Finding Time to Rest and Be Grateful

At this week’s New Sabbath Project table, we decided to incorporate something different — something our friend who twinned with us a couple of week’s ago incorporated into her New Sabbath Project dinner. In addition to our blessings over candles, bread, wine, and our personal blessings around the table, we included a questions about gratefulness and gratitude. “What were we most grateful for in the past week?”

In a culture with communication devices that can keep us tied to the workplace around the clock — chipping away that sacred space around what could and arguably should be time for rest, rejuvenation and reflection, I’m embarrassed to say it was actually a little tough to come up with something I could identify at that moment — not because I hadn’t been grateful for things this week — but because I find we are so rarely “present” during so much of our daily living, that those moments — even the more challenging ones — that help us learn, grow and feel good often pass by too fast to remember and thus purposefully acknowledge.

It got me thinking more about the connections between gratitude, sabbatical and the impact the interaction of those two things have on our daily well being – both mentally and physically.

Positive psychologists and many others have written a fair bit on the correlation between gratitude and happiness for instance — that practicing gratitude through daily meditations for instance just help us feel better. I have tried this and have felt the effects. It’s a tough thing to keep up though I find because with full time work and 2 small children, it means carving out even more time to do something with intention — that doesn’t involve just stopping. The net effect unfortunately, is that such beautiful practices are the first things to go in a hectic, busy schedule — kind of like exercise. Funny — we then have to find ways to forgive ourselves for being too busy to take care of ourselves.

It made me think about what I recently read on a website I came across called “Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life”. Here, someone writes that “rest is a route to productivity. It’s a myth that we succeed through unceasing and tireless effort“. Yes, research does find that consistent and deliberate practice leads to elite performance in many fields. But focused work and consistent practice are not the same thing as unending work. Olympic athletes must rest or they get hurt. Fruit trees forced to produce for more than one season lose their ability to bear fruit. And us worker bees can slowly develop sleep debt so deep and burnout so profound that we are left too exhausted to function“.

On Rabbi and blogger Henry Glazer’s “Grateful Rabbi” blog site, he suggests we should think of the sabbath — whatever day that might be for you — as a day of gratefulness. What a great idea — and one so easy to forget if you never slow down to make it happen — to build a fence around that place in time.

In the end, I of course remembered something I was very grateful for this week. It was watching my older son — who has just this year learned to read — take my younger son onto his little lap and read him a bedtime story. How grateful I am to have that and to have witnessed the love these two brothers have for each other — easy to miss in the day to day where horse play and competition for parental affection and toys often blur those other fantastic memories.

The morning after an incredible night of making new friends around my dinner table, it’s also fair to say I am extremely grateful for the reminder that even short sabbaticals truly create the space to nurture so many good things — including the presence of mind to live more consciously — and to remember and reflect on the things for which we are grateful.

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