Labor Day


Other than recognizing Labor Day as part of a long weekend when summer begins to come to a close ushering in the fall season, I have to say that I have paid very little attention to the origin and significance of this celebration. I was recently reminded that Labor Day came about in the 1800s because workers felt they were spending too much time working. The expectation at the time was 70 hour work weeks, 7 days a week. The holiday was a result of union organizers who focused on shortening the work day and work week as well as getting laborers more days off. Here we are in the 2000’s where most people still, either by choice or circumstance, spend too much time working. If we reflect on this holiday’s original meaning - of addressing the problem of long working hours and no time off - it seems only wise to check in with ourselves about our relationship with work. To ask ourselves about whether we are mechanically and egoically working long hours and not taking enough time off. Work is part of our responsibility as humans and yet because we can begin to mistake it for our identity, place too much value in it, and look for it to be the primary carrier of meaning in our lives, it can become all too important and out of balance. One of the reasons contemplative practices are so important is that they put a pause in the tyranny of what we in our ordinary consciousness deem essential. We begin to recognize that our work can flow from a greater interior freedom and can find its right sized place in our lives. We can take the time to rest and to play and to enjoy ourselves and this can feed back into our work, whatever it happens to be. We need time for holy leisure. In her book Wisdom Distilled from the Daily, Joan Chittister says, “Leisure, in other words, is an essential part of Benedictine spirituality. It is not laziness and it is not selfishness. It has something to do with the depth and breadth, length and quality of life. In an American culture...leisure may also be one of the most difficult spiritual elements to achieve. We are trained to be doers and makers, not dreamers and seers. Benedictine spirituality, on the other hand, sets out to develop people who reflect on what they are doing, people for whom the gospel is the filter through which they see their world. Work, it is clear from the Rule of Benedict, must not exist in a vacuum. Monastics do not exist to work. Work is to be integrated into monastic life without doing violence to either. In the Benedictine vision of life, no one dimension of life is to be exclusive. Prayer, community, and personal development are all as essential to the good life as work. And that takes a sense of holy leisure." If at all possible this Labor Day weekend, allow yourself to take some time to consider your relationship to work. Take a break and disconnect from your phone and computer, let go of work and trust. This is in many ways what the sabbath is all about. Stopping working, enjoying the divine, and trusting that its okay to slow down into holy leisure and just be. With love, Heather

 

A Couple of Readings: “Prayer is not a request for God’s favors. True, it has been used to obtain the satisfaction of personal desires. It has even been adopted to reinforce prejudices, justify violence, and create barriers between people and between countries. But genuine prayer is based on recognizing the Origin of all that exists, and opening ourselves to it… In prayer we acknowledge God as the supreme source from which flows all strength, all goodness, all existence, acknowledging that we have our being, life itself from this supreme Power. One can then communicate with this Source, worship it, and ultimately place one’s very center in it.” — Piero Ferrucci “No matter what plans you make, no matter what you acquire, the thief will enter where you least expect. Be occupied, then, with what you really value and let the thief take something less. When a trader’s bales fall into the water, he’ll try to grab the most valuable things. Some things will certainly be lost as the water of life flows away. Let go of the cheap stuff and work to save what’s really important..” — Rumi

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