Sabbath

Sabbath

Yesterday afternoon I didn’t do anything.  And by “anything” I mean I didn’t do anything that I would typically count as “productive.”  I wasn’t at work, and my two year old was napping.  I didn’t cook dinner, I didn’t do the laundry, I didn’t work on any projects, I didn’t practice yoga, I didn’t plan the upcoming weekend.  I didn’t do any of the things that I usually do when I have an hour or two of time on my hands.  Instead I sat at the kitchen table with a glass of wine and looked out the window.   The lake was glassy and starting to reflect the late afternoon sunset as dusk claimed ownership of the day’s light.  The wind of earlier in the day was starting to settle, and the newly fallen leaves lay still, a carpet of yellow and orange and red on the ground.  At one point a seagull called out and circled the lake, a spot of bright white against the muted, hazy tones of the landscape.  Everything was quiet.

At first I felt that familiar sense of guilt for not using my time to address the next item on the never ending task list – in the fall, it’s even longer than usual with the seasonal tasks of gathering firewood, putting up the last of the garden produce, getting the garden ready for winter, raking leaves, winterizing motors, and all the other things that need to happen for a rural household to welcome the winter elements in Minnesota.   And there are of course the tasks of daily life always waiting in the wings: Food to prepare, dishes to wash, floors to clean, errands to run.  It is all too easy to fall prey to the energy of guilt, self condemnation and plain old worry.

“What if I’m not ready for what comes next?”

“What if I fail to do what my loved ones expect/need me to do?”

“What if we never finish the list?”

Well.  These questions, much like the dreaded “list” could go on for pages.  For all the questions that I could come up with, the answer – if I’m really being truthful with myself – is, “So what?” As I was sitting there, looking over the lake and taking in the stillness of the moments as they passed, I was somehow able to see over the what ifs into the present.  I could see that my taking an hour to just sit still and be wasn’t going to lead to the demise of ……….. well, anything.  Perhaps it will take one more day to get all the apples turned into sauce.   Perhaps the leaves will pile up and mat down the grass for more days in a row than would be ideal.  Perhaps while I sip my wine,  a detail will slide by into oblivion, never to be attended to.   Perhaps the world will go on.

I wouldn’t want to have day after day of sitting at the kitchen table drinking wine.  Things will still need to get accomplished,  and I will still be happier when the dishes are clean, I’ve practiced yoga and the laundry is folded instead of in a heap on the bed.   But taking time to just sit and be with the quiet of an afternoon is necessary, too.  Most of us need to feel like things are getting done to be content – but we also need to observe time for rest so we can work another day.  After all, isn’t that what we are working for?  To be in the world in a way that invites contentment and peace for all living things?  Maybe we need to remember to observe what we are working toward in the first place.

How can you build a Sabbath into your week?

Sabbath observance invites us to stop. It invites us to rest. It asks us to notice that while we rest, the world continues without our help. It invites us to delight in the world’s beauty and abundance.  Wendell Berry

The Other Side of Positivity

The Other Side of Positivity

Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking writes:

Research] points to an alternative approach: a ‘negative path’ to happiness that entails taking a radically different stance towards those things most of us spend our lives trying hard to avoid. This involves learning to enjoy uncertainty, embracing insecurity and becoming familiar with failure. In order to be truly happy, it turns out, we might actually need to be willing to experience more negative emotions – or, at the very least, to stop running quite so hard from them.

In a society that promotes “the pursuit of happiness,” “looking on the bright side,” and “noticing the silver lining,” this idea might seem a bit off the mark at first glance.  But what if Mr. Burkeman has a point?  Perhaps when we let our experiences – all of them – be what they are without always trying to find the positive, we are more apt to finally see the joy that sometimes lurks just outside of our sightlines.

What do you think?  Can we overdo positive thinking?  What’s the best balance for you?

Embrace

Embrace

Imagine for a moment that you are holding onto the edge of a rocky cliff, dangling by your fingertips. Your feel the surface of the cliff cut into your skin as you cling more desperately to the rough face of the rock. The prospect of slipping, of letting go and falling into whatever waits beneath you is terrifying, and that very possibility seems to hang suspended in the slight breeze that swirls up and around your body. Unable to bear the unknown of what you don’t see, you try to hold on, simply waiting for the inevitable. A catastrophic outcome is surely the only place to go from here. There is no one around, and besides, your voice is hoarse already. You are out of options. Your grip continues to weaken and slip, one aching millimeter at a time. You don’t know how it came to this.

Now imagine that you – the very same you who is dangling precariously from a rocky, barren, lonely cliff – look down. You notice that you are wearing your bathing suit. You also realize that the air temperature must be close to 90 degrees, and the breeze that swirls up and around your body is gentle and warm. Your grip is still slipping slowly. You are closer to falling, and as you approach the last seconds of clinging desperately to the solid ground above you, you glance further down, this time letting your eyes look beyond your bathing suit clad body.

And inch or two below your bare feet shimmers a pool of emerald and turquoise hued water. Light plays off of the ripples and dances like a cloud of lightning bugs in celebration on a humid summer night. You can see all the way through the pool’s crystal clear depths to the sandy bottom 10 feet below. You can hear a whisper through your fear of the unknown. It welcomes you to release.

You let go of your desperate grip and slip into the cool water. The sensation of refreshment is instant. The caress of the water takes your anxious breath away and replaces it with a steady gaze and an intoxicating sense of contentment. You float to the surface, letting the buoyancy of the water support you.

A glance upward affords a view of the rock face that held so much of your fear just moments ago. Its appearance is still rough, barren and rocky, but now you see that it is nothing more than a platform from which to dive into the life that is waiting when you allow it to embrace you.

What fear do you need to let go of to allow contentment to refresh your life?

Be Right

Be Right

You might say it’s as bad as it ever was.
You’d be right.

You might say things have really taken a turn for the worse.
You’d be right, too.

You might say the world is a scary place, and we all better do everything we can to protect ourselves.
You’d still be right.
                                                                                                                                       
You might say it’s a beautiful time to be alive.
You’d be right.

You might say things aren’t easy, but light still shines in the midst of shadows.
You’d be right, too.

You might say the world is a place where peace has the power to manifest in ways that we can only imagine on our best days.
You’d still be right.

Remember the power that moves through thought. Your reality is what you make it. Look through the illusions, past the projected pain and around the fear that plagues what we are presented. Have compassion for those who suffer, but keep your energy to do the real work.  Remember that you’ll always be right.