By Margaret-Anne Enders –
Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era. For a long time, the 60s loudly called my name. Crazy clothes. Wild hair. Peaceful revolution. Freedom and love, man. Last night I went to the Youth Fiddlers’ evening of old-time music, dancing, and socializing. I was transported back into a different time and felt the pull of pioneer days where families joined together to celebrate with music, communal dances, and wholesome fun. A friend commented that the world would be a better place if we got together like this more often and danced. I tend to agree with him. Oh, for the good old days…
It’s all too easy to romanticize bygone eras and pick out the good parts. Much of the 60s culture was in response to the horrors of the Vietnam War. And I don’t know that I am tough enough to handle the pioneering lifestyle. I was mighty thankful at the end of the night that I didn’t have to bundle up and ride for five miles in a frosty open sleigh and arrive home to a freezing bed. However, I can still learn how to bring some of the magic of those time periods into my present-day life.
One of the norms of pioneer days was that of working hard for six days a week and then resting on the seventh day. As it says in the Hebrew Bible, “Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.”Observant Jews still honour this tradition, but most Christian folks pretend it is not one of the 10 Commandments, higher up on the list than even murder. However, Sabbath-keeping is making a comeback. People are realizing that we need to take time. I was reading an article on the practice the other day and the author, a former moderator of the United Church of Canada, stated most people feel they don’t have time to take a day off. It is true—and it struck me as ridiculous. What is so important in my life that I cannot take a break? In the grand scheme of the universe, does it matter if I sit and rest for an afternoon?
How could we not have time? Time is just a construct. Yes, there are hours and minutes of invariable length, but why do some days fly by when others stretch lazily on forever? So much of our experience of time is perception.
Another reason for my perceived lack of time stems from my tendency to be a perfectionist. While I have made some headway in letting go of some of this perfectionist leaning, one of the remnants is a drive for accomplishment. I always have at least one to-do list on the go, and while I’m okay with it if I don’t scratch things off on any given day, the truth is I feel better on those days that my pen is able to strike a clean line through a monster of a task. It is not just that it is done and out of the way. It goes deeper than that: when I accomplish more, I have a sense of being a better person.
When I find myself caught in the trap of accomplishment = worthiness, I remember what my teacher Venerable Tenzin Chogkyi once said after a sitting meditation: “Sometimes when I am in the midst of a meditation, I feel so thankful that I can be a human being, not a human doing.” It is quite a tough shift in my mind, to see myself as worthwhile, just because I am.
I have been experimenting with Sabbath-keeping for a while now. I still haven’t reached the level of setting aside a day every week, but when I do take the time, I find the days are rejuvenating and my chest is often free of the heavy weight of my never-ending to-do list. I am able to be more present with the kids. When I take the time and rid myself of “the list,” the days do seem to stretch. I can enjoy what I am doing in the moment, or, if it is a difficult time, I can take the time to explore the struggle, to sit with it and see what arises.
In this experimental Sabbath, I make up some of my own rules, allowing myself to do tasks such as gardening that might be seen as work, but that I want to do as enjoyment, not as accomplishment (although, if I am honest, I am still glad I am accomplishing along with the enjoying—old habits die hard…). I’m not a farmer, so I don’t need a break from gardening; digging in the dirt, nurturing, and cultivating provide the rejuvenation that I seek. Or I might spend time making a meal for friends. Breaking bread with others is another rich aspect of community often lost in the hustle and bustle of our family’s work, school, sports, and the general upkeep of the household.
In the end, it is this intentional way of being – in the present, building community with family and friends, in nature – that captures the essence of what I long for in those bygone days. By setting aside time and by honouring the experience of just being, it I enter into a time-less world. Perhaps if we all took up the practice, we’d start a different kind of revolution—one good book, shared meal, or garden plot at a time.
In her work with the Multicultural Program at Cariboo Mental Health Association, as well as in her life as a parent, partner, faithful seeker, left-leaning Christian, paddler, and gardener, Margaret-Anne Enders is thrilled to catch glimpses of the Divine in both the ordinary and the extraordinary. To find out more about the Women’s Spirituality Circle, call her at (250) 305-4426 or visit www.womenspiritualitycircle.wordpress.com or on Facebook at Women’s Spirituality Circle in Williams Lake.