Something I am very fond of and take seriously is relaxation time. If I don’t get enough time to kick back and relax I become quite grumpy. I am a firm believer that families should schedule and budget for fun time, vacations, and what not. All work and no play…well, you know how it goes. It is easy to get caught up in the everyday hustle and bustle and forget to unwind. This is especially true for you as an individual. Self-care is important for every person and I have found that many people are neglecting themselves, and I am certainly guilty of this. Taking time out to nourish your spirit and mind needs to be an intentional act. Saying you relax and unwind is one thing, but what you do with this time is another.
Think of the last time you “relaxed”. Did you actually turn your mind away from distractions, or did you find your mind wandering back to thoughts of work, bills, and the next item on the to-do list? More importantly, did you turn your mind to God?
I think the word “leisure” is mostly associated with “recreation”, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I get a lot of joy out of playing outside with the kids, going on a camping trip, hiking, etc. But with my other free time I tend to waste on listless tasks, like staring at my iPhone or at the inside of my eyelids. Josef Pieper, in his book Leisure: The Basis of Culture, argues that leisure is meant to for the mind to grow spiritually and intellectually. Philosophers such as Socrates and Plato viewed leisure as an activity involving civil conversation and debate with fellow men. Personally, the thought of sitting around a campfire with a few good men, smoking a pipe and having a drink while engaging in intelligent conversation, sounds great. Actually, even sitting on the porch with my pipe and coffee with a rosary sounds even better. There is just something about men joining together in holy camaraderie that brings comfort to the soul. I also enjoy an old-fashioned shave and beard trim from my barber, Stacie. If you haven’t done this, you’re missing out! It is so relaxing to kick back in the barber chair with a steaming hot towel wrapped on your face, followed by a straight-razor shave. It’s not unusual for me to doze off once in a while, either! I always walk away feeling rested.
With that being said, I asked several well-known Catholic men to share their thoughts on leisure and what they do with their time.
Cultural and social issues analyst, Fedora-wearing Canadian, and Founder of Patrick Coffin Media
Leisure to me is not distracting video games or ESPN marathons. It’s the FULL experience of unplugging, and playing, preferably involving the family. A good board game, a good jump in the lake or ocean, a good cigar, a good single malt, a good novel, a good nap. See a pattern?
Blogger, awesome stay at home dad, beer and bacon connoisseur, and founder of Doug on Tap
I have two ways I like to relax. Alone and with my buddies. With my buddies, I like to be outside cooking together and maybe enjoying a couple of beers. Cold weather is ideal. No kids is way more relaxing than with kids, but I can manage either way.
Alone I either like to play video games or watch a movie. Sometimes I’ll even go to the movie theater alone. That’s probably my favorite thing to do because the theater serves food to your seat and brews its own beer.
Flame-thrower enthusiast, manly man, and co-host of The Catholic Man Show
While I enjoy many relaxing activities like reading a book, watching a movie, playing the piano or the guitar, golfing, or simply spending time in good company, there are few things I find more relaxing than sitting alone on my back porch as I watch the sunset and smoke my pipe alongside a good Scotch. For me, this is an opportunity that does not present itself often, but when it does, I always take advantage! Some of the best moments of prayer I’ve ever had involved a pipe and whiskey clad eventide. I’m not sure what it is about a pipe, but it just seems to put everything in the world in its rightful place.
Famous Catholic author, blogger, beard grower, and Founder of EpicPew
I’m undecided on the uses and value of leisure, philosophically and spiritually. The idea of a vacation is unique to the modern era. In the world before the 18th century, only the super rich would be able to afford such travels. It was not just a monetary expense, but a cost of time, too. How could a man afford to not earn his wages? Paid time off? That sort of thing didn’t even make sense before the invention of unions and modern labor expectations. Saints like Bellarmine and Borromeo never took time off, not once. I think that’s important when we consider the nature of leisure. As for me, I would love to take more vacation time. I have a large accumulation of vacation hours I need to burn this year at work, but I really have a hard time taking time off for anything other than illness or child birth. Still, when I come home I immediately hit the book and blog work. I consider that to be the best use of my time. I spend between 2-4 hours every day running websites and editing blogs that many thousands of people count on. Plus, I feel that this work is my personal contribution to the kingdom, as a spiritual and corporeal act of mercy. But what do I do when I can get some time off, I usually try to get away from the house. To be honest, many times I try to plan one or two-day solo excursions where I can just get out on my own and collect my thoughts. So I go camping, fishing, hiking, etc. At home, I really enjoy playing video games when all the work is finished. Yes, I do enjoy reading, but getting lost in a good game is pretty fun for me as well. I have a nag of a conscience, so I feel pretty bad when I overdo it, but I try to manage productivity and fun time.
