How do you “do” Sabbath? Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote, “The Sabbath itself is a sanctuary which we build, a sanctuary in time.” How do you build this sanctuary in time? What are the elements? Which ones already exist in your life? For a Sabbath day, take these steps whole; for Sabbath mornings or lunch times, take them in smaller bits. You decide. This is all about freedom. We are free to discern what rest means for us.
In that spirit, I offer these Seven Sabbath Practices:
I. Tailor-made. These Sabbaths have to be cut for you. If you’re sedentary all day, maybe it’s taking a day of biking or tennis. If you’re duking it out in the courtroom, maybe it’s silence in a park. For busy parents of young children, it may mean spending time with adults. And if it’s hard to free a day or a time for rest, find a friend for the kids, use your personal days. Whatever you do, just take a break.
II. All of you—body, mind, soul, and spirit. You can take Sabbath walks, lounge in your bed late on Saturday mornings, and savor Sabbath meals with friends. (Spouses, it’s a wonderful fact that the tradition of Sabbath includes sexual intimacy.)
III. … but especially, feed thy soul. Our culture is not very attuned to the spiritual life. I return to Heschel who wrote that it only takes three things to create a sense of significant being: God, a soul and a moment. The three are always present. This little word No has the power to bring the three together.
IV. No obligations, some time each day and one day each week. No mopping, no cooking, no paying bills, no moving the lawn, no fixing the house, nor even thinking about work and the office. Through it all, let your mind rest from obligations regularly each day.
V. Restrict technology’s reach. Turn off the cell phone. Don’t check the email. And, by all means, unplug the TV and shut the laptop. I’ve already covered this, but it’s worth repeating.
VI. Time with the ones you love. This means friends, family, your spouse. Whomever. You chose. Pretty simple.
VII. Reflect and adjust. Find where there are things that break you down and where there are things that bring strength and peace. Adjust your life accordingly.
My daily pattern combines physical exercise, meditation/prayer, and reading.
In my book, this is time for Greg and for God. Time for body and soul. Fridays (because Sundays are work days for me) I take the entire day off. Except in rare emergencies, I don’t accomplish any work. In the morning, I savor an extended workout, generous time for journaling, reflection, prayer, and study. I walk in Upper Park with Laura. Sabbaths are days where I don’t have any duties, and everything’s based on freedom. I even remove my watch and put my iPhone aside so that it no longer breaks my day into disconnected units or distractions.
Having practiced regular Sabbaths, I’ll never go back.
(Adapted from my book, Say Yes to No.)