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Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

We Have Forgotten Sabbath

--by Wayne Muller (Apr 05, 2010)


A "successful" life has become a violent enterprise.  We make war on our own bodies, pushing them beyond their limits; war on our children, because we cannot find enough time to be with them when they are hurt and afraid, and need our company; war on our spirit, because we are too preoccupied to listen to the quiet voices that seek to nourish and refresh us; war on our communities, because we are fearfully protecting what we have, and do not feel safe enough to be kind and generous; war on the earth, because we cannot take the time to place our feet on the ground and allow it to feed us, to taste its blessings and give thanks.

As the founder of a public charity, I visit the large offices of wealthy donors, the crowded rooms of social service agencies, and the small houses of the poorest families.  Remarkably, within this mosaic there is a universal refrain: I am so busy.  It does not seem to matter if the people I speak with are doctor or daycare workers, shopkeepers or social workers, parents or teachers, nurses or lawyers, students or therapists, community activists or cooks.

Whether they are Hispanic or Native American, Caucasian or Black, the more their lives speed up, the more they feel hurt, frightened and isolated.  Despite their good hearts and equally good intentions, their work in the world rarely feels light, pleasant, or healing.  Instead, as it all piles endlessly upon itself, the whole experience of being alive begins to melt into one enormous obligation.  It becomes the standard greeting everywhere: I am so busy.  

We say this to one another with no small degree of pride, as if our exhaustion were a trophy, our ability to withstand stress a mark of real character.  The busier we are, the more important we seem to ourselves and we imagine, to others.  To be unavailable to our friends and family, to be unable to find time for the sunset (or even to know that the sun has set at all), to whiz through our obligations without time for a single, mindful breath, this has become the model of a successful life.

How have we allowed this to happen?  This was not our intention, this is not the world we dreamed when we were young and our whole life was full of possibility and promise.  How did we get so terribly lost in a world saturated with striving and grasping, yet somehow bereft of joy and delight. 

I suggest that it is this: we have forgotten the Sabbath.

--Wayne Muller, in Sabbath


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21 Previous Reflections:

 
On Apr 21, 2010 Jose Castillo wrote:

But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.

11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.(Exodus 20:10-11)

If we would just follow the Lords will. Our lives would be so much easier. His commandment even asks us to no make anyone else work. We are being called to rest. The Sabbath is Holy. it is a beutiful thing when there comes a day that you do nothing, but worship Him and be able to forget every other detail of this world we live in.



On Apr 13, 2010 Mountain Serenity wrote:

God knew that we would be so filled with self importance and pride in our achievements that work and busy-ness would overshadow our need for rest.  That's why the Creator of the Universe commanded a day of rest and led the way by resting after His work of creation.  Yet, even in the face of God's command, how many people do you know who actually REST on the holy Sabbath day of rest? Yard work, grocery shopping, housework, cooking, cleaning, etc. are the norm on our day of rest.   I'm not sure most people even know how to rest anymore!



On Apr 12, 2010 Pancho wrote:

My family calls me Pancho and I'd like you to know that I love you all... The energy brought by the people of Wednesdays after reading the passage was very similar to that brought by those of us who heard the Letter to a Friend in a Hurry last August. Many of us shared the way we relate with time and the wonderful surprises that serendipity has for us when we are tuned to the slow down mode of Mother Nature... never hurries, yet everything gets done (like brother Somik's experience during the last 3 weeks of the PhD program!). Last week, I shared the following three points and I enhanced them a bit by including the powerful story of a sage from the Touareg people, people who live in the Sahara desert: 1. The Active Agenda of a Bodhisattva 2. Slowing Down as a Sage of the Desert 3. Mad Rush. What Kind of Mind? 1. The Active Agenda of a Bodhisattva During a Wednesday, last year, I heard hermano Nipun sharing what has become a very useful mind-trick,  See full.

My family calls me Pancho and I'd like you to know that I love you all...

The energy brought by the people of Wednesdays after reading the passage was very similar to that brought by those of us who heard the Letter to a Friend in a Hurry last August. Many of us shared the way we relate with time and the wonderful surprises that serendipity has for us when we are tuned to the slow down mode of Mother Nature... never hurries, yet everything gets done (like brother Somik's experience during the last 3 weeks of the PhD program!). Last week, I shared the following three points and I enhanced them a bit by including the powerful story of a sage from the Touareg people, people who live in the Sahara desert:

1. The Active Agenda of a Bodhisattva
2. Slowing Down as a Sage of the Desert
3. Mad Rush. What Kind of Mind?


1. The Active Agenda of a Bodhisattva
During a Wednesday, last year, I heard hermano Nipun sharing what has become a very useful mind-trick, from my point of view. As I remember it, Nipun described how during a talk with a monk, both of them were exchanging their excitement about the packed commitments and how full were their agendas. At some point Nipun said something like: "you are pretty busy today" to which the monk replied: "I'm not busy, I'm active." :-)

Since I heard the story of this Bodhisattva(s), "busyness" is not an option to describe the space/time of my life. I've noticed the positive (r)evolution from "busy" to "active" in the way I engage with life. It's all about intention. After all, a new paradigm requires new expressions/languages. Every bit counts for moving towards our Beloved Community.

2. Slowing Down as a Sage of the Desert
The detailed description of hermano Somik reminded me of how, when we slow down, we attend meticulously to details, giving the very best we are capable of even to the smallest undertaking. This is slowliness and not sloth, which breeds procrastination and inefficiency.

We come to Wednesdays to collectively be in receptive silence. To pay attention to every detail: the smell, the incense, the books, the smiles, the shinning eyes, the individual stories. As hermano Viral and hermanas Guri and Pavi have put it in recent emails/blogs: Mindfulness. Awareness. Strong effort. Insight. Gratitude. Using the body as a tool to reach the Self.

This is part of the immense magic and beauty of Wednesdays. As I was writing this comment, the powerful image of a sage from the desert came to mind/heart:
 

- Sage of the Desert: We shepherd camels, goats, sheep, cows and donkeys in an infinite kingdom of silence.

- Interviewer: Is the desert really so silent?

- Sage of the Desert
: If you are on your own, in that silence you hear your heart beat. There is no better place to meet yourself.

 

Here is the full interview. It ends with this spaceless/timeless quote:

"Here [cities] you have watches; there [desert], we have time."


3. Mad Rush. What Kind of Mind?

"The people who are in the mad rush today, increasing their wants senselessly suppose that they are enhancing their importance and real knowledge. A day will come when they will exclaim, “What have we been doing?”  

One after another, many civilizations have risen, flourished, declined and disappeared and in spite of their big boast of human progress, I am inclined to ask; To what end all this? What’s the purpose? Darwin’s contemporary Wallace has said that despite the various discoveries and inventions during the past fifty years, the moral height of man hasn’t increased even an inch. Tolstoy has said the same thing. Jesus, Buddha, Prophet Mohammed all have said the same things." --M.K. Gandhi

 

Well, on Wednesdays, as tens of thousands of brothers and sisters can corroborate, we slow down and we have time too. We have come together to feed the body and, more importantly, the soul. In the middle of the city we Slow Down, Slow Food, Slow Science.

Every Wednesday, we enjoy a delicious-full-of-love _slow_ dinner. But if you look further (Meher Baba's quote), I better say something like: "We enjoy delicious-full-of-love _still_ dinners."  ;-)

Meher Baba spent many years in unrushed silence and yet he could communicate great gems of wisdom for generations to come. Regarding the pace (peace?) of mind he said:

 

A quick mind is sick.
A slow mind is sound.
A still mind in divine.

 

Let stillness direct our words and actions.

May all become compassionate, courageous and wise.

Pancho

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On Apr 12, 2010 joyce E. wrote:

im a nursing student and the word "busy" or "toxic" is very common for me. while reading this devotional,I realized that during this past months, my relationship with God is not that close because i usually find my self so busy doing requirements and reviewing lessons that sometimes I forgot to praise and thank God for the continued life and strength that he bestowed on me. thanks for reminding me that we need to have more time with God.................



On Apr 11, 2010 joseph ouma wrote:

am inspired to show love to everyone. thank you



On Apr 10, 2010 Ripa wrote:

Thanks to all who post on these iJourneys...really lovely to read and reflect on...as Somik eloquently spoke on Wednesday of the above experiences, the song "I Hope You Dance" started playing in my mind...this song was popular several years ago. It carries significance on my journey, as my 8th grade teacher had framed the lyrics for each of us in his language arts class: a potent reminder to make the most of every moment. Enjoy! :-) I hope you never lose your sense of wonder You get your fill to eat, but always keep that hunger May you never take one single breath for granted God forbid love ever leave you empty handed Chorus: I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance and when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance, I hope you dance I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance Never settle for the path of least resis  See full.

Thanks to all who post on these iJourneys...really lovely to read and reflect on...as Somik eloquently spoke on Wednesday of the above experiences, the song "I Hope You Dance" started playing in my mind...this song was popular several years ago. It carries significance on my journey, as my 8th grade teacher had framed the lyrics for each of us in his language arts class: a potent reminder to make the most of every moment. Enjoy! :-)

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat, but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed

Chorus: I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
and when you get the choice to sit it out or dance,
I hope you dance, I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they're worth takin’
Lovin’ might be a mistake but it's worth makin’
Don't let some hell bent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance,
I hope you dance (time is a wheel in constant motion always)
I hope you dance (rolling us along)
I hope you dance (tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder)
I hope you dance (where those years have gone)

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance,

dance, I hope you dance,
I hope you dance (time is wheel in constant motion always)
I hope you dance (rolling us along)
I hope you dance (tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder)
I hope you dance (where those years have gone)
(tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder)
(where those years have gone)

 

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On Apr 10, 2010 Somik Raha wrote:

This thought had an undercurrent of ancient wisdom which our modern sensibility has felt  uncomfortable about including in our lives. The primary one being religion (now a cliche to say that I am spiritual, not religious). I remembered a wise monk who defined the science behind religion as threefold: philosophy without which there isn't really a religion; mythology which helps us remember abstract wisdom in times of need through colorful and lovely stories; and practice (or its pejorative cousin, ritual), without which the philosophy and mythology are mere entertainment. Mindless following of rituals has been widely criticized. And yet, that which is bad, must also be good. In that vein, the author points out the benefit of the Sabbath, not in terms of the particular Jewish holiday, but in the broader sense of taking rest. So, in praise of the ritual, we note that even if we have not come across the philosophy of taking rest, and heard no stories of the wonderful benefits of  See full.

This thought had an undercurrent of ancient wisdom which our modern sensibility has felt  uncomfortable about including in our lives. The primary one being religion (now a cliche to say that I am spiritual, not religious). I remembered a wise monk who defined the science behind religion as threefold: philosophy without which there isn't really a religion; mythology which helps us remember abstract wisdom in times of need through colorful and lovely stories; and practice (or its pejorative cousin, ritual), without which the philosophy and mythology are mere entertainment. Mindless following of rituals has been widely criticized. And yet, that which is bad, must also be good. In that vein, the author points out the benefit of the Sabbath, not in terms of the particular Jewish holiday, but in the broader sense of taking rest.

So, in praise of the ritual, we note that even if we have not come across the philosophy of taking rest, and heard no stories of the wonderful benefits of resting and reflecting, by engaging (mindlessly) in the ritual of rest and reflection, we get the benefit of it. This is not all that different from brushing my teeth - every time I choose to do it, I get the benefit of dental science without studying it, or without needing to keep reading up stories of all the bad things that happen to people who do not brush their teeth.

Some years back, I was mighty confused about rituals, and I think rightfully so, as there are so many wherever we look. I asked a monk, "How do I know which ritual is good for me and which is not?" He replied, "That ritual which expands your sense of who you are (who you include in I) and connects you to more and more of the universe is good. But that ritual which contracts your sense of who you are and creates disconnection from the universe is bad."

That resolves the strategic question of what ritual to follow. But a tactical one follows. "Suppose I have picked a ritual, like weekly reflection, as beneficial to me. At the moment of undertaking the ritual, other pressing actions seek attention from me. Which way do I go? Should I follow the ritual because I have committed to? Or take care of the urgent task that needs taking care of?"

Pacing by the Santa Clara venue of Wednesday, the answer seemed clear. What matters is the space I'm coming from when taking the action. Is that a space of freedom, where I see the big picture and after taking everything into consideration, act with the deepest authenticity possible? Or is that a space of desperation, where I have lied to myself about having no choice? That, to my mind, would determine whether the decision is wholesome or not. 

