Monasteries of the Heart

Monks in Our Midst: Michael Casey OCSO on leisure

Leisure is not idleness or the pursuit of recreational activities. It is, above all, being attentive to the present moment, open to all its implications, living it to the full. This implies a certain looseness in lifestyle that allows the heart and mind to drift away from time to time.

Monastic life is not a matter of shoehorning the maximum number of good works into a day. It is more important that monks and nuns do a few things well, being present to the tasks they undertake, leaving room for recuperation and reflection, and expecting the unexpected. Leisure allows openness to the present. It is the opposite of being enslaved by the past or living in some hazy anticipation of a desirable future. Leisure means being free from anything that would impede, color, or subvert the perception of reality.

Far from being the head long pursuit of escapist activities and having fun, authentic leisure is a very serious matter because it is the product of an attentive and listening attitude to life.

Michael Casey OCSO is a Cistercian monk of Tarrawarra Abbey in Australia and a well-known retreat master and lecturer on monastic spirituality. Learn more at

Do you have experiences of leisure that reflect Casey’s description? Explain.

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