Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Remembering the Sabbath

"And you - what of your rushed and useful life?  Imagine setting it all down - papers, plans, appointments, everything - leaving only a note:  "Gone to the fields to be lovely.  Be back when I'm through with blooming."  -- Lynn Ungar

I have an informal rule in my life.  Whenever two or more people tell me the same thing in a short time I need to pay attention and do something.  Sometimes it's a book or movie I need to read or see, sometimes it's a person I need to meet or talk with and sometimes it's something I need to start doing, or often, doing again.  In the last week two of my closest advisors - my spiritual director and my writing coach - have reminded me about honoring and celebrating the Sabbath.  Perhaps I have been working a bit too hard.  Perhaps.

The fourth of the ten commandments tells us "Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy."  Bill Gates once said about attending church (which is one way to honor the Sabbath): "Just in terms of time resources religion is not very efficient.  There's a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning."  Two quotes that crystalize the challenges of busy people like you and me every day.  Should we take a few hours, let alone a day, when we put aside our work and refresh our bodies, minds and spirits or should we work and work to more efficiently live our life and pursue our dreams?

My favorite definition for Sabbath comes from Wayne Mueller’s wonderful book, Sabbath:  Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight In Our Busy Lives.  Mueller writes: “In Sabbath time we remember to celebrate what is beautiful and sacred.  Sabbath is more than the absence of work, it is not just a day off, when we catch up on television or errands.  It is the presence of something that arises when we consecrate a period of time to listen to what is most deeply beautiful, nourishing or true.  It is time consecrated with our attention, our mindfulness, honoring those quiet forces of grace or spirit that sustain and heal us.”  Mueller uses a word we don’t hear much – consecrate.  Consecrate simply means to make sacred.  When we honor and practice Sabbath we consecrate our most precious resource – our time – and declare it, as well as ourselves, to be sacred.

As a minister, I'm sensitive to practicing what I preach.  I've preached about the importance and wisdom of taking a Sabbath, of regularly nurturing our souls, on more than one occasion.  Unfortunately preaching about Sabbath has always been easier than practicing it.  Taking one day a week to unplug, to rest, to play, to sleep, to do what we want instead of what we must is a gift we give ourselves and those we love.  Some religious traditions have specific rituals and rules of what one can and cannot do on the Sabbath.  Those practices can be very powerful.  For others who don't have a religious tradition and/or whose tradition doesn't provide guidance, or maybe even encouragement, to honor the Sabbath, we need to be more creative.

 Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in her book Simple Abundance one of the best prescriptions for the Sabbath I know:  "This is what the Sabbath is for:  reverence, rest, renewal, rejuvenation, reassuring rituals, recreation, rejoicing, revelation, remembering how much you have to be grateful for, and saying “thank you.”  You can do this in a church, mosque, temple or synagogue, on a walk, while antiquing, sitting in bed propped up on pillows reading something wonderful with a breakfast tray, working the crossword puzzle before a roaring fire, attending a marvelous art exhibition or movie matinee, or listening to opera in the kitchen as you sip sherry and prepare a fabulous feast.  What matters is that you do something special that speaks to your soul and that you revel in whatever you do.” 

Find something that speaks to your soul and revel in it.  Go to the fields and be lovely.  Come back when you're through blooming.  This is the invitation and challenge in our busy lives.  Lives full of information overload, demanding jobs and commitments that keep us up late at night and rob of us sleep every day.  Calltrepreneurs remember, eventually, that we must take time for the ancient practices that nourish and feed our spirits, if we are to create, innovate and change the world.  Perhaps it was easier in the time of St. Francis than it is in the time of Steve Jobs but it's just as important.  Maybe even more so.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Blowin' in the Wind

"Everybody has a calling, don't they?  Some have a high calling, some have a low calling.  Everybody is called but few are chosen.  There's a lot of distraction for people, so you might not ever find the real you.  A lot of people don't."  -- Bob Dylan

The quote above comes from a recent interview Bob Dylan gave to Rolling Stone magazine.  I discovered the quote in one of the blogs I have found and fell in love with since I started researching and writing about calltrepreneurship.  The blog is titled "The Art of Non-Conformity Dispatch" written by Chris Guillebeau.  

