Image

The Art of Sabbath: Dormancy

IMG_3119

Dormancy

“Dormancy allows plants and their seeds to develop stress-resistant annual resting periods. When adverse conditions such as cold or drought arise, the plant ceases to receive its cues from the external environment and focuses inward, receiving its vital direction from ancient rhythms. Seeds may maintain dormancy even during favorable conditions, in order to give them time to fully mature…

In a given season, this may diminish the yield, but it is a rhythm designed less for quick profit, and more for an abundance over eternity.”    ~Sabbath (p.57-58)

This concept of Sabbath transforms words that judge into words that bless. Just the word “Dormancy” written at the top of today’s chapter takes away the sting of “What am I doing with my life?” and replaces it with a wise understanding that all sustainable things do not produce for a time.

Of all the fears I have faced during this time of rest, the greatest one has been that if I let go of the energy that keeps me going and doing, I might never give anything of worth to this world.

That fear is only surpassed by a deeper knowledge that to give anything of worth, I must be willing to be dormant for awhile.

There are times in my life and there will be times again where I must dig deep for stubborn determination to press through challenging circumstances. Times of dormancy, however, also require a stubborn determination to not bloom until the time is right.

Click here to order your own copy of Sabbath: The Sacred Rhythm of Rest by Wayne Muller.

Image

The Art of Sabbath: The Empty

DSC_0038

The Empty

“For some people, emptiness can feel fertile and spacious, alive with possibility, as a womb is ripe for the child to come. But others feel emptiness as an ache, a void; something painful, in need of being filled.” ~Sabbath (p. 50)

Since my 30 days of rest, I am more comfortable with the empty spaces in my life. They don’t seem so unfinished as they are ripe with possibility. Sometimes the blank walls or not quite right decorations can even feel like testimonies to my time and energy being spent on something else. Not necessarily something more important, mostly just something else.

In my experiment with rest, I touched down on both of Muller’s descriptions of what emptiness can feel like. There were days that my empty hours felt alive and days that it felt like an ache.

Most of us are, “far more anxious about having to confront whatever will come up in the empty space, when we are quiet and alone. Who knows what terror lurks in the anonymous solitude? What voices will arise in the silence? At the very same time, people are afraid of what will not come up. What if I have no vision at all? What if there is nothing of value in my heart and soul, no strength, no voice of guidance, no wisdom at all-just an empty hollow echo?” (p.51)

Letting go.

Settling down.

Being still.

Not doing.

It’s terrifying and painful.

And it’s enlightening and beautiful.

“Only when we take refuge in rest can we feel the company of the angles that would minister to us, regardless of what we {find in our emptiness}.

In the stillness there are forces and voices and hands and nourishment that arise, that take our breath away, but we can never know this, {really} know this, until we rest.” (p.53)

Click here to order your own copy of Sabbath: The Sacred Rhythm of Rest by Wayne Muller.

Image

The Art of Sabbath: Choosing My Yes

 

no no yes

Choosing My Yes

“By saying no to making some things happen, deep permission arises for other things to happen. When we cease our daily labor, other things-love, friendship, prayer, touch, singing, rest-can be born in the space created by rest.” Sabbath (p.29-30)

In a recent women’s group, we were discussing how hard it is to say no, when we are able to say no, how we justify saying no. We even acknowledged that we say no a lot and still there is always more to say no to. We explored the extensive mental energy we spend trying to make ourselves and other people feel okay about our no.

The list of things we must say no to is truly never ending…like that bubble game I kept trying to win only to discover that the bubbles would keep scrolling as long as I kept popping them.

During my 30 Days of Rest, I became more aware of my allotted energy than I have every been before. As I was reflecting on my sabbatical with a friend yesterday, I realized that during that time, I learned what must be done in my life and I attempted to do no more.

It felt like I was saying no to everything but really, I was saying yes. Our no’s are not the destination, they are the way to clear out the path for our yes.

It is not about finding your no.

It is about finding your yes.

Sabbath is the sacred time between our no and our yes. It offers us space, permission, and significant margin to notice our beautiful yes when it presents itself to us.

“Some things at first may seem expedient, or important or profitable-but in the end, they will bring you suffering. If you work all week and forget to rest, you will become brittle and hard, and lose precious nourishment and joy. Forgetting the Sabbath is like forgetting to unwrap the most beautiful gift under the tree.” Sabbath (p. 32)

Art by Megan Wise

Follow sealed.with.a-kiss on Instagram to see more of her adventures in lettering.

