Lately, I’ve been struggling with finding a balance between work and my real life. It is probably a familiar conundrum to many of you out there. I read somewhere recently, how economic instability has increased our stress levels. For those of us with jobs, you never know when the axe might fall, as it did on a colleague just this week. Stress levels are also up as management is asking less of us to do more–all for the same amount of pay.
The first time I read “Sabbath” by Wayne Muller, it changed my life. I learned that the Sabbath isn’t necessarily a day, but a state of mind, a quiet time, a pit stop on the racetrack of life. In our drive for productivity at work and in our personal lives, we have forgotten to take time to let our engines cool.
Last week, I dug out my copy of “Sabbath” and began to read it again. Every short chapter is a guide, a lesson, a suggestion on how to restore the natural rhythm of rest for your soul. It is an essential part of life begging to be restored. One chapter a day can set you on the right path. Taking small deliberate steps to include Sabbath time will make a big difference in the way you face the pressures of life.
Some of Muller’s suggestions are sharing a meal, stopping during the day for a moment of prayer, taking a slow walk in the park, listening to music… While my self-described “Zen moments” are somewhat spontaneous, it takes a conscious effort to bring the Sabbath times back into our life.
Seek your own Sabbath and restore your self. Here are some of the Sabbath times I found to be very beneficial for me.
- Making time to practice my Yoga stretches in the morning before work. (My hip quit hurting after the first day!)
- Sitting at the table looking out at the plants and hand-writing a letter to a friend and posting it by snail mail. My friend loved getting the letter in the mail.
- Listening to the Anonymous Four sing Gregorian Chants.
- Baking brownies from scratch and covering them with frosting and sprinkles. OK, maybe not the best example, but it worked for me.
The following are a few passages that I hope will inspire you, as it did me, to find a quiet place, at any time, to remember the Sabbath as a divine gift of rest.
Readings from the book:
In Genesis, a fundamental goodness is presumed throughout the creation story. At every juncture God acts, steps back and rests. “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good” Genesis 1:31 Sabbath rest invites us to step back and see that it is good.
Mark 2:27, “You are not made for the Sabbath, the Sabbath is made for you.” Muller says, The Sabbath isn’t a responsibility, it’s a gift, and if we don’t take that gift, we all suffer. He tells us the point isn’t to take the Sabbath in order to avoid spiritual trouble with a cranky God who’s going to punish you. The point is to take Sabbath in order to be as nourished, fed and delighted as we’re meant to be. “Your life is not a problem to be solved but a gift to be opened.”
Prayer is like a portable Sabbath, when we close our eyes for just a moment and let the mind rest. Like the Muslims who stop to pray five time a day, like the Angelus we can be stopped by a sunset, a meal and we can pray. Something close to the heart, and simple.
Sabbaths are filled with prayers. But we can begin slowly with a simple prayer like a pebble dropped into the middle of our day rippling out over the surface of our life. Perhaps a line from the 23rd Psalm, the Lord’s Prayer, a short blessing: “May all beings be happy and may all being be at peace.”
A verse in the 23rd Psalm says “He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.” Even Jesus stepped back from his ministry and the crowds to a place of rest. In doing so he is honoring a deep spiritual need for a time dedicated not to accomplishment and growth, but to quiescence and rest.
Better is one hand full of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind” Ecclesiastes 4:6 Traditional Sabbaths are filled with prayers. But we can begin slowly with a simple prayer like a pebble dropped into the middle of our day rippling out over the surface of our life.
Mother Teresa said “Let us remain as empty as possible so that God can full us up.”At our best, we become Sabbath for one another. Not fixing, not harming, not acting, we can become space, that our loved ones, the lost and sorrowful, may find rest in us. ‘Where ever two or more are gathered, there am I in the midst of you.’
The Desert Fathers counseled, “Go into your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.” Set aside a period of time in nature or at home, at a church or temple, a library or anywhere you will not be disturbed. Sit, meditate, pray, read, whatever pleases you. Pay attention.
Kindly contributed to Zen Moments by the author
In today’s world, with its relentless emphasis on success and productivity, we have lost the necessary rhythm of life, the balance between work and rest. Constantly striving, we feel exhausted and deprived in the midst of great abundance. We long for time with friends and family, we long for a moment to ourselves. Millennia ago, the tradition of Sabbath created an oasis of sacred time within a life of unceasing labor.
Now, in a book that can heal our harried lives, Wayne Muller, author of the spiritual classic How, Then, Shall We Live?, shows us how to create a special time of rest, delight, and renewal–a refuge for our souls. We need not even schedule an entire day each week. Sabbath time can be a Sabbath afternoon, a Sabbath hour, a Sabbath walk. With wonderful stories, poems, and suggestions for practice, Muller teaches us how we can use this time of sacred rest to refresh our bodies and minds, restore our creativity, and regain our birthright of inner happiness.