Sounds like a heavy metal band, right? But it is something I have been fascinated with for years, and have been really inspired to try.
The traditional sabbath is about setting down work, machines, cars, phones, etc. from sundown Friday night to sunset on Saturday night. It is a time and space that is carved out for family, for connection, for nature. It is a sacred space for stillness, for contemplation, for creativity. It’s a pause in the week and a powerful ritual.
Wayne Muller, in his extraordinary book Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in our Busy Lives, speaks about it so beautifully: “There comes a moment in our striving when more effort actually becomes counterproductive, when our frantic busyness only muddies the waters of our wisdom and understanding. When we become still and allow our life to rest, we feel a renewal of energy and gradual clarity of perception.”
The modern version of this ritual is in the form of a digital sabbath. It is a space we create consciously, where we step away from our screens and our gadgetry, from our blackberries, tv’s and cell phones. It’s a time when we decide not to check our email obsessively and hopefully discover that we didn’t really miss anything anyway. Every time I have experimented with what I call a media cleanse, I have seen really miraculous things. As with any cleanse, you begin to notice when/where you habitually reach for something. What precedes the moment when I check my email AGAIN even though I checked it 30 seconds before? Do I feel bored? Lonely? Is it just a nervous tic? What’s so scary about being in the moment I’m actually in? Am I longing for connection? and if I am, am I finding it in these places? Is there more connection to be found in the woods? or at the roller rink? or inside the pages of a book?
“We have lost this essential rhythm. Our culture invariably supposes that action and accomplishment is better than rest, that doing something–anything–is better than doing nothing. Because of our desire to succeed, to meet these ever-growing expectations, we do not rest. Because we do not rest, we lose our way. We miss the compass points that would show us where to go, we bypass the nourishment that would give us succor. We miss the quiet that would give us wisdom. We miss the joy and love born of effortless delight. Poisoned by this hypnotic belief that good things come only through unceasing determination and tireless effort, we can never truly rest. And for want of rest, our lives are in danger.” Wayne Muller, Sabbath
Longing for Balance
If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that this is one of my obsessions. Finding that balance between living my real life and my life online is a puzzle I am always contemplating. I am highly sensitive (so many of us are) and get overwhelmed easily. A lot of data coming at me in whatever form– advertising, radios playing, email messages, tweets, all starts to feel like noise, fast. My threshold is low for how much media I can take in.
Whenever I hear the words “digital sabbath” my ears perk up. Yes! Carving out a space like that, a sanctuary of time that is about connection, real connection— to self, to nature, to each other– makes every cell in me say yes. When I think about Ben growing up in the modern world such as it is, I get scared that one day he will forever bury his face in a screen (perhaps a video game) and forget how much he loves to walk in the redwoods or perfect his dance moves. He already prefers watching a movie over doing just about anything else. And I wonder how much I am modeling the kind of distraction I am trying to protect him from– staring at my own screen, checking my email, even taking videos of him with my phone while we’re in the park.
I heard an interview with the author of Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age and can’t wait to read it.
Have any of you instituted a Digital Sabbath? How do you find balance? Do you all crave it as much as I do?
I’d love to hear in the comments.