soul…Leisure implies…an attitude of nonactivity, of inward calm, of silence, it means not being “busy,” but letting things happen. Leisure is a form of silence, of that silence which is the prerequisite of the apprehension of reality: only the silent hear and those who do not remain silent do not hear.
Silence, as it is used in this context, does not mean “dumbness” or “noiselessness”; it means more nearly that the soul’s power to “answer” to the reality of the world is left undisturbed. For leisure is a receptive attitude of mind, a contemplative attitude, and it is not only the occasion but also the capacity for steeping oneself in the whole of creation…
Leisure is not the attitude of mind of those who actively intervene, but of those who are open to everything; not of those who grab and grab hold, but of those who leave the reins loose and who are free and easy themselves–almost like someone falling asleep, for one can only fall asleep by “letting oneself go.”…When we really let our mind rest contemplatively on a rose in bud, on a child at play, on a divine mystery, we are rested and quickened as though by a dreamless sleep…It is in these silent receptive moments that the soul of man is sometimes visited by an awareness of what holds the world together. ” –taken from Leisure, the Basis of Culture by Josef Peiper