Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Thursday 23 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Pio of Pietrelcina
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Binge-Watching is Fun, But Here are 5 Ways To Relax for Real


Drew Maly - published on 08/19/15

It's important to know how

I’m a big fan of relaxation. I’ve lived through too many years of little-to-no rest to ever want to go back to a workaholic lifestyle. But over the past few years, as I’ve discovered this need for rest, I’ve also discovered something else: I don’t know how to do it.

Sure, I could pull up another episode of “Chopped“ or re-watch all five seasons of “Downton Abbey” to shut my mind off and forget about the work I still have to do. But is this really what my “rest time” consists of? Is it merely a time for me to shut off and wind down, only so I can go back to work again? I think we’re missing the point.

The sad truth is, this is how most of us view our time of relaxation: as time to recharge the batteries so we can go back to work.

In his “Nicomachean Ethics,” Aristotle makes this statement:

“We work in order to be at leisure.”

For Aristotle, rest is good and meaningful in itself. And to know what it means to rest well, consider this one word: contemplation.

Yes, contemplation. Sounds exciting, right? Okay—so when I first heard this, I felt a little deflated. It just doesn’t sound great. It sounds a little like cross-legged Buddhist style meditation to me. Not very exciting.

However, thanks to German philosopher Josef Pieper, an expert on this topic, we can see what it means to live out contemplation.

The best definition of contemplation I could glean from Pieper’s writings is this: gazing into the inner reality of things. Sounds a little heady, right? Layman’s translation: “drinking in the beauty.” Most of us use this phrase when referring to a beautiful landscape we’re looking at. Pieper, however, enumerates many experiences where the inner reality of things clearly presents itself to us — we just have to carve out a little silence in our lives to make space for them.

Here are 5 ways to “drink in beauty” — and really relax:

1. Music. Careful here – maybe Uptown Funk isn’t the best song to gaze into inner realities. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, though? Absolutely. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” Some composers really understood this. Even by listening to their music for a short time, you can tell they did. Even if classical music doesn’t really sound like your thing, turn on the Ludwig van Beethoven station on Pandora for an hour, and I bet you’ll be hooked.

2. Art. The whole purpose of art is to express the inner reality of something. You’d be surprised at what looking at an artist’s rendition of a landscape will tell you about it. My go-to artist is Caravaggio. Not much of a landscape painter — but if you want to know what meeting Jesus was like, check out The Calling of St. Matthew or The Incredulity of St. Thomas. Talk about inner reality.

3. Creation. Of all the things listed, this should be the easiest. While we may excuse ourselves for not being into classical music or art, there’s something downright ungrateful about refusing to recognize the beauty of creation. Get outside and look at the mountains, fields, and flowers. You might be surprised to find they are real, they exist, and they’re beautiful. Amen? Amen.

4. Literature. Stories are potent, people! We have to read – especially fiction. Until you’ve read The Brothers KaramazovThe Divine Comedy, and Lord of the Rings, don’t come to me saying there aren’t any good books any more. Because it just ain’t true. Reading good fiction like this gives us fresh perspectives and allows us to see the beauty of life through an entirely new lens. If you need a reading list, look here.

5. Sub-creation. The last thing on this list is the most active. As mentioned in #2, the whole purpose of art is to express the inner reality of something. In sub-creation, you create as you contemplate. As a flower or landscape moves you inward, try to sub-create that image in a painting, poem, or song. And in the process, your understanding of that flower or landscape will grow tremendously. Trust me.

  • 1
  • 2
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
Our Lady of La Salette
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady of La Salette can give us hope in darkness
Philip Kosloski
An alternative Hail Mary to Our Lady of Sorrows
Philip Kosloski
Pray this Psalm when you successfully recover from an illness
Cecilia Pigg
7 Ways the saints can help you sleep better at night
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
Philip Kosloski
Why do some Eastern Catholics use spoons for Holy Communion?
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.