Those of us of a certain age remember the famed Habitrail, a colorful little maze and wheel for our pet mice to run around in. Looking back, I’m sure it was not that great for the mice. But they sure did move around. Just like we do everyday, spinning and spinning until the point of exhaustion. Sound familiar? Need to get off the habitrail and rest? So many of us badly need renewal right now.
Let me give you my five favorite tips for renewal to help start on you on your way.
Each week from sundown on Friday night until nightfall on Saturday we let go of everything—no phone, no email, nothing except family. My family looks forward to this time together; away from the worries of the world and our personal stressors. This weekly Jewish tradition of Shabbat celebrates the seventh day of the week—a day of rest. And you don’t even need to be Jewish to embrace these fundamental ideals. These five tips for renewal will have you feeling grateful and refreshed each week.
A significant shift in my thinking about Shabbat came when a big-hearted neighbor I met at a local concert one Saturday night said, “Hi, you’re new in town, right? Come to my house next Friday night for Shabbat!”
“I’d love to,” I replied, delighted to be invited. “But how did you know I am Jewish?”
“I didn’t,” she said. “I invite everybody!”
Find a friend to do this with—whether your friend knows the practice or not. Having a buddy helps. To start, take one evening off from all electronics and screens. There will be no online shopping, trips to the mall, or binge watching Netflix. The night is to be with your family in a different way. See how it works for yourself.
- There is no one “right” way to practice Shabbat: Whatever you do is enough, and just what you should be doing.
- Start small: We have several rituals we do for Shabbat: we change our clothes and leave the “work week wardrobe” behind, we make Challah bread, we sing songs, we pray, we celebrate each other, and light candles among other traditions. When I first began observing the Sabbath, I only lit candles on Friday night when friends were with me. Later, I added the wine and would have Challah only if there was a store in town where I could buy it. Gradually, I took on more of the practice.
- Spend time in nature: Just get outside. It’s an instant mood lifter. Being outdoors helps us reconnect to the Earth and to our families; time in nature is healing. You can be a city dweller and still be in nature. Spend the day in Central Park in New York City, stroll down the banks of the Charles River in Boston, head to the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago, or soak up rays on the beach in L.A.
- Shabbat works even for the stressed: Remember how crazy my life was on Friday afternoon? I get stressed, reactive, and short-tempered like everyone else. I’m no saint. All the more reason for the Shabbat soul balm. You don’t have to be in a good or spiritual place or even believe in G-d to observe Shabbat. You’ll still benefit just as much. Maybe even more.
- Having the intention is enough: There is no perfection here, just the intention to rest, renew, celebrate, and be grateful. Setting the intention to take a break from our daily routine in order to just “be” and setting aside some time to allow that to happen are what matters. Over time your practice will grow.
Like an addict going cold turkey, you’ll experience some withdrawal symptoms at first. In the beginning, you’ll need a lot of self-discipline to move beyond your habitual patterns. But once you get through that phase, you’re free. As you adjust to a new pattern, you learn to slow down and pay attention. Everything looks, feels, and even tastes different.
A deep peace spreads within, around, and through you—apeace that’s a salve to your nerves and a balm to your soul. The desire for stuff, the anger, the disappointment, the blame, the bad feelings, everything, just . . . dissolves.
We all sometimes feel that the pace of our lives is unsustainable. We are all hungry for a break. What I’ve learned and am blessed by practicing Shabbat, is that I am more grateful and relaxed all week, our children are growing up happy and resilient, and my relationship with my husband Joe “re-boots” from one long to-do list back to a loving relationship. As an added bonus, our credit card debt—and the stress that goes with it—has gone down because we’re buying less stuff. And when we stay home and don’t burn any gas, that’s one small step for the climate.
Imagine the implications if we all did this: a day every week for the Earth to restore the balance.