A Weekend of Sabbath Rest
One practice I am working to develop this year is taking regular weekends of Sabbath rest.
A Sabbath is time set aside for rest and worship. Much of how we understand our practice of Sabbath comes from Jewish traditions. The word comes from the Hebrew word for “seventh” and the Jewish Sabbath is on the seventh day of the week.
Some of us understand a Sabbath not only in terms of worship. We may think of taking a day each week for our mental heath, or to promote health, safety, reflection, and general well-being.
Many of us recognize the benefits of taking time away from work regularly. Some of us believe time off each week helps us continue to do our work well. Others of us look forward to getting away from our regular routine to explore new ways to be creative.
Some professions allow practitioners to take sabbaticals of a year or more for travel or research.
The last fourteen months have been a long and emotionally draining time. Some of us were overdue for some rest before the pandemic began.
If we ever needed, and deserved, to develop a practice of restful weekends, now is the time.
But even when we try to take time away from our regular schedules, it is not particularly restful. Are there ways we can strengthen our practice of finding rest?
What would our weekend of Sabbath rest be like? How would we plan and prepare for such a weekend?
Many of us get in our own way when it comes to resting and reflecting. Some of us feel the demands on our time and attention pull us away from rest. Others of us start to feel lazy or irresponsible or anxious.
How can we build a strong practice of Sabbath rest?
Starting to Practice Weekends of Sabbath Rest
It is unrealistic for us to think we can simply fall into a spiritual practice of Sabbath rest. We live in a culture which values work at least as much as every other part of our lives.
In our culture, work is a relentless competitor for our time and attention. We need to plan and prepare to build a strong practice, and to protect it once we have begun.
I believe it is crucial for us to decide how often we will practice our weekends of Sabbath rest. It is easy for us to convince ourselves our practice needs to be absolutely perfect. Some of us appear to believe we are required to have a weekend of Sabbath rest every week for our practice to be valid.
We need to begin with a first step. One weekend of rest every month, or every few months, may be what we can do at first.
When we know our schedule, we also need to decide what form our Sabbath rest will take. For some of us, it is essential we include a form of structured worship in our weekend. Some will want to dedicate a weekend to helping other people who need our help. Others of us find spiritual life spending time in nature, in the woods or the desert, in the mountains or at the ocean.
Some of us will find Sabbath rest by staying in bed to read books.
As we begin our practice, it is helpful, and important, to pay attention to what gives us rest. We are not required to follow particular rules or meet certain expectations.
Spiritual life is within us and in the world all around us. Our Sabbath is about getting out of its way.
Stepping Into a Practice of Sabbath Rest
For many of us our first steps into practicing Sabbath rest are to stop taking steps.
Our practice is not about doing more or following a checklist. The challenge for most of us will be getting comfortable with taking time to rest.
We do not need to buy and read any more books or accumulate any new experiences. Our practice of Sabbath rest, like many contemplative practices, is about slowing down, taking time, paying attention.
Many of us are used to filling every possible moment with productivity. We treat all of our lives like work, bringing ideas we want to apply home with us. Our minds are constantly running, trying to solve problems.
Sabbath rest, for many of us, can feel at first like being ill. We may tell people we need to stay in bed or need more rest. Sabbath rest is a foreign concept in our culture and people might be concerned about us.
Rather than trying to take incremental steps into practicing Sabbath, it might help some of us to jump in with both feet. We could embrace a contemplative practice of Sabbath and immerse ourselves into its welcome.
Everyday Sabbath Rest
We do not need to put pressure on ourselves or expect ourselves to do even more.
It might help us to reflect on how we want to begin practicing rest. Understanding our own ideas of Sabbath and its benefits will help us choose our practice wisely.
The practice of taking regular time for rest, worship, and reflection is an ancient one. Each of us is given the same number of hours each week and we choose how we put them to work for us.
Some of us believe we need to earn enough time during the week to deserve a weekend of Sabbath rest. When we develop a regular Sabbath practice we begin to appreciate how our Sabbath rest weekends shape the remainder of our days.
Taking regular time for rest, reflection, and gratitude reminds us how to invest our everyday lives wisely.
As we establish strong contemplative practices we begin to understand the value of taking time to breathe deeply and listen to the stillness within us and around us.
How can we plan and prepare for a weekend of Sabbath rest today?
What difference would a regular weekend of Sabbath rest make in our everyday lives?
[Image by silverfox09]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.