Pipe smokin’, Scotch drinkin’, Sunday suit-wearin’ co-host of The Catholic Man Show
Leisure, like grace, is receptive. It makes us stop an activity, stop from the everyday hustle and grind, and behold the beauty of the moment. I have 2 different ideal setups for relaxation and leisure, both involve a similar setting but with different company. The first is with my wife sitting on the back porch with a roaring fire. There’s something about the stillness of night that is calming and almost inviting to enter into intimate discussions. My wife and I have had some of the best conversations in our marriage sitting outside the back porch, in the cool evening of Fall, just being in each other’s presence. It’s crazy how the still, quiet, almost “nothing” of the night will soon bring out something that is intimate, passionate, and almost “everything” in a relationship. The second setup is with my closest friends. There’s nothing like getting 4-5 men around a bonfire, sitting with a whisky in one hand and a cigar in the other, having meaningful conversation. Conversations seem to always flow naturally but the moments in between the conversations are just as important. The moments of appreciating the setting you are in, the creation all around you, and the camaraderie. It’s the moments you realize everyone has been quiet for the last 30 minutes just sitting in each other’s company, allowing each man to ponder the depths of his current state in life. It’s very similar to the moments in prayer where you realize you have been praying for an hour and it feels like only 20 minutes have gone by.
A man’s man. He and his Harley fear no open road, and he can surf blindfolded while juggling nunchucks. Plus, his name is Bear. Founder, Deep Adventure Ministries
God designed us to spend about a third of our time at rest. We sleep about one third of the day and our heart rests every third beat.
I was shooting a scene for Season 2 of Long Ride Home and about to roll thunder with the pack down the eleven mile long Tail of the Dragon that has 318 S Turns. There is a death on that stretch about once a month. I must have been a bit nervous because when I went to start my Harley I could not get it to start. Finally, Father Mark Goring yelled to me over the roar of his engine. “Did you put it in Neutral?” I had forgotten it needed to be in neutral to start.
Have you forgotten that? Each day should start out in Neutral with a time of prayer, a time of resting in the Lord. This is our time of hearing from God and fueling up.
How can we start our engine for the day with out that time of resting in the Lord. In fact the one thing Paul said that we should be working hard at is to “Strive to Enter Into God’s Rest.” Work hard at resting?
In fact, the promised land is called the Land of Rest.
Every athlete knows that your muscle is built up when you rest. As a professional athlete, I know I need to get eight to ten hours of sleep a day. We gain muscle by fueling and hydrating it properly and by resistance training. When we say an athlete is ripped, we really mean it. In resistance or weight training the muscle fiber is ripped. It is when we are at rest and the muscle is repaired that we gain muscle mass and get stronger.
This rhythm of work and rest is important.
When people come to Hawaii they want recreation. But I challenge them to have a time of re-creation. In your having fun and playing and resting let the noise and the demands of your life fall away and maybe, just maybe, you will gain a new sense of perspective and even hear the still small of voice of God whispering to you and giving you a new sense about things, a new direction in your life and feeling that God loves you. You may see your friends and families more clearly when you get your mind off of tasks and in a sense, let them rest on the horizon.
As a ninja black belt, I use to teach martial arts. During class we would say every now and then, “take a rest”. That was the signal to jog laps around the dojo. This had a nice fan like effect on me, by the way; as they ran laps around me the air movement cooled me down. They rested from the intensity of their focus, but they were still in the flow. Even in their rest they were still moving towards their goal.
God calls us to finish the race. God calls us to leap a wall too high to climb. But He calls us to do this not on our strength but in His. Learn to put it in Neutral before your start your engine, strive to enter into His rest and spend time in re-creation.
Dr. Ray Guarendi
Clinical psychologist, parenting expert, mustache enthusiast, and host of Living Right With Dr. Ray
Weight lifting and softball.
Short and sweet, Dr. Ray. I like it. (By the way, Dr. Ray is a super-busy man, and I am lucky to have had the chance to get in touch with him!). I hope that after reading this post, you came away with a new purpose in how you use leisure time. If you are like me, you need to truly unplug from life and plugin to God. If you don’t, all the chaos and distractions will wear you out. Connect with other men who you can turn to for support and good conversation. If you like to take time out alone, then include God. He can fully restore you and give you the rejuvenation you need to fight the good fight. If you are a guy who just cannot relax, then pray for the Holy Spirit to fill you with peace. Take small steps and be in constant conversation with the Lord. Stop and smell the roses! (or the Scotch).
Here’s to the good times!