Monday, February 8, 2010

Retreats, Part II: The Half Day Sabbatical

Are you starting to wear down? Are you caught in the February doldrums, getting through the day on sugar buzzes from confectionary hearts and early Cadbury Eggs? Are you ready to garrote Punxsutawney Phil the Groundhog? I hope you aren’t. But if you are, I know how you feel.

In college I recharged by taking half day getaways. I drove to scenic outlooks and gazed over the mountains. I loafed in a town where no one knew me. I gave myself permission to stop doing and focus on being.

I never spent much money; those were the days when gas was a buck a gallon. I never went to the spots people said were ‘must sees’ or did the things that were ‘must dos.’ I did what I thought would soothe me. I followed my impulses, and I reconnected with my creativity.

I went to art museums and found paintings or photographs that touched me. I sat down, often on the floor, and just looked. I waited until I saw a story in the art. Then, I wrote it.

I sat alone in a crowded room and watched the people. I sat by a window and observed people scurrying to their classes, jobs, and dates. I lost myself in poetry.

The point was always to follow my gut to somewhere out of the ordinary. If you listen, yours will tell you where you need to go. (Listen to your gut, not your stomach. The latter usually led me to Krispy Kreme. Trust me, carb-induced bliss wears off half way through the dozen.)

Before the month is out, try to give yourself a Valentine’s Day gift of three hours when you are still. Include what brings you joy, whether it is singing, hiking, praying, or meditating. Take time to contemplate you, not your problems or obligations. Get away from dust bunnies, stacks of newspapers, beeping cell phones, blog readers, prattling commercials, or whatever else fills your precious moments of free time. Then, for a few minutes eliminate all “work,” even reading and writing. Picture this: “sabbatical” is linked etymologically to the one-year rest for fields prescribed in ancient Judea. For a few hours, let your hands lie fallow and your heart renew.

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