A Hydra Ate My Sabbath:
A few years ago, I attended a workshop on “Creating Sabbath” with author Wayne Muller. I was going to create Sabbath if it killed me. In other words, I took a remedial class to learn how to rest.
It seems that rest should come naturally. Rest is part of the natural cycle of living things. Even my Cat knows how to rest. Bartok, pictured above, is an expert.
But many of us are spin cycles of activity. Our families, schedules and jobs increase in complexity. Traffic seems permanently jammed, so we spend more time Googling in cars. We create to-do lists with sub-headings and post-its, lists for our lists. When we check off one task, we breathe for an instant – but then the list grows another five or six heads like some epic Hydra.
Remember the excuse from elementary school – “The dog ate my homework?” Each day, the Hydra to-do list eats our peace of mind as it bellows “Do more, so you can be more…” “If you get it all done, then you’ll be safe and worthy of love…”
We earn our worth through achievement. We measure our wholeness by how much we accomplish. We secure our well-being by striving to complete that which can never be completed. Or maybe we’re just trying to keep up….
At any rate, when we tie worthiness, wholeness, well-being or survival to being completely “complete,” we will never feel sustainably good. There is always more to do.
Sleeping On the Job:
I’m not good at letting go and creating Sabbath-time. That’s why I took the Wayne Muller workshop.
It was a Friday night. I hustled to finish everything on my Hydra-list that day, so I could attend. In the process, my list grew a few extra heads. But through sheer determination, I got most of it done: hike with the dogs, work on the church budget, visit someone in the hospital, clean the house, and do the laundry; grab a power bar, crawl through rush hour to the retreat center, find the classroom, plop down in the front row near the fireplace; then whip out a crochet hook and make a baby hat to send to a charity-drive. (I had a quota).
I worked on my hat, proud to be in the front row. When Dr. Muller entered the room, I put down my crocheting, picked up a notebook, and prepared to over-achieve. “I will nail this damn Sabbath-thing down pat,” I said to myself in my most ministerial tone.
The warm fire and Dr. Muller’s soothing voice had other plans for me. My notebook slid to the floor and I capsized into a deep sleep.
Overachieving by Underachieving:
I don’t think it was a pretty sleep. I suspect there was slack-jawed mouth-breathing, drooling and possible snoring. When I startled awake, with a little yip and a snort, I had to laugh. A question and answer period was underway. I raised my hand and confessed to Dr. Muller and the class that I had fallen asleep (like they didn’t notice). Dr. Muller complimented me. “Good job,” he said. “You demonstrated Sabbath-success!”
The overachiever in me smiled. But so did the underachiever. In that moment, I recognized the paradoxical power of overachieving by underachieving. I recognized the beauty of rest.
Still, I left the workshop with more questions than answers:
Will worlds collapse if we slow down? Will we be cast into the pit of unworthiness if we sleep in life’s classroom? Is it safe to breathe and untangle, when tasks and to-do lists hog-tie us in anxious knots of activity?
The workshop snooze happened several years ago and I’m still finding how to live the kindest answers to those questions. I’m a little more apt to make time to rest; but I still binge-crochet hats for charity, I still yearn to take more time off and I still get consumed by hydra-esque lists. Maybe I need a refresher course. Maybe I should fall asleep in a Board Meeting.
But more so, I think we all need to just stop and rest without apology. We need to be reckless in our commitment to spend some time underachieving. We need to create Sabbath in ways that feel right and authentic for us – a day, an hour, or simply an ongoing dedication to be present and peaceful in whatever tasks we undertake. Our happiness depends on it and we deserve to be happy.
Here’s the thing: Sabbath may not be as sexy as The Secret. It may not hold blatant promises of manifesting all of our dreams. It may not make us popular or score points on the achievement scale. But Sabbath works. It works for us because it connects us to the realm of the Absolute, a realm of timelessness that purrs like a cat beneath all frenetic achieving. Sabbath leads us from the “unreal to the real.”
When we honor the Sabbath, the Sabbath honors us. It tenderly holds us in a moment of affirmation. It whispers to us, “In this moment, you have accomplished enough and you are enough.” Perhaps that is all we ever need to know.
Affirmation: I give myself time to rest, relax and be.
- What prevents you from experiencing Sabbath?
- What does a sense of Sabbath look and feel like to you?
- How will you give yourself the gift of Sabbath-time?