by Rev. Sara Lewis
This is my first piece for the weekly Spark since I’ve returned from my sabbatical, and so I thought I would share a bit with you all about what I received from that time away. A sabbatical, like a sabbath which is a related word, is an intentional time set apart from regular labors and often with a focus on study and spiritual practices. The plan I had for this sabbatical was to use the small primitive cabin my family has on Henderson Inlet as a retreat space for me to be alone and read and write. For the months of Feb and March I went out there most weekdays, with just my books and journals and some tea and a fire to keep warm. The time was somewhat Waldenesque, as it gave me a chance to reflect on what is truly important in life and how to live a more intentional and deliberate life. And, like Thoreau, I could still go home to do my laundry (although I still had to do my own, unlike Thoreau who had his mom do it for him).
There were a few lessons and insights I brought back from this time:
I realized how simple life could really be and still feel deeply satisfying. A repetitive routine, wearing the same outfit every day, and barely needing to glance at a clock because it didn’t matter what time it was …. Life and thought and feeling expanded as the busy-ness and the juggle of my regular life quieted.
And almost everything else depends on the basics of taking care of yourself and your body. I realized how much I had become used to neglecting myself, not eating well, not exercising, not getting enough sleep. I made some wonderful and very healthy feeling changes, which I plan to continue.
And all of this led me to reflect on how precious this one life is, and how easy it can be sometimes to get so busy you don’t take the time to enjoy it. I thought about what really brings me joy: theater and art, nature and the outdoors, music and dancing, delicious food and good books and board games. And I realized that if I didn’t have those things in my life, it was because I wasn’t choosing them. There will always be more work to do, but we also need to stop and appreciate beauty and joy. Get the theater tickets, go to the museum, set aside time to dance and sing!
Now, these aren’t huge or original insights. Others before me have found these same things to be true, and have written and taught about these ways of being far more persuasively and inspiringly than I can. But I don’t think this is a truth that can just be told or taught … I think these are the realizations we each find for ourselves when we have the space and the time for them.
That’s a large part of the value of a sabbath as a spiritual practice. When we take time away from the everyday, and especially away from our labors and our busy-ness, we can experience a different way of being alive and we can find different perspectives on how we choose to live our lives. I would encourage you all to seek these times and ways of sabbath, in large or small ways. Maybe it’s just taking an evening and unplugging from your phone, or maybe it’s going camping and leaving all electronics behind. Maybe it’s coming to church on a Sunday and following it up with a Sunday stroll on the beach to think and be alone. There’s endless possibilities, but you won’t get the time if you don’t choose it. So try it out, and see what lessons a break might have for you.
A snapshot of my cabin life: