I forgot to try to start my Sabbath at sunset last night. I remembered that I had forgotten this morning, when I woke up. For me, it may be better to stick with the pattern I have already been honoring: start when I wake up; end when I wake up the next day.
In addition to the elaborations that have come forth in my replies to others’ comments on my last posting about Sabbath, this experiment is related to what I wrote not too long ago about time. I’m trying to not let time gain control of me.
I finally officially got stressed on Friday. Up until then, the marvelous state of being I had described in that posting about time endured. It was Friday that it finally caved in. I still haven’t quite recovered. Even today, as I try to honor the Sabbath, I struggle mightily with anxiety.
But at least I haven’t wholly lost sight of the state of being I want to regain. It is a state of being in which I welcome the flow of tasks that greets me, because each is an opportunity to further and strengthen the good in the world. The times of meeting with others (in classes, in committee meetings, over meals, in passing) are sacred opportunities for meaningful connection. The times I attend to various tasks are times for getting important work done in the world: maintaining or reworking the best of the systems and institutions that structure our lives and our world; creating new spaces for growth and connection.
If I’ve set things up well in my life, then I can trust that the flow of my work will unfold in a beneficial way, for me and for those whose lives are affected by my work.
Does my attitude or state of being at every moment matter? If at times I am stressed, anxious, tired, or hurried as I do my work, is my accomplishment therefore diminished? Or is it okay that my state of being isn’t always calm, collected, and centered?
Quakers are rightfully dubious about ritual, worried that when certain patterns of behavior become habitual, our participating in them can become rote and mechanical. Over time, such rituals can lose their meaning. Or at least our sense of their meaning can fade.
But what about the rituals that structure our working lives? Sometimes these rituals are even intended to be merely mechanical. They are put into place not for our sense of fulfillment, but to get work done. Our emotional states are not supposed to matter. What is supposed to matter is “productivity.”
Although the early Quakers may have been worried that rituals such as honoring the Sabbath were at risk of becoming empty and meaningless, I find myself reaching for a new kind ritual to counter the plethora of intentionally-mechanical rituals that structure, even control, my life. Some rituals dislodge us from our humanness, our spirituality. Are there others that can reconnect us? Or are all rituals dangerously dehumanizing?
I try to establish a ritual for staying awake and alert. I try to establish a ritual for staying in touch, staying connected. I have caught glimpses of a life free of the subtle, almost invisible, low-level anxiety that has quietly pressed me to strive all my life. I don’t want to strive anymore, however noble were my ambitions. I want to live.
6 years ago