Image

The Art of Sabbath: Prayer

DSC_0033

To Pray

“Jesus, for whom anything was possible, did not offer ‘seven secret coping strategies’ to get work done faster, or ‘nine spiritual stress management techniques’ to enhance our effectiveness. Instead he offered the simple practice of rest as natural, nourishing, and essential companion to our work. Learn from me, he invited and you will find rest for your souls.

Jesus did not wait until everyone had been properly cared for, until all who sought him were healed.  He did not ask permission to go, nor did he leave anyone behind ‘on call,’ or even let his disciples know where he was going. Jesus obeyed a deeper rhythm. When them moment for rest had come, the time for healing was over. He would simply stop, retire to a quiet place, and pray.

One translation of the biblical phrase ‘to pray’ is ‘to come to rest.'”

(Sabbath, page 24-25)

This reminds me of that joke about Einstein’s two bad marriages. The comedian says, “So basically, when you are getting married you are telling the world, you think you are smarter than Einstein.”

That’s how I feel about these revelations about Jesus. Do I think I am better than Jesus? Do I really believe I can keep going, offering the world anything of worth, without stopping?

While I desperately resist my limitations, the whole life of Jesus was one of limitations-he could travel only on foot, his ministry only lasted three years, his body needed food everyday and his soul needed time to recover from the energy he expended to others time after time after time.

Jesus accomplished the most important work ever done on behalf of humanity. He knew that in order to do important work, he had to regularly enter into rest.

Important work never stops, but in order to for us to know what is important and do what is important, we must.

Click here to order your own copy of Sabbath: The Sacred Rhythm of Rest by Wayne Muller.

Image

The Art of Sabbath: The Slow Truth

IMG_2995

 The Slow Truth

“Rest is an essential enzyme of life, as necessary as air. Without rest, we cannot sustain the energy needed to have life. We refuse to rest at our peril–and yet in a world where overwork is seen as a professional virtue, many of us feel we can legitimately be stopped only by physical illness or collapse.” ~Wayne Muller

In the introduction to my own 30 days of rest, I write about the important decision I had to make in order to begin this experiment.

Did I want to be sick or did I want to be rested?

If it seems like an easy choice to you, please let me know your secret.

Let me tell you what I realized about myself…

If I said that I was sick or depressed, there was a good chance that others would have pity, compassion or grace for me. It is socially acceptable for one to need space, to need support, to need some peace and quiet when they are going through a hard time.

If I told people I was resting, it meant I had to take responsibility for my own needs, set my own boundaries, and maintain them in the midst of a society that insists on instant connection, efficiency and productivity.

As I began those 30 days of Rest, the temptation to tell people I wasn’t feeling well was tremendous-like the apple on the tree of good and evil kind of temptation-it would be so easy. Being sick means it is not my fault.

BUT, the entire reason we did the work to simplify our lives was to enter into a rhythm that we could sustain and enjoy. The whole point was to no longer be a victim to our frantic pace.

This was SO my fault. It was my choice, my intention and a costly one.

I held every single item we owned-my son’s baby outfits, my daughter’s beloved stuffed animals, love letters between my husband and I as well as the letters we wrote when we couldn’t have a conversation without breaking each other’s hearts-and I let most of them go.

I let go of our family home.

I let go of my professional identity.

I let go of being the kind of friend that was there anytime anyone needed me.

I asked my husband to let go of his pimped out home theater and giant screened-in-porch.

I hugged my kids while they let go of their childhood.

I didn’t do these things or ask my family to do these things so people would feel sorry for me. I didn’t make these transforming life choices to play victim.

I took every single slow and often painful step because, in my core, I believed that there was an abundant life on the other side of this, just waiting for us to live in it.

That kind of life life is based in rest.

So, I had to tell the truth.

And I hope in telling my own truth, I am able to share some of my freedom with you. The freedom to choose rest while it is still there for the choosing.

“If we do not allow for a rhythm of rest in our overly busy lives, illness becomes our Sabbath–our pneumonia, our cancer, our heart attack, our accidents create Sabbath for us” (page 20).

Image

The Art of Sabbath: Modern Life

FullSizeRender-14

Modern Life

“In the relentless busyness of modern life…” Muller published these words in 1999.

Do you remember what was going on in your life that year?

What was the rhythm of your days?

That was the year I became a mother and God knew I would need a guide to help me learn about rest in this new life of mine. While I had a baby and life felt relentlessly busy, what I did not have was a cell phone, a smart phone, or a laptop. The internet wasn’t a part of my life. There was no such thing as Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Unless I was carrying a camera everywhere with me, my life was not being documented regularly and unless I was inside my home holding a phone to my ear, I didn’t know what was going on in anyone else’s daily life either.

