“They both listened silently to the water, which to them was not just water, but the voice of life, the voice of Being, the voice of perpetual Becoming.”
– Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
This weekend is one of my favorites; Family Rest Weekend. Once a month we write “family rest” on the calendar and that focus fills our Saturday and Sunday. We chill, linger in the PJs, do home projects or just enjoy the quiet; no gatherings, events or dates—though we love our friends and extended family. Why? Because my wife and I have found that we need it. I further believe that we all need it on an essential level.
Living purposefully, as we discussed, is a key to healthy, joyful living. Well, so is putting those goals and agenda aside for a bit to recharge. Living purposefully is a very Western idea focused on “becoming”—improving yourself and your life. A more Eastern philosophy is that of simply “being”—of inhabiting your life, in the moment, for all it’s worth. Psychotherapist and Professor William Berry is a proponent of this Eastern focus on living, especially now. “The Christmas holiday is a recent memory, and the New Year, with its promise, is beginning,” he wrote. “It is likely those reading this have accumulated new things, and have made resolutions for the future.”
Pr. Berry calls the Western focus of accumulation of material items, or achievement of goals, seeking Existential Freedom. Material “becoming” is existential to philosophers because each thing or goal increases our ability to become something, even if it’s just become wealthy. “Essential freedom,” he said, “is ‘freedom of being,’…the ability to experience inner freedom and peace of mind, which far too often takes a back seat to material gain.” (Berry, 2015).
That’s the deeper “battle” we fight, according to Pr. Berry and Eastern philosophers; being peaceful in yourself or becoming peaceful with your stuff. Times when we put aside our “becoming” to simply “be” we further the Essential side of the battle. As my family plays at the park or cuddles in our PJs we achieve this Essential Freedom, but the reason my family has a rest weekend is much less deep. We just want to feel happy, rested and satisfied and “you’re more likely to feel satisfied about your life when you regularly take part in recreation activities,” (Morgan, 2013).
Not Battle; Balance
“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”
– Janis Joplin, Poet
Pr. Berry (2015) calls this “the unnecessary but common battle between…” becoming and being. “In fact,” he said “we are the land of the (existentially) free. Essential freedom isn’t something we pursue in this culture. Instead, we pursue material objects, accomplishments, and other indicators of success.”
I agree with calling this an “unnecessary but common battle.” There’s no reason to fight. Yes, in Western culture we place a high premium on becoming the best person you can and becoming as flush with material things as you require to feel fulfilled. That’s fine—just not to excess. Yes, a more Eastern cultural value is cultivating an internal sense of peace through stillness and harmony. Awesome!—just not to excess.
This balance can found naturally, just by having fun, according to Health Journalist Rachel Morgan (2013). “Leisure provides you the chance to find balance in your life; it also puts you in control of how you’re spending your time, which is an important consideration because you may feel overwhelmed by obligations.” She further notes that taking time for rest, “leisure and recreation activities is an ideal way to…address your mental wellness. [It] can help you better manage stress and reduce depression.” Any healthy and fun activity that recharges our batteries (or non-activity) works as essential leisure time.
I hope I don’t offend Pr. Berry in how strongly I believe that we don’t need to “Om” in the lotus position to achieve the Essential Freedom of being, but lets take the leisure balance one step further. He stresses that we seek essential freedom to “…recognizing the ability inherent in each of us to rewire our brains to be more peaceful, to actually be more in charge of who we are” and I say that we have the same inherent ability to do so on our couch (Berry, 2015). Or playing a game, even a video game, or—Heaven forbid!—watching a family movie. The goal is to simply be in the moment, drawing restoration from the fun.
Maybe this is too East-meets-West but wellness is about starting where you are. The value of the essential freedom and being in yourself is that it is self-accepting, without judgment. So let’s not judge how we recharge ourselves, let’s simply stop and enjoy.
Let’s simply “be” and thus be recharged.
Berry, W. (2015) Essential Freedom Is Essentially Ignored. Psychology Today.com. Retrieved from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-second-noble-truth/201501/essential-freedom-is-essentially-ignored
Morgan, R. (2013) Importance of Leisure & Recreation for Health. Livestrong.com. Retrieved from: http://www.livestrong.com/article/438983-what-are-the-health-benefits-of-leisure-recreation/