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The Art of Sabbath: Modern Life

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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.

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