This summer I committed an act of radical and deeply liberating change. I started taking Sundays off, a new thing for me. As a writer, I had come to regard Sunday as just another working day, part of the same old workaholic grind.
And by taking Sunday off, I mean that in the most literal sense–I went offline and pulled the plug on my internet for 24 hours. Without the distraction of my smart phone, email, or social media, I suddenly seemed to have so much time and so much peace. It was like being on retreat except I could do it here and now, in my own home. In this hallowed time out of time, I now spend my Sundays meditating, reading real books with paper pages, going on long horse rides or hikes, and enjoying deep communion with family and friends.
At first glance, taking Sunday off hardly seems radical. In Western culture, Sunday is the traditional day of rest. In many European countries, shops remained closed on Sundays and the work-a-day world comes to a halt.
From earliest human history to the present day, all religions have observed holy days and days of rest, such as the Jewish Shabbat and the Muslim Friday prayer. The ancient Babylonians, counting from the new moon, celebrated the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th days as sacred and set apart. In some societies, women and girls came into communion during their bleeding time, regarded in prepatriarchal culture as a time of auspiciousness and great power. The modern Red Tent movement has reclaimed this sacrality for women and girls today. Across cultures and faiths, the day of rest allowed people to step off the hamster wheel of work and toil and focus on the sacred. Ideally the day of rest, then as now, offered a refuge, a still point of peace, a portal to the sacred.
Some interpretations of the traditional Christian sabbath have been stiflingly rigid, however. In her autobiographical novel, Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder remembers Sundays as the bane of her 19th century childhood, the day she was forbidden to play or make noise or have any kind of fun. Instead she was forced to wear her uncomfortable Sunday best while languishing through a long, boring religious service.
In most of the Western world, this ultra-austere version of the sabbath has become a relic of the past. Unfortunately it seems we’ve gone too far to the opposite extreme, replacing any notion of a day of rest with a global capitalist work ethic on overdrive, when even an hour of idleness or “unproductive” time is regarded as a moral lapse. For writers, freelancers, and creative people of all disciplines, the temptation to work every spare hour of our weekends can prove insurmountable. Even people with traditional day jobs are under pressure to work weekends to keep apace of ever increasing workloads.
We live in an age where even the most affluent among us have become time poor. Where achieving and maintaining our “success” means we are no longer allowed to have a life apart from work.
In this day and age, the most radical act of rebellion we can commit is to take back at least one day of the week, declare it holy, and unplug. Take back our lives and inner space for a 24 hour period.
What holy days would you like to reclaim?
We don’t need to fill these days with traditional religious observance if that doesn’t speak to us. But we all need that still point, that inner space and refuge, that escape from our fragmented working lives, where we can become whole again.
Sabbath: The Forgotten Pleasures of a Day of Rest in Yoga International.
The Red Tent Movement: reclaim your bleeding time as sacred time. I believe there are also purple tents for women in menopause to honor this sacred passage to power.
I found Alex Pang’s podcast and linked articles on prioritizing rest and reflection to be very inspiring.
Reclaim your time and mental space by doing a digital detox.