As a child, my family didn’t specifically observe the Sabbath. Nonetheless, Sundays were clearly different than the rest of the week. The day was slower, quieter, calmer. The day was sacred, with a cadence and rhythm all its own.
Yet somewhere and somehow, things changed. Weekends became about chores and errands, laundry and grocery shopping, emails and work projects. Sunday became just another workday, exacerbated by an addiction to technology and social media. Sundays—and by extension, the entire week—seemed to lose their serenity and healing quality, and as a result, I lost a sense of connection to family, to self and to God.
A few months ago, I realized that I had a deep longing to create a sacred temporal space; a few hours or even a whole day when time could move at its own pace and I could escape the noise, the obligations and self-imposed anxieties, the constant comparisons and one-upmanship and the pressures to do and achieve and obtain.
So, for the past several months, I have observed my own modern-day Sabbath. Unlike the traditional Christian Sabbath or Jewish Shabbat, there are no hard and fast rules. Rather, the modern-day Sabbath is more personal and intentional. The modern Sabbath is about delegating a time to focus on what I have instead of searching for something new, a time to disconnect from work and technology in order to reconnect with family and friends and self, a time to quiet the external noise so I can hear my own powerful internal voice.
The modern Sabbath is an intentional effort to “turn off and tune in.” As a result, the modern-day Sabbath is also more personal than the traditional Sabbath. For me, the Sabbath means that I do not email, text, surf the web, turn on the computer, work, shop (including grocery shopping), do chores or watch television (although getting my husband and kids to forego television is a work in progress).
Instead, my personal Sabbath day includes rest, music, church, exercise, time outdoors, prayer or meditation, personal writing, time alone, sitting still, reading and focused time with family.
One of the most challenging parts of observing the Sabbath in today’s day and age is overcoming a dependence on instant gratification and distraction. The Internet makes it possible for us to feed most of our wants and needs now—whether looking for a recipe, buying a new swimsuit, or checking the weather. Technology has also made it easier than ever to numb our emotions and distract us from anxieties. Social media—Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest—television, 24 hours “news” coverage, and blogs all give us an easy outlet for distraction so we don’t have to endure discomfort, whether within ourselves or amongst others.
But a constant reliance on technology to do everything right now has the potential to feed our impatience and self-importance. An over-reliance on technology as a means of communication has the potential to trivialize our relationships, and the use of technology as a coping mechanism to numb our emotions has the potential to prevent personal growth and development.
By unplugging for one day each week, my modern-day, personal Sabbath seeks to balance the utility of technology with a little patience and remind myself that life unfolds on a timetable that is not always within my control. By removing the distractions one day each week, I am slowly learning to become comfortable with my own discomfort in order to gain a certain depth of self-awareness and figure out how to work through, not around, problems.
With a mantra of “turning off to tune in,” the modern Sabbath almost feels like capturing time in a bottle. Time is a funny thing, you know. On some days, it seems to slog along, and then, in the blink of an eye, a month or a year or a decade has passed and we are reeling from the loss of our Earthly time. By separating one day from the frenzied blur of the remaining six, by disconnecting from the frenetic pace of technology to reconnect with the sacredly simple, the modern-day Sabbath allows us to slow time and savor its goodness. Because nestled into that little nugget of slowed time is a heady calm and a mild exhilaration in the stillness and the quiet and the waiting.
Christine Organ is a writer in the Chicago area, where she lives with her husband, two sons and two dogs. She writes at christineorgan.com about seeking grace in the everyday and she is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. She is currently working on her second manuscript (tentatively titled "Grace, Wonder, and Everyday Miracles") while she searches for a publishing home for her first book (a memoir about her spiritual journey).