As I contemplate the many principles we try to live as Latter-day Saints… I often think of how these principles (the ones that would actually originate from divinity)… would be meant for our benefit. And how often I have messed up this basic principle about principles — where I use them as a measuring stick of how I don’t quite “measure up,” instead of edifying forces in my life. And I know I’m not alone since this is a common theme that comes up in my sessions with those who struggle with depression or anxiety within our community. The reasons many of us do this are complex and intertwined with culture, personality, societal pressures, and many other factors.
So today I’m taking the time to think about the principle of honoring the Sabbath. And how I can use this principle as a gift in my life. A principle that encourages me to rest… to self-care… to think of things bigger and grander than myself… to worship… to meditate… to honor my surroundings… to find peace and comfort… to sit in non-judgment of myself or others… to love… to smile… to seek out enlightenment… to pause…
My sabbath delights today go as follow (I’m currently visiting family in the Kansas countryside which gives me access to stimulants for my senses that aren’t usually present):
- The beautiful hollyhock flowers that grow in my mother-in-law’s garden. They draw their name from the Christian meaning of ‘holy hoc,” with ‘hoc’ being an alternate for an herbaceous plant. There is something holy about any flower for me.
- The red-tailed blackbird that flew right past me and landed on the barbed wire fence against a field of gold and green — the stark color contrasts all of that offered.
- The black mutt dog that at first scared me on my walk, and then quickly won me over by wanting a tummy rub and following me about 2/3rds of the way.
- Watching my children eat popsicles and spray each other down with hoses. Any smile from them is a delight for sure.
- Feeling the wind against my face as I allowed myself to sit in the warm sun for at least 10 minutes without interruption.
- Listening to the prayer my child asked for when dealing with anxious thoughts and needing comfort that meds and parental comfort alone couldn’t offer.
- Feeling the cool, fresh front of the rain showers that came in late afternoon… and the dense humid scent they carried with them.
- The chat of family conversations… and the gratitude that things can generally end in laughter even when tensions of disagreements are felt.
- The consistent noise of insects that drown out intrusive thoughts as I lay in bed.
- The love I feel for the existence of my brain… where I can have any of these musings to begin with –which sends me towards worship and awe of divine creation and creators.
What do your Sabbath delights look like for you? In what ways do your Sabbath practice, thought and energy edify you? How does traditional religious practice vs personal spiritual practice intermingle in your experience? In what ways do you claim, honor or reject this principle? How can the ways we live this principle for ourselves or others either lead us towards or away from mental health, spiritual health and relational health?
I don’t have answers to these questions necessarily. I just hope they are good questions for all of us to think about in the context of our lived experience. May you all have had some Sabbath delights of your own is my hope.
Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST can be reached at natashaparker.org and runs an online practice, Symmetry Solutions, which focuses on helping families and individuals with faith concerns, sexuality and mental health. She hosts the Mormon Mental Health and Mormon Sex Info Podcasts, writes a regular column for Sunstone Magazine and is the current president of the Mormon Mental Health Association. She has over 20 years of experience working with primarily an LDS/Mormon clientele.