When I was driving in my car, shopping in the grocery store, waiting in line, sitting in a doctor’s office, walking through a parking lot or having coffee with a friend, I was also experiencing the culture shock of new mom multi-tasking. Jostling my baby on my hip, pulling treats and toys out of my bag to keep him content, singing songs or swinging that insanely heavy car seat all while trying to choose the healthiest apple sauce or making a successful transaction with the grocer.

The gap between that time in space and today is so vast, I feel like a 90 year old women talking about the good-ol-days. The days of handheld connection to the universe have transformed our reality in a way that only those who knew life without electricity could comprehend.

Exponential is the word that keeps coming to mind. What was relentless busyness has now become a violent assault on all of our senses where we can be connected to every one, every where, every second we are awake and yet not be connected to ourselves. While I know that many people are less sensitive than I am and may not experience this as intensely as I do, I also know that we live in a world where the emotional volume (on a scale from 1 to 10) is turned up to a level 15 and it has taken a toll on our inner world.

When Sabbath was first published, the thought was,”…we have lost the rhythm between work and rest.” But in my own personal experiment and in many conversations with other weary souls, I am learning that in between scrolling, pinging, tagging, posting and checking we have not only lost a rhythm, we have lost an understanding of true work and true rest.

We cannot rest if we do not do our real work and we cannot work if we do not have true rest.

It is not busyness that is to blame for our exhaustion anymore. It is missing the intrinsic moments of stillness that are naturally woven into the rhythm of life because we believe one more click will enable us to find the relief we are looking for.

How much more relevant are Muller’s words today:

“Sabbath time can invite a healing of this violence. When we consecrate a time to listen to the still, small voices, we remember the root of inner wisdom that makes work fruitful. We remember from where were are most deeply nourished, and see more clearly the shape and texture of the people and things before us…

“Without rest, we respond from survival mode, where everything we meet assumes a terrifying prominence. When we are driving a motorcycle at high speed, even a small stone in the road can be a deadly threat. So, when we are moving faster and faster, every encounter, every detail inflates in importance, everything seems more urgent that it really is, and we react with sloppy desperation” (p.5).

Friends, I love technology. My life would not work with out it and I am so thankful for the ways it has helped me to stay connected to people as well as the world it has opened up to me creatively. This is not about wishing I lived in another time.

But, I do want to make it clear, rest will elude us without boundaries and intentional choices with our smart phones in particular.

We confuse rest with relief.

The relief that our message was sent, that our kids are safe, that the reply was friendly, is so darn relieving that we keep refreshing looking for more relief and missing yet another small window where we could have gained what we really needed-time to not think, to let information sink in, to check in with our hearts, to breath, to actually be refreshed.

The very best thing about having the world in your pocket is that it has never been easier to get away.

Practicing Sabbath: For one hour, four hours or one whole day, put your phone on airplane mode and put it away. If you have to stay available because you are terrified the one time you don’t answer your phone, an emergency will happen (as I am every time I do this)-then turn on your Do Not Disturb feature and mark your children or your spouse as Favorites so that only their call can come through. Depending on your levels of connection with your phone, expect some major symptoms of withdraw from discomfort to downright panic.

It can be terrifying to let the world spin without us, but this is one of the first gifts that Sabbath offers us when we are willing to open our hands and receive it.

Click here to order your own copy of Sabbath: The Sacred Rhythm of Rest by Wayne Muller.

Image

30 Days of Rest: Day 30

DSC_0080

A Guidebook

“Just as we must wait until darkness falls before we can see the stars, so does the Sabbath quietly wait for us. As darkness falls, as the light of the world fades and disappears, we light the inner lights, the lights of home and refuge. Our steps take us home, and the light draws us in. May you find some comfort here.” ~Wayne Muller

This book sat on my shelf for almost a decade before I opened it up and received its message. Just the words on the spine were enough for me. I had two teeny tiny kids and the concept of Sabbath felt like something reserved for the wealthy. This book reminded me that Sabbath was a sacred practice and like all ancient things, was available to me-if not in my reality then maybe in my heart.

When pockets of time began to open for me, I quickly filled them with developing my professional and creative pursuits that were dormant while I  was busy changing diapers, sweeping the kitchen clean of Cheerios and vigilantly getting my little ones down for their afternoon naps.

One Sunday morning, in the midst of coloring my hair, getting my kids dressed for church and feeling tremendous guilt about the work I was not getting done on my “day off”, I glimpsed the spine of this book and almost broke down into sobs. The familiar title, which had blended in with all of my beloved books for years, suddenly seemed to shimmer with possibility and promise while also resonating with one of my deepest and most neglected needs.

I needed rest.

Not a nap. Not a pedicure. Not a date night. Not a girl’s trip.

I was desperate for deep soul rest.

At that time, I began to read one chapter of this book each Sunday and let God show me what rest really looks and feels like in my reality.

There are 30 Chapters in Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest. I end my own intensive practice of 30 days of rest with the recommendation of this book if you are interested in exploring the secret room of Sabbath in your own inner landscape.

The next 30 entries in this blog will be quotes, reflections, practical applications, interviews and questions based on Wayne Muller’s book.

***Amazon Smile links are used in this post with Bread For the Journey featured as the charity. Muller is the founder of this non-profit organization whose vision is, “To nurture the seed of generosity that exists in every human heart.”

Image

30 Days of Rest: Day 29

IMG_2719

Brackets

“Sleep: of all the things a man may do, sleep probably contributes most to keeping him sane. It puts brackets about each day. If you do something foolish or painful today, you will get irritatated if someone mentions it, today. If it happened yesterday, though, you can nod or chuckle, as the case may be. You’ve crossed through nothingness or dream to another island in time.”

~ Roger Zelazny 

I have been known to go to sleep so angry, so upset, so embarrassed and wake up the next morning-or even after an afternoon nap-absolutely fine. So fine, I can laugh at myself. Mr. Zelazny’s quote is helpful in understanding why. Sleep provides us with brackets. Before and after. Like those fabulous home projects. What is before is not up-setting or embarrassing anymore as long as there is an after. Guys, there is always an after. A chance to wake up,  to start something new, something beautiful, a fresh start, and the priceless ability only afforded humans-the ability to laugh at ourselves.

The goal of rest is not rest.

If we are just waking up every day only to get back under those covers what does it really mean to be alive?  That is how a lot of us live when life is riding us.It is certainly how I have survived.

The goal of rest is a deep nourishment of physical, mental and spiritual needs. We rest to be full, to be conscious, to be whole, to be focused, to know and differentiate what is ours to do from white noise.

One of the things I most value about my Passion Planner is that it guides me to put brackets around each month and week. In Roger Zelazny’s words, this planner keeps me sane. Nodding and laughing at yesterday while also being comforted when I turn that page that there is an uncharted month ahead of me.

Here are my answers to the questions at the end of these thirty days of rest using the passion planner’s monthly prompts.

From 1-10, How do you feel overall about this past month?

8

What was the most memorable part of this past month?

This was my month of rest. It was not a 10 because I had to fight so hard for that rest. The struggle was mental, physical and spiritual. Creating the boundaries, upholding the boundaries, letting go of doing this perfectly (and facing that perfectionism-aka fear-head on) was the hardest work I have ever done. In many ways I feel like I’ve lost everything I never really had and gained everything I always had but never held.

What were the three biggest lessons you learned this past month?

1Taking care of my needs was harder than figuring out what my needs were/are.

2The better I am at taking care of myself, the less reactive I am to what other people need (like I don’t go into emergency mode just because someone else asks something of me.)

3Happiness, for me, feels more like peace than I imagined.

Review your planner for the past month and assess your priorities. Are you happy with you spent your time? If not, what steps can you take this next month to adjust them?

I can laugh at how hard I tried to plan my month of rest. The boundaries were essential, but they were also exhausting. Love to see how I was eventually able to stop planning (the last two weeks of the month are completely blank in my planner). I learned that I have been much more vulnerable and available than I need to be and this awareness is transforming.

How are you different between this past month and the month before?

I didn’t know how much I lived as if I was in debt to life. Gretchen Rubin talks about how rewards are not helpful in developing good habits, but what is beneficial is treating yourself well all of the time. Because, when you take good care of yourself, you have a lot to offer life. That’s the shift that has happened inside. It’s like living in a different country, a free one.

What or who are you especially grateful for this past month?

Sleep, Simplicity, Support, Guidance, Encouragement, Space, Quiet

Name three things you can improve on this coming month. What are concrete actions you can take to work towards these improvements?

  1. A higher comfort level with “wasting time.”
  2. More dance in my life. Yoga (while healing and strengthening) is serious and focused. Dance makes me act ridiculous. When I dance, I laugh and I am energized.
  3. Clarity about my work. Discerning (1) what do I need to do to take care of my life and responsibilities (2) what do I need to do that makes me feel alive.