Tonight, like every Friday night, I bookmark, quit out, shut down, and unplug. I made a commitment several years ago to honor the Sabbath in a way that feels feasible and meaningful for my life. It’s not always realistic not to drive on Saturdays and I can’t get behind not turning on lights, but I can certainly allow my little computer to rest for 24 hours and, in doing so, take a break from emails, the Internet and Microsoft Word. As I wrote in my first post about this commitment:
The first time I unplugged was in May 2007. It was such a small act – to shut down my computer (not sleep mode but a full shut down) and pull the plug out of the wall – but the effects didn’t feel small at all. Almost immediately, I could feel the redirection of energy from outward to inward. I could feel more time, space, and silence enter our house. With the two Shabbat candles brightly illuminating our table, I decided to write by their light with a pen and an actual paper journal after my son went to sleep. How revolutionary it felt to physically write by candlelight! No light bulbs. No keyboards. No intrusion of electricity. It was much slower, of course, but the slowness matched the pace of my thoughts. Or perhaps my thoughts began to match the pace of the slowness. Either way, I could feel my body and then my soul coming into alignment with the natural pace of a human life.
It’s this slower pace that is so lacking in our culture and the absence of which inhibits people from aligning themselves with the necessary emotional states that move a transition gracefully through. Simply put, when we move quickly and fill up every available time slot in our days and weeks, we distract ourselves from feeling. We buy, we make lists, we pay bills, we attend to our children, we blog, we work. In a small word, we do. When we redirect the doing energy into a being energy we immediately slow down. And when we slow down, the feelings that are pushed aside have room to surface. This is a good thing. For in order to transition from one stage of life to the next – whether it’s becoming a wife/husband, becoming a mother/father, or moving into a new house or a new week – we need time to slow down enough to feel our feelings, to acknowledge the grief associated with the sacrifices, to relinquish that which is no longer serving us. Only then can the rebirth of inner spring naturally occur.
It’s astonishing to me how difficult it is to unplug and slow down. I always have a moment of resistance when my busy, work mind protests with a series of convincing reasons why I need to “stay plugged in”. I hear it but I don’t listen, and within moments of unplugging my soul exhales. I think about how challenging it is for us, as a culture, to slow down and how much harder it is to come to a complete stop. I think about the resistance to feeling our feelings, the resistance to acknowledging the difficult places within that we can keep at bay with busyness. I think about the addiction to “doing” and achievement that permeates every crevice of this culture, how fast we live, how busy we are.
One of my weekly ways of slowing down is attending a yoga class on Sunday mornings. At the beginning of every yoga class I’ve ever taken, the teacher says some version of, “And if you’re feeling tired or you lose your connection to your breath, come into child’s post. This is your resting place. It’s always available to you. This class isn’t about pushing yourself to the limit. It’s about connecting to your breath. Child’s post is just a valid a pose as any other.” And yet so so few people in yoga class take the time to rest in child’s pose. I mostly keep my eyes closed but when I do open them I can see people huffing and puffing, forcing themselves into postures and pushing themselves to “succeed.” I understand the benefit of stretching ourselves beyond our comfort zones, but it seems to me that this often originates from an unrelentless taskmaster that whips to the mantra of “You’re not good enough.”
Sabbath, resting, and child’s post are loving acts of kindness towards ourselves. They’re ways that we say, “You’re good enough just the way you. You don’t have to perform or stay busy or accomplish anything. You can just be. And I’ll embrace and allow for whatever feelings arise in that state of being. For today, let’s unplug and hang out. Let’s rest.”
At the end of my first post on unplugging I wrote:
I believe it was Reb Zalman, the great sage and rabbi who initiated the Jewish Renewal movement, who said that to observe Shabbat – or any form of Sabbath – is a revolutionary act. I couldn’t agree more. How many people take a day to stop, to do nothing, to be as non-productive as possible, to be? Just the simple act of unplugging our computers would have a global energy effect if everyone did so on the same day. A worldwide mental and physical unplugging would result in a global emotional transformation as well.
So for today, for the next 24 hours, will you join me? Can you commit to that small yet daring act of shutting down your computer – or any other way that you stay busy – and come into your version of child’s pose? Let me know!