Did you know that longest chapter in the Torah is about keeping the Sabbath? And have you ever observed that the commandment about Sabbath is the only one of the commandments that includes the word “holy”?
I learned this listening to a Ted Talk by journalist Pico Iyer titled “The Art of Stillness”. Well worth the listen (here) or the read (here).
Ironically, the body’s and soul’s necessity for slowing down and creating space for the inner journey is something we get inundated with through social media. Downloads, classes to purchase, books to read, podcasts to listen to.
Yet Mr. Iyer points out that this journey is as close to us as our pulse. He describes a visit to Google headquarters where the masters of technology commit to a 24-48 hour Sabbath from social media and screen time. He recalls a trip to Korea that was less than a week but that he can revisit vividly over decades. Iyer goes inside his head and revisits.
…and he even points out the “unique” practice of people he knows who turn out the lights and go to sleep rather than check email or Facebook statuses. Iyer observes that those friends of his who make the space for a mini pre-sleep Sabbath sleep better and wake up more refreshed.
But you all are not surprised, are you? Yet sometimes, our anxieties distract us with shiny add-ons. This or that item will do the trick.
When my daughter was an infant, like every mom in the world, I wanted to do the best for her development. I subscribed to a Toy of the Month club, which was a great financial sacrifice at the time. The toys were designed to coincide with certain developmental milestones.
One month a special mobile with black and white images of faces, balls, and stars arrived. I dutifully installed it over her crib. She lay there kicking and making noises. A friend came to visit and asked me what was going on. I told her about the Toy of the Month club and how this was the perfect age for babies to learn to recognize shapes in black and white.
My friend said “If someone put that thing over my bed, I’d be kicking and screaming too.” Point taken. I took it down.
I thought back on some of the great thinkers in history. All put in the center of family activities, listening to the activities of the household; seeing the fireplace, the animals, the pictures on the wall. Feeling temperature changes, air moving, hunger and other discomforts as well as soothing satisfaction.
Surely Emily Dickinson didn’t have some hovering mom dangling a black and white mobile over her cradle.
It occurred to me right then that there is such a thing as internal stimulation. Maybe it’s even more powerful than external stimulation that comes from a store. Maybe everything we need is right here with us. And for certain we can nurture that in ourselves while we nurture it in our children.
Mark Price is an actor and a certified teacher of Vedic meditation. Mark has this to say about stillness:
With the demands nowadays that are placed upon adults and children alike, getting still and de-exciting the nervous system is one of the most important things we can do to increase performance and sleep. …the world needs happier people, less stimulated young ones.
Less stimulated. De-excited. Not every day should be a like a visit to Chuck-E-Cheese!
Kate Hanley, aka Ms. Mindbody, has written a wonderful journal for 2016 called A Year of Daily Calm. It’s filled with quotes, thought-provoking questions, and inspiration. The entry for today – April 15 – was titled “Think About…The Best Intentions”. Part of the entry reads:
For any task on which you’re about to embark – like cooking dinner, for instance – ask yourself, “What’s my intention?”…clarifying why you’re doing whatever it is you’re about to do will streamline your efforts. The result? Less stress and bigger impact.
Sabbath has different connotations depending on how the word is being used and who is speaking it. Here, it simply means an intentional rest. A moment to look inward.
You don’t have to wait for Sabbath. You can set the intention to practice a Sabbath every day. On waking, before a meal or an activity, and particularly before sleep. It doesn’t have to take much time – just intention.
Park the electronics, say a prayer, list just three things for which you are grateful, consciously enjoy the cycle of your breaths 7 times in a row. Or 3 times in a row. Share it with your family.
What ways do you create space for Sabbaths? Have you ever found stillness in a surprising place? Please share below.
To give parents and caregivers a 15-minute rest in the middle of the day, download My Time – A Guided Meditation for Caregivers by filling out the form below. It will redirect even the most stressed day – I promise.