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Sabbath: How our distracted minds find space?

SYLVIA BOORