A 21st Century “Sabbath Day” Experiment

By Holly Makimaa

If you are a recovering type A like me, and someone asked you to take a Sabbath day every week to do nothing, you might start to feel your chest constricting and a stress response mounting in your body: 

“Do nothing, won’t that just leave more work piled up for later? When will I do my laundry, go grocery shopping, address that stack of bills, etc.? It sounds luscious, but how can I afford it? When can I fit in social time with loved ones, then?” 

What if taking a Sabbath actually made all that is on your plate easier and relationships more fulfilling? Instead of a full plate feeling heavy, it could feel nourishing. I used to feel resistant to taking a day off, and now I don’t know how I could live without a Sabbath. If you are thinking that by Sabbath I mean a highly rule-oriented day of do’s and don’ts based on a religion, please keep reading because that is far from what I mean. Yes, a Sabbath does involve slowing down and refraining from constant activity, but it is more about a state of mind than said actions or non-actions.  

I didn’t leave my Sabbath, and it didn’t leave me. Having time set aside to go inward helped me to be in the outward world with a heightened sense of appreciation for the deep connection to life I have — when I am mindful enough to engage it.

In a recent Sabbath experience, I had chosen Saturday to stay close to home, enjoy the river by my apartment, write, read, and connect with what I most needed (including having a friend over for tea and deep conversation). I remembered, however, that I had to go to the store for a few groceries and return an item to a chain store retailer before the 30-day return policy expired. Initially I thought this might throw off the balance of peace I was feeling. Yet, as I approached my shopping with the attitude that I was there to simply be present to all that happened without hurrying or an agenda, I savored the colors, walked slowly, and mindfully through the store with its fluorescent lighting flickering — without feeling bothered as I might normally. When I checked out, I really looked at the cashier, marveling at the graceful way her freckled, dough-colored hands moved each item into my bag. I asked her how she was, sincerely open to her response, and wished her a good day from the fullness of my heart. I didn’t leave my Sabbath, and it didn’t leave me. Having time set aside to go inward helped me to be in the outward world with a heightened sense of appreciation for the deep connection to life I have — when I am mindful enough to engage it.

Leonard Felder, in the book the Ten Challenges, helped revitalize my understanding of the original purpose of the Sabbath and made it more appealing to me: 1) practice gratitude for life as it is now; 2) live believing in the mysterious perfection of the world already here on the highest level and yet to come on the practical level; 3) appreciate and celebrate all that you have. Cherish the gift of life in you and in those you love. According to Felder the Sabbath is a time set aside to try to quit trying to improve yourself, your circumstances or anyone else, and bask in the glory of this moment. It can be such a relief to let go of all that striving. Even in a world with complex and hard issues that need addressing, it is so good for our minds, hearts, and bodies to rest and take a break from trying to change life and tune into what actually will help to change it. As Einstein said, we cannot solve the world’s problems on the same level of thinking that created them.

My mom has partial paralysis in her body from a stroke and has fallen a lot this year. It has been a source of great concern for me as to what I can do from several states away to help her access the care and support she needs. There comes a time, however, when I have to let go of fixing and recognize how grateful I am just to hear her voice, just to have beautiful memories with her and to share them, to not to try to solve all the issues for a day. I allow myself to rest in the Sabbath and see her wholeness and mine.

I find that when I rest in this way, I come back to my life’s responsibilities with a freshness and perspective that actually enables me to take wiser and more directed action — and probably save a day’s worth of time, too. You might be thinking, “What if I can’t take a whole day, a half day or even a whole hour?” Perhaps you can start by taking a Sabbath walk. When I find myself pushing at an agenda for life instead of letting it flow, I take a mini-sabbath break and tune into gratitude for the ever-present groundedness of the moment holding each of us. 

I would love to hear your experiments with taking a Sabbath. Feel free to leave your comments below or email me at hollymakimaa@gmail.com with your discoveries.

There’s only one reason why you’re not experiencing bliss at this present moment, and it’s because you’re thinking or focusing on what you don’t have…. But, right now you have everything you need to be in bliss.
— Anthony de Mello

Holly Makimaa facilitates classes, rituals, groups, and private spiritual coaching sessions to support people in healing and transformation. She holds the vision of all people creatively and joyfully activating their gifts within their communities. As an interfaith/interspiritual minister, she honors all spiritual paths as sacred. To learn more, visit yourtransformationaljourney.com or email hollymakimaa@gmail.com.