Embracing the Forced Leisure

How to use the pauses in life as tools for personal growth and enlightenment.

Posted Mar 23, 2020

The coronavirus is here, and it’s painfully obvious that life, as we have lived it up to now, is about to change dramatically. Have we done something so egregious to deserve such a fate, or is this the result of the fickle finger of happenstance? Whichever the case, the impact on us will be the same.

 Dr. Terry Gordon/Shutterstock
The pause is a tool for introspection.
Source: Dr. Terry Gordon/Shutterstock

What lies in store for us? If not self-quarantine, federally mandated separation seems to be looming on the horizon, replacing open-air social distancing as the means of curtailing this viral invasion.

Much of what we have grown to rely upon in this hectic life we’ve created is about to come to a screeching halt. But this pause, this time of forced leisure, just might be precisely what is needed at this juncture.

John Lennon once warned, “Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans.” Who would have envisioned this is what he had in mind?

Look, crap happens! It can halt us in our tracks. The interruption may appear to result in precious time being wasted, seemingly lost forever.   

In our fast-paced world, when faced with adversity, we generally expect the resolution to operate on a fast track as well. We need to be reminded that humans were not created as instant beings. Certain things take time to unfold. We spend nine months gestating in our mother’s womb. It takes more than 13 years for us to reach puberty. Some changes require an entire lifetime or longer. 

The journey takes time, but unfortunately, with our “I want it, and I want it now” mentality, we tend to become frustrated when our goals are not immediately attainable. A seedling may be planted, but all the coaxing imaginable cannot enable the tree to grow any faster than Mother Nature will allow. 

In today’s world, patience has become a forgotten virtue. We live in a culture of instant oatmeal, drive-through fast foods, and quicker Internet access. Our fast-paced society focuses on instantaneous gratification. We demand immediate results and consider it a failure if our projected timelines aren’t met.

Our impatience, though, works to our detriment. We generally respond as if we were suddenly thrust into a totally darkened room. Frantically attempting to escape the blackness regardless of how blinded we are by it, we end up getting even more lost. 

On the other hand, through the practice of patience, by allowing our eyes to slowly adjust to the dimness, we are able to see the terrain otherwise obscured by the darkness, ultimately finding our way out.

If you’ve ever played music, you know that an important part of music lies in the space between two notes. The tendency is to rush to play the next note prematurely without first allowing the resonance of the preceding ones to fully develop. By including the gap, patience reveals the beauty of music that might otherwise be missed.    

L. B. Cowman beautifully expressed this in Streams in the Desert: “There is no music during a musical rest, but the rest is part of the making of the music. In the melody of our life, the music is separated here and there by rests. During those rests, we foolishly believe we have come to the end of the song.”

Practicing patience during a pause such as this coronavirus pandemic, a time of forced leisure, is of utmost importance. Such a pause in our lives is not to be construed as punishment; instead, it has the potential to bring us back to our humanity. We must learn to slow down our expectations and resist the pressures of the instant gratification mentality. Patience teaches us discipline and provides the necessary time for greater understanding to germinate.

As L. B. Cowman shares: 

“God sends us times of forced leisure by allowing sickness, injury, disappointed plans, and frustrated efforts. He brings a sudden pause in the choral hymn of our lives, and we lament that our voices must be silent. Yet, how does a musician read the rest? He counts the break with unwavering precision and plays his next note with confidence . . . as if no pause were ever there.”                                                                                     

In the weeks to come, may we all use this forced leisure as a tool allowing for introspection, personal growth, and enlightenment. Namaste.