Chris is a legend in the blogging world.  He writes:
  • I write about personal development and life planning, with the conviction that you don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.
  • I write about entrepreneurship and other kinds of unconventional work, with the belief that the work we do should be both fun and meaningful.
  • I write about international travel, travel hacking in general, and my journeys to more than 25 countries every year.
The key theme that links each of these topics is non-conformity. I define non-conformity as “a lack of orthodoxy in thoughts or beliefs” or “the refusal to accept established customs, attitudes, or ideas.”

 If you haven't found Chris' blog and his work check it out.  Bob Dylan is an American icon who has embraced "non-conformity" and has lived a life doing his best to find and express his real self.
I especially like his observation, "There's a lot of distraction for people, so you might not find the real you."   Amen!  What are the distractions that get in your way from finding, and maybe even more importantly, being and sharing your real self?  I haven't posted for two weeks.  Hopefully, you've noticed.  I have been distracted by long days and nights of meetings on the road.  By playoff baseball games and too many hours reading blogs, news and junk on the Internet.

We live in a society where distraction is a multi-billion dollar industry.  Selling distraction seems to be more profitable than selling ways to find and express our real selves.  Fortunately we have artists and calltrepreneurs like Bob Dylan and Chris Guillebeau to remind us that there are many ways to find and live our callings.  Our job is to pay attention and not let the clues blow away in the wind.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Doing the Impossible

"“Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” -- St. Francis

Today is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi Day.  Francis is the patron saint of animals and the environment and is probably the most popular of all Christian saints.  This weekend many churches will be celebrating a blessing of the animals in honor of Francis.  It's ironic the day to honor one of the great people of history who ate very little would be named a feast day.  (I know there is a long Christian history of feast days to honor the saints; it just doesn't seem the right word for Francis.)

The sight of Francis' death - October 3, 1226

St. Francis died in the night of October 3, 1226 in a small hut outside the small church, Porziuncola, where his order began.  Today the hut and the Porziuncola are housed inside the massive Santa Maria degli Angeli church which is below Assisi.  I'm not sure what sacred power there is when we walk where the saints and icons of history were born and died, but when I was there in July I was deeply moved by the experience.  Perhaps the holiest moments of life are those when we are born and receive spirit, breath, and when we die and spirit, breath, leaves us.  This is true for everyone one of us.  But for some people the place where those events occurred become pilgrim sites to be inspired, to reflect, hopefully, to get in touch with something that universal.

I spent the last two days at a Franciscan retreat center in Hiawatha, Iowa.  As I walked the labyrinth I reflected on the impact of Francis' life on my life.  For the last nine months I have read about him, I have walked where he walked, I have visited the places where he was born and died.  He was one of the first religious entrepreneurs in the world who achieved amazing miracles and left behind a legacy that is still touching lives almost 800 years after he died.   He has become part of my life, someone who sits on my shoulder silently whispering counsel and wisdom whether or not I want to hear it.  (I'm still working out the whole give away all my possessions and live a life of poverty thing, for example.)  I realize that I know more about his life than I do about the lives of those who I love.  While I can blame that on not having any biographies to read about my grandmother or any other family or friend, it's interesting none the less.

How will I celebrate today?  I won't be feasting but I will sit in silence before the two postcards/pictures I have on my altar of his famous prayer and the fresco from his basilica of being "naked before God".  And I'll do some of these suggestions from one of my favorite websites,  I invite you to reflect on some part of Francis' life as well.  Perhaps a good place to start is with his words above.  What must you do that is necessary, then what is possible and then what will happen that is impossible?  I can't imagine much better advice to calltrepreneurs these.  "Suddenly you are doing the impossible."  Francis' life is testimony to this, may ours be as well.