I have some essential advice for you. It’s time to unplug. Really. Unplug for one day.
Witness our lives of ever-expanding to-do lists, electronic messages, and devices. Enough to put any one of us on an exponentially accelerating trajectory of action until we’re moving at such an inhuman pace that we spin off into the ether. Where do we get a break to come home to ourselves, our souls, our families? On Shabbat.
“No way,” you say, “Not possible. I need to watch Netflix. I need to check my email. I don’t have time to unplug.”
I used to feel that way too. If you have never tried it, or if you tried it and you stopped, the idea of taking a day off a week seems impossible, even irresponsible. But if you weren’t drawn to the idea of making some changes in your life, I’m guessing you wouldn’t have read this far! Ever so respectfully, I’d like to ask you, “How well is it working for you and those you love now when you don’t take a break?”
And when that break is a time of spiritual reflection, connecting with family and joy, then it’s even more meaningful. It’s part of an ancient tradition called “Shabbat” in Hebrew, or Sabbath in English. One we would do well to reclaim no matter what our religious faith, spiritual practice, or none of the above!
Shabbat is a practice that dates back somewhere between 2,500 and 3,500 years. Indeed it’s one of the Ten Commandments: “Honor the 7th day and keep it holy,” the Bible advises. “For in six days G-d created the world and on the 7th day G-d rested.”
In my experience, this ancient idea—no matter what its origin—of taking one day out of seven off is brilliant. Although the tradition has been practiced for a century of generations, we need it today more than ever.
Preparing for the Sabbath
Once the sun sets, we shut everything off: computers, cell phones, iPods, the television, the radio, everything. We don’t answer the phone. We don’t check voicemail. We don’t even look at our “to do” lists. We take a clean break from all the technology and all the pressure that is consuming our lives.
I’ve been unplugging from technology almost every Saturday for the last 30 years. It may seem counter-intuitive, but observing this practice actually improves my connection to people.
We don’t call it our sanity ritual, but we could. Like many others, we call it Sabbath. I’ve come to see keeping the Sabbath as a radical act.
I invite you to claim the Sabbath—this radical act of carving out time for you and your family—in whatever way works for you.
As one teacher I know says, “The Muslims have Friday, the Jews have Saturday, the Christians have Sunday and so in the World-to-Come, we will all get a three-day weekend!”
Indeed this practice of taking a rest, one day in seven, is common to many of the world’s ancient traditions, lost wisdom that we need to reclaim.
You don’t have to believe in G-d to observe the Sabbath. You don’t have to be Jewish. You don’t even have to like religion. Note the template and then make it yours. Do it on a Tuesday if you work on the weekends. It’s not how you do it that matters, it’s the act of taking a break—for 25 hours—that helps to make you whole.
What is Worthy, Endures
Some words fall out of favor. Some that come from bigotry, for example, rightly so. Others that come from needed truths or spiritual truths fall out of favor to our detriment. Sabbath is one of those words, a day of rest born from the Jewish faith but now shared by many spiritual traditions.
We should reclaim it and do so in a very simple, badly needed way. The Sabbath invites us to unplug for a day a week.
In this time of endless assault of information from our phones and screens, this “fast” is perhaps one of the healthiest things you can do.