Archives for posts with tag: Sabbath

I was recently asked to describe the last six or so months of my life. As I shared the variety of things that have taken place, I stopped and for a moment thought “if nothing else, my life is consistently a roller coaster”. Up and down, up and down, sometimes all in one day. This existence is good, and hard, and full, punctuated by gratitude and grief. Which is why I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of Sabbath: a day of ceasing, a time of rest.

Many people scoff at the idea of Sabbath. It feels like a punishment: as though you must stop everything you enjoy doing, risk falling behind at work, and feel guilty about both. I have come to understand that Sabbath is actually meant to be a beautiful gift, and isn’t just a means to be more productive during the week. As John Bradshaw put it, “we have become ‘human doings’ who define ourselves by what we do in the world. [Sabbath] teaches us to remember our true essence as ‘human beings’ and to practice the art of simply being”.

This is, at least for me, difficult. I enjoy being productive. I love being with people and very easily fill up my calendar. But rest calls me to something even more challenging than to cease being busy: it invites me to release the anxiety that I carry around. Many of the hardships I face are ones that I have no control over, and yet I somehow believe that if I worry or do enough, I will somehow be able to “fix” everything.

It takes discipline to create space for rest. I long for the kind of break where my mind is not preoccupied with all that I should be doing and everything that may or may not happen in the future. I suspect that if space is made, something that I’m not planning or counting on might actually happen. As author Marva Dawn once said and I’ve quoted before, “A great benefit of Sabbath keeping is that we learn to let God take care of us, not by becoming passive or lazy, but in the freedom of giving up our feeble attempts to be God in our own lives”.

I suspect the roller coaster is going to continue. As hard as it is, I’m grateful for all the experiences that are teaching me to touch life beyond the surface. My hope is that I will keep learning to put the brakes on. Maybe as I slow down I can be reminded how to be and not simply do. In the quiet, I might even catch a glimpse of the good things in store over the next crazy hill, and instead of being anxious, I can enjoy the anticipation.

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I was introduced to the idea of polarity management a number of years ago by my husband Dion. The illustration that I see consistently used to define it is this: in order to live we must breathe, but in order to do so we must participate in what are seemingly opposed actions: inhaling AND exhaling. The ‘problem’ of breathing is not solved by doing one or the other. Our lives are full of such quandaries: how do we do manage following rules and experiencing freedom or doing things efficiently and promoting creativity/innovation or (my personal favourite) working and resting?

Last year I started seeing a new therapist who mid-way into our first session said, “I’m going to flag ‘self-care’ as an issue for us to talk about”. Busted. She could see what I knew was true: I have a life full of commitments that could easily turn me into a burnt out mess (my words, not hers). Most of my commitments can’t be said no to and are deeply good. Many of them are blurred across the work/home divide. Desiring to do them well means that I have to manage the tension that exists between them and rest.

Last fall I came up with a list: take a Sabbath every Friday, see my therapist on a regular basis, get massage therapy when possible on my too-stiff shoulders and neck, eat properly, walk and take Zumba classes, meet with a Spiritual Director, make and get to regular Doctor and Dentist appointments, etc. Full disclosure: it kind of irked me and seemed counterintuitive that in order to participate in self-care I had to make a list of things TO DO. The truth is though, however imperfectly I keep it, the list has helped.

It helped me enough to realize that I also needed what I hadn’t added: vacation. Near the end of July both my body and brain were practically begging me to have an extended period of rest. I feel fortunate to be enjoying some serious time off this month with my family. At times it has taken effort to not create more to-do lists. There are moments when, for no apparent reason at all, my stomach feels anxious. Pushing through though has enabled me to experience the stillness that comes with not doing, but being.

Which brings me back to polarity management. I am convinced that enjoying life to its fullest comes with living well in the tension of work and rest. And by work, I don’t exclusively mean the paid kind. We cannot thrive doing only one or the other. I suppose my goal is to move more fluidly between the two. Since I’m putting this out there, maybe you can help hold me to it.

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I am working hard to have a day that resembles rest this week. Doesn’t that sound wrong?

For the last few years I have intentionally taken a Sabbath at the end of the week instead of on Sunday, a day that is too much a whirl of activity to be considered restful. On my day off I find myself anxiously thinking about all the things I need to do, especially at The Dale. I worry about fundraising. I think of all the e-mails I should be writing. I craft a newsletter in my head because surely that will alleviate my concern about the budget. I plot meetings and what times they might work.

Oh, the irony and agony.

The crazy thing is that I know I need to rest and nothing is going to immediately change or get fixed if I do it right now. No newsletter is going to be written, laid out, printed and sent out in a single day; we are in a new year and the way our eventual year-end looks will not be decided in an afternoon; the meetings don’t need to be set until next week. Worrying, as I repeatedly tell myself, will not help.

I finally settle into our big arm-chair with a cup of coffee in my hand, close my eyes and pray. I remember a quote from author Marva Dawn, “A great benefit of Sabbath keeping is that we learn to let God take care of us, not by becoming passive and lazy, but in the freedom of giving up our feeble attempts to be God in our own lives.”

My own feeble attempt to be in control rapidly unravels. Fortunately as it does, I finally find rest.