A Balanced Life

How fortunate we are, how blessed to live in a time when Miss Mason’s ideas are alive and well in the 21st century, especially here in America.  There are so many wonderful, talented people out there spreading the feast through research, writing and speaking on Miss Mason’s works.  There are excellent books, articles, blogs and podcasts available at our fingertips. What a privilege to live in a technological age that allows us access to a seemingly endless amount of information at any time, any day.  But do you ever feel that you’ll never have enough time, energy or resources to get through those volumes, attend that conference or listen to that podcast all while teaching your kids, managing a household and investing in relationships?  It all can quickly become overwhelming.  What to do? I have found that an answer lies with a Brit and a saint.   

About seven years ago I was introduced to St. Benedict and his teachings by a dear friend and kindred spirit.  I had discovered Charlotte Mason about a year earlier and was in the midst of tackling her volumes for the first time.  I was amazed to discover that many of Benedict’s teachings seemed to parallel those of Miss Mason’s.  My soul was struck profoundly.  It caused me to wonder whether or not Miss Mason had studied the 5th century saint herself.

The teachings of St. Benedict say that a life well-lived has everything to do with how we spend our time.  He claims that a balance of regular prayer, sacred reading, work, community participation and rest are the practices that allow us to truly live life to our fullest and deepest potential.  It is the harmony of these working together that create a well-balanced life.  There are so many parallels to Miss Mason’s philosophy and practices that come to mind. Like Benedict, a Mason education is first and foremost based on ‘The Great Recognition" that the Holy Spirit is the supreme educator of mankind and the knowledge of God is the primary goal.  Mason’s practice of reading living books slowly and intently coupled with the act of narration mirrors sacred reading (lectio devina).  The work being done in a Mason education is done through a well-balanced liberal arts curriculum that reveals the truth, beauty and goodness of our Lord. Her emphasis that education is the science of relations encompasses community participation while masterly inactivityechoes Benedict’s rest, or holy leisure, in that both call for time set aside in our day for contemplation and reflection.  Just as Benedict suggests an order and balance for a harmonious life, so Miss Mason seems to do in the intentional structuring of school days.  As Tara Schorr states of the scheduling in a Mason education, “Everything compliments and strengthens the other…the balance facilitates all those components into becoming a lifestyle.”

Education is a life. – Charlotte Mason

Balance is the key.  Anything that takes over too much of our time and energy and neglects the other components causes us to become overworked, overstimulated and overscheduled.  Even the great ideas can be lost by the wayside without a balanced lifestyle.  Many have said our beloved British educator not only was intentional about the structuring of students’ school days, but she modeled this in her own life.  It is here where we should take special notice.  We too need to model a well-balanced, harmonious life for both our children’s sake and our own.  Creating an atmosphere where the rhythm of life is consistent allows for the small taking in of new ideas and the slow patient work of digestion.  In so doing, the ideas have time to take root and thrive in fertile soil ripe for growth and a bountiful harvest. 

What I do not bring to life, life cannot possibly give me. – Joan Chittister

In an age that is constantly pulling at us to do more and be more, may we heed the wisdom of two revolutionaries of their own time.  May we seek to live a well-balanced life so that others may too say of us:

People who live this kind of life…live life well.  They are, in fact, fully alive. 
Wisdom Distilled from the Daily, J. Chittister, p. 77