Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sabbath

So starting on Friday around 3 pm I declared for myself an e-mail Sabbath. I decided I was not going to look at my email until Monday. I set a vacation message and turned email notifications off on my phone and tablet. Why did I do this?

Well I met with my spiritual director on Friday at Richmond Hill. I found myself longing to be at Richmond Hill for a number of days of silent retreat. I did this shortly after I left my job. I spent five days at Richmond Hill - I prayed, participated in the community prayer life, attended a centering prayer circle, read books, slept, walked the labyrinth, met with a spiritual director and other than talking to my family each night I was off all social media and email. I wore a silent tag around my neck and ate my meals in the room set aside for those observing silence. It was absolutely wonderful! So while I could not at this point do a silent retreat at Richmond Hill I knew I needed a Sabbath. I needed to take a break from the job searching, networking, emailing. It was a good break. I read, I played on Facebook, Pinterest, and hung out with my family. I stayed off this computer all weekend. I didn't even write my blog post because I just needed to stop.

Sabbath is about stopping. It is about unplugging, turning off the devices and paying attention to time and each other in a different way. Judaism has an amazing Sabbath tradition. All work ceases from Friday sunset until Saturday sunset. Sabbath is tied to creation - God resting on the seventh day. A few years ago I preached a sermon on Sabbath, after I had read Wayne Muller's book Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest and another wonderful book called A Day Apart: How Jews, Christians and Muslims Find Faith, Freedom and Joy on the Sabbath by Christopher Ringwald.  These two books informed the Sabbath practice I developed over my time working in a congregation. I was always very intentional about turning off work email notifications on Sunday evening and they did not go back on until Tuesday morning.  I did no work on Monday.  I spent the day with my family, I cooked, I read, I slept in.  It was critical to my work that I stop, step away and let work take a back seat.  You see I have learned I often think that I always have to be working.  That if I am not working than I must be lazy.  You can imagine that being unemployed since March might just be getting to me.

What I discovered is that I have treated my job search much like my work. Doing it all the time, thinking about it when I am not doing it, feeling guilty if I find myself carried away by an interesting article on Facebook.  There is this constant sense that I must always be emailing, figuring out who to reach out to next, searching web sites for job listings.  Since there is urgency about the job search and since it is not like a job with hours, it is easy to be sucked into the notion that there should be nothing else in my life right now except job searching.  So each day I sit at this computer writing and reaching out.  Doing research on various organizations or people.  Sometimes I am writing resumes or cover letters.  Yet most of this work is not immediate pay off. It is planting seeds and waiting for them to grow. It is following up with people (watering the plants) and waiting.  Hoping there is just the right mix of sun, rain, warm, cold to nurture this garden of job searching.  A lot of it is like watching grass grow - you can't see the progress until you step away.

Well I had not been stepping away very well.  I felt like I had to be at the work, all the time and if I wasn't doing something then I was either feeling guilty or thinking about what I needed to do next.  It was too much and I was done.  So I turned off my email.  Now one of the gifts of a religious or spiritual practice of Sabbath is that you do it at the same time every week without exception.  So Sabbath comes for Jews on Friday at sunset every week.  For those who observe Sabbath in a more traditional way, work goes away, the candles are lit, children are blessed, wine/juice are consumed and services are attended.  Of course each family, each congregation, each denomination has its own traditions to this practice.  For some it is removal of the watch, for some video games go up and for others they come out (the only time the children are allowed to play them), computers go off...but in some way time is marked in a different way then any other day of the week.

That is the beauty of spiritual practice and how even more wonderful for that practice to be celebrated by millions of people, each week, around the world.  That is the gift of being part of a world-wide religious community.  It is probably one of the things I miss most about being part of the Roman Catholic Church. I knew that I could walk into a Roman Catholic Church, any where in the world and be a part of that community.

So after this weekend I am thinking I need a Sabbath practice.  I need to regularly turn off email. I need to step away from the job search. I need ways to mark time differently.  It is time to return to the spiritual discipline of rest.

Do you have a Sabbath practice?  What does it look like?  How do you fit rest and renewal into your life?  What does your spiritual life and discipline tell you about work, rest and play?