This blog entry was also featured in Psychology Today.
I learned how to take care of myself not from Canyon Ranch, but from a tiny silver-haired woman with a twinkle in her eye I came to know as “Nana Gert.” The grandmother of a dear friend, I met Nana Gert for the first time at one of her famous Shabbat dinners. Gathered around her huge table piled with matzo ball soup and noodle koogle, Nana Gert explained Shabbat dinner to me – the Baptist; but it was Shabbat with a twist.
“Traditionally we celebrate Shabbat on Friday evenings, she said, “but at my age, I need a spiritual Shabbat more than once a week. So whenever I’m tired, I just sit down, take a short rest and declare, “it’s Shabbat, why not!”
Years later, even after Nana Gert passed away, her words still echo true. In our fast paced world, one weekly Shabbat may not be enough. And why limit ourselves? We have the power to claim Shabbat anytime anywhere we need it! “Shabbat? Why not!”
While it’s nice to take a six-month cruise through the Greek Isles, a one minute “Shabbat” pause during a busy workday can sometimes be just as rejuvenating. Just give yourself permission for a break – physical, emotional or spiritual.
A physical break is easy; take a short walk, do some stretches, take a few deep breaths. Studies show that a simple five minute break from your desk can substantially increase your energy and efficiency and reduce your levels of stress.
An emotional break is equally easy. Sometimes it is simply about managing our expectations. Take a Shabbat from demanding perfection from yourself and those around you. Rest in the knowledge that we are all just human and doing the best we can. As the old saying goes, “lower your expectations and claim a victory!”
Shabbat can also mean taking a moment to meditate or pray. This could be anywhere. You don’t need to be in a church or synagogue or a Nepalese monastery. Taking a spiritual Shabbat break is like charging our cellphone; we are simply taking a moment to access that which empowers us.
Sadly, many of us have the sense that working hard equates to being a good person. Perhaps, we were made to feel that we didn’t deserve to rest? That we didn’t deserve to take care of ourselves? Somewhere along the way we begin to believe that if we are less productive we will be less loved; as if love were based on a market economy.
What are the times in our lives we will remember? Not the board meetings or the political rallies or the committee meetings or the times checking off items on our to-do list. It’s the time spent with friends or family, the time engaged in things about which we are passionate, time spent to renew, gain perspective and heal.
Give yourself permission to rest. Heed the words of Nana Gert: Wednesday? Saturday? Noon? 8 a.m.? Who cares! If you’re tired, stop and rest. Hey, it’s Shabbat. Why not!