Finally, a story. This Tuesday, I gave a dry-run for my defense talk and my colleagues pointed out a ton of changes that needed to happen. I didn't think I'd finish on time (for Thu), and hence wrote to Nipun and Neil, letting them know that I would probably not make it (ironical, given the passage of this week). The next day, with a big plan of getting a lot done, I started off for my first appointment with the President of Stanford University. With some time to spare, I walked leisurely by Stanford's Memorial Church, and decided to circumambulate, while saying hi to Jesus. Memories came flooding back - used to do it years back when living on campus. As I walked, Jesus did not speak back, but the flowers did. There were so many gorgeous flowers, and rose bush teeming with buds, that were waiting to burst out in their full glory. There was a lovely fountain that I don't remember seeing before. The trees around seemed majestic. And the stained glass on the church inspired me to remember Christ's deep message. 

After all these thoughts, a great clarity arose. I wrote to Nipun and Neil, "Wednesday is my sabbath, and I have time." Of course, the day was just starting. As I walked in to the President's office, with ten minutes to spare, I turned on my laptop, and it went into Rescue and Recovery mode! All my past bad karma of criticizing Microsoft came back to haunt me. After telling myself that this was a test of equanimity, and remembering to pat myself with "All is well," two reboots did the job, and the meeting went fine. 

I was looking forward to spending the rest of the morning getting research done, but a mail was waiting for me. A friend had requested that I give a campus tour to a new admit, who was still deciding whether to join Stanford. First reaction, "Oh no!" Second reaction, "Wait, this is a test." So, I called the new admit at the time I was supposed to, and it went to the voicemail. I had a gift of time, and got a lot done over the next 45 mins, after which she called, and I took her on a tour, ending with a lunch meeting with colleagues and my professor. The discussion was intense, focusing on truth-telling, and we all gained so much from that conversation.

Returning, got some more work done until my officemate walked in, and said, "Hi Somik, how are you doing?" Then I knew. This was the test that all the events had been building up to. The old temptation was to say, "Very Busy!! Can't talk!" The new way was to tell the truth, "I have time, and I am spending it on research." My officemate understands this language (we help keep each other honest) and he burst out laughing, as did I. 

We ended the day with meeting the Patient from Hell, Prof. Steve Schneider, who dealt with his cancer as a decision-maker, using his education and wisdom to carve out a path-breaking treatment for himself and thousands of others. Hearing his life story over a cup of tea was so inspiring - the gist, the ones who achieve clarity are the ones who are ask the stupidest questions that no one else was brave enough to ask. 

As I headed after this to Wednesday, and reflected on everything, I realized that most of my work for the dry run was done, and of high quality, while also having been able to serve those who needed help, and learning from inspiring people. And how much of this would have been missed if I had started the day with a lie - that I am busy! This passage indeed shows that the practice of Sabbath is not a theoretical nice-to-have, but one with great practical benefits if followed. This does not necessarily mean that I will be able to make it each week, but this week's reflection gives me the clarity needed to be aware of the space from which I will make my decision to follow the ritual.

To step it up, someone pointed out that the Sabbath was a state-of-mind that could be had, even while working intensely, and he pointed out the philosophy of the Gita with the phrase "kartaram api akartaram," or "doing without doing." What if we could keep a Sabbath-mind, at rest, while engaged in intense action? Now that is an ideal to aspire for.

Ashok shared how deeply he was touched by the gorgeous temple architecture of South-East Asia (Burma, Vietnam). His rich descriptions of Angkor Vat were vivid - a culture that found the time to create an exquisite community space for reflection and self-growth. I hope he will post some pictures for the rest of us.

Bhupen uncle shared a lovely story - his grandchild pointed to his tummy and asked when he was going to have a baby! He realized he needed to create a practice around exercise, and told his grandchild "6 months!" He also shared how fluidly CF Dad would call him for a game of tennis, and he'd come over and enjoy a game with a heart at rest. He wished all of us the freedom to enjoy life as soon as possible. Now that's another ideal to aspire for.

Praveen shared a lovely reflection which he has written down as a comment, and uncle sang a lovely song (the lyrics are in here as a comment)! A friend posted the song that Meghna had sung so beautifully two weeks back.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2rlKePk3Xw

The ripples continued - person A was complimented on a T-shirt by B. Person C tagged A  with a t-shirt. A took off his t-shirt and tagged B with it (out it on his car). B had done the same a few weeks back for someone else. It is a good world.

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On Apr 10, 2010 Chuck Gribble wrote:

Here's an eminently readable and interesting resource on the subject. (Good subject!)

 

http://www.utne.com/2004-01-01/ReclaimingOurDayofRest.aspx



On Apr 8, 2010 Dinesh wrote:

Yesterday, I offered a rendition of Sadhvi Shilapiji's beautiful prayer -- Mere Prabhu.  Its essence is:

With a strong feeling of gratitude, we explore different avenues in an effort to do something in service but they all seem so meaningless in light of my diminished capacity.   Perhaps the only thing we can do is to pay it forward with small acts, and trust the outcomes to take care of themselves.

And the audio:



On Apr 8, 2010 George M wrote:

Thak you for reminding me of how beatiful and joyful is to speed down and enjoy time with my beloved ones. Thank you.



On Apr 8, 2010 Praveen wrote:

Reminded me of this blog entry by Guri ... about her travels in Central America:

They seem to allow space within all their exchanges, to sanction things below the surface to come up and permeate their lives. Just as you can’t hurry a bamboo tree to grow, you cannot rush your own natural rhythm of life. No matter what, a woman will take nine months to give birth to a child, a dog will take two months, and an elephant will take over two years. There’s a natural flow for everything. Interrupting it inevitably leads to the devastation of certain other parts of our selves. Maybe we wouldn’t need as many drugs and therapists in the US if we harmonized with our natural rhythms instead of the ticks of the clock.



On Apr 7, 2010 prakash wrote:

This is a beautiful piece -- thank you.

Few reflections from the passage:

From The Geeta -- "Connection between mother and child is the same one as that between the plants and the land (earth)" -- Gratitude to all the mothers and mother nature.

Look deep into nature,
and then you will understand .
everything better.
                 -- Einstein

We do not inherit the earth
from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

                 --Native American Proverb

In Gratitude,

Prakash

 



On Apr 6, 2010 Nancy wrote:

I do need to pause, and regroup regularly. Thanks for the timely reminder, refreshing....



On Apr 6, 2010 Marion wrote:

It's so true, but how does one get off the merry-go-round.  We are free to get off at any time, but we cling on for dear life.  Why?  When?



On Apr 6, 2010 Sarah wrote:

It really has become the norm to just run around all day and night. It's exhausting! With a busy family of 5, we take time to eat dinner together.  The simple task of sitting around the table and enjoying a meal, relaxing and sharing stories about our day, really makes a difference for all of us.



On Apr 6, 2010 Bruno Sarda wrote:

This really speaks to me. Thanks for sharing. I've just shared it with others around me...



On Apr 6, 2010 karthik wrote:

 

wow! so apt in its timing for me ... helped me pause and reflect and share with others in my life ... thank you 



On Apr 6, 2010 Mehwaesh wrote:

 As Gandhi said: 'There is more to life than increasing its speed'. 



On Apr 6, 2010 reddy wrote:

An eye opener......thanks for sharing....despite holding a high profile job or else leading a hectic lifestyle,one necessarily needs to pursue his/her own hobbies,passions.. to lead a fulfilling life. Its of utmost importance to take out quality time to do the stuff we enjoy doing.



On Apr 5, 2010 Barbara wrote:

Fuer unsere Freunde .....

Ich mache grade so Reinigungen. Nicht Du mich wenig hoerst.

Alles Liebe

Satori



On Apr 5, 2010 melissa magic wrote:

I read this and I understand.... Everyone I know has become busier and busier and it seems to be the "norm" everywhere I look.  I like being busy, BUT I Injoy BEing, in general...Just BEing is something that I strive for, and am wishing for my loved ones to do the same. I like spending time with all my lovelies, how can I/we/US make more time? I miss having tea and chatting, going to the Lake, taking a drive or just sitting in the grass... I deeply long for those days! I can do it alone.... but rather enjoy the company of those I hold close to my heart.