By Vasiliy Koren (ca.1640 - early 1700s)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It’s no secret that I’m big on keeping and working through task lists. All ascensions are done through momentum. Yet, I’m fully aware that productivity is a false idol and its method of worship is hurry.
It’s important for health and happiness to regularly slow down and deny the siren song of productivity.
I liken the various ways I expand the bubble of my life to a survivalist out on the tundra. Just as he must look after his needs for water, food, and shelter within the greater context of rescue or escape, so must I sharpen my mind and focus, look after my physical form, and care for my family within the greater context of spiritual practice.
Your tasks and productivity are your mortal work of building your world, and there must come a day of rest. That day is your Sabbath.
We tell ourselves fictional narratives to build context, inspiration, and relationships out of our life journeys. They are fictions because time itself is a interpretative construct. Most fundamentally, you are one with the eternal consciousness – a shining light of awareness, with your ultimate decision being what you’ll shine your light on. As you change your attention, time arises. Your life is a wave and your attention is the crest of that breaking wave – your life journey moves with your focus.
Another way of saying the same thing is that there is, in truth, no past or future for you. There is only one infinite, omnipresent now – the current moment. Your attention and this one current experience unite in the practice of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the full experiencing of the current moment, and that fullness can only be had when we drop our fictional narratives. It’s somewhat possible to be mindful as we perform a task that was inspired from our narratives, but we need to drop context, inspiration, and relationships out of our heads from time to time and just travel the track of life’s journey. We need to let ourselves be guided. For that, we need silence and intentional breaks from our narratives.
Keeping a Sabbath
Many religions mandate that adherents keep a day a rest, and many secular traditions encourage it as well. They don’t usually encourage it to be taskless, however. We’re mandated to increase our religious activities in some. Even if you don’t buy into that, it’s easy to give yourself a task-oriented break. The minute you start putting things on a list – meet your friend for coffee, go to the beach with the family, or zone out to music before going to bed – you’re trying to have a productive day of rest. It’s the difference between a planned and a spontaneous vacation. It’s the difference between a narrative-based day and an invitation to grace.
If your Sabbath is to be an invitation for grace, no tasks belong on it.
That doesn’t mean that your taskless Sabbath shouldn’t have boundaries. It does mean that your boundaries should arise from your intuition and spirituality, not from religious doctrine or life narratives. Perhaps it’s a day of fasting or veganism. Perhaps it’s a day you maintain silence. Perhaps it’s a day when you use no electronic devices.
If you stop thinking about it, you’ll know what it should be.
An Evolving Practice
Whatever you do, let your days of rest evolve. When your Sabbath freezes into ritual, you once again trade life for a narrative.
Let the world and your loved ones – most of all, let the Beloved – guide you.
Let each day of rest be an adventure without a set destination.
Let the Sabbath belong to anyone and anything but your ego.
And remember – it’s not that your tasks and your work aren’t going to be done on that day. It’s that they don’t exist on that day because you live outside of the bubble of ego and narrative. Another way to have compassion for yourself is to let yourself be free… from yourself.
My wife and I also try to live Sundays as if they were a different kind of day. I take this concept more from the Jewish tradition than from the Christian. We don’t go anywhere; we don’t have any obligations; we don’t do any work. Instead, we listen to music, we read, we go for walks. We try to set ourselves aside from our busy lives on this day, allow ourselves to simply enjoy being alive. We’ve noticed that having one sane day a week really makes a difference. We don’t always manage to observe the Sabbath in this way, but when we do, it is indeed a special day.
Robert Fulghum, Pay Attention, Handbook for the Soul