HOBBIES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

Do you have a hobby? Hobbies can give meaning and purpose to your life in retirement. As Robert Putnam points out in his book, Bowling Alone, it’s easy to discount the importance of hobbies and social engagements. Putnam details the widespread decline in civic engagement, from PTA memberships to neighborhood potlucks and bowling leagues. Over a couple of generations, Americans have misplaced the concept of free time.

SPECIAL PLANS FOR YOUR SPECIAL PEOPLE

Lily is a beautiful, active and full of personality toddler who happens to have Down syndrome. Lily’s parents and I have been friends for years and I have the continuing pleasure of watching Lily and her siblings grow up. While Lily is becoming a physical therapy rock star and hitting all her milestones in a timely fashion, her parents have started planning for the future.

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WHY WE ENJOY OUR HOBBIES

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation, engaged in especially for relaxation.” Hobbies include anything from playing a musical instrument to gardening, bird watching or sewing. A hobby is a way of focusing on something you enjoy just for the sake of that enjoyment. It may also be a way to clear your mental palette. You could be stressed out by a situation at work or the challenges of raising children and need an escape.

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For more information, visit the abbey’s website at www.monks.org

A visit to beautiful Bardstown, Ky., offers visitors several options for escaping from the challenges of everyday life. One of these options can be found 12 miles away, nestled in the hills of Trappist, accented by a simple white edifice towering above the tree line. The tower leads you to the Abbey of Gethsemani, founded in 1848 by the Order of Trappist Cistercians and home to Trappist monks who live, pray and work there. The abbey welcomes guests of all faiths from everywhere, as hospitality is an essential element of the monastic life, in keeping with St. Benedict’s rule: “Let all guests that come to the monastery be received as Christ.


For one day he will say, ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’” The monks are gathered in community, following the call of Jesus to become his disciples. The monastery, according to its website, is “a school of the Lord’s service and a training ground of love.”


Among the best known of the monks who lived at Gethsemani was Thomas Merton. Merton entered the monastic community in December 1941. The abbot urged the young monk to write his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, which was published in 1948. Merton’s later writings took up controversial issues such as social problems and Christian responsibility in race relations, violence, nuclear war and economic injustice. Merton also wrote prolifically on a vast range of topics, including the contemplative life and prayer. In addition, he was the

THE ABBEY OF GETHSEMANI: A GLIMPSE INSIDE MONASIC LIFE

author of several religious biographies.


Merton died in 1968, but many people still esteem him as a spiritual master, a brilliant writer and a man who embodied the quest for God and human solidarity. Since his death, five volumes of his letters and seven of his personal journals have been published. More than 60 titles of Merton’s writings are in print in English. Many of his collections of works are at Gethsemani’s library, which has a selection of contemporary religious and other books and periodicals as well.


Also open to the pubic are the abbey’s gardens, cemetery and chapel. Approximately 1,200 acres on the side of the road opposite the church are available for walking and hiking. Visitors may attend gatherings in the chapel where the monks chant during vigils (which begin at 3:15 a.m.), lauds, Eucharist, terce, sext, none, vespers and compline. The public is welcome to visit the abbey Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The welcome center offers displays and a video presentation about monastery life as well as a gift  shop with Gethsemani Farms products, which include fruitcake and fudge.

DR. THOMAS W. MILLER, PH.D, ABPP

Thomas W. Miller, Ph.D., ABPP, is a professor emeritus and senior research scientist, Center for Health, Intervention and Prevention, University of Connecticut; retired service chief from the VA Medical Center; and tenured professor in the Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Kentucky.

more articles by dr thomas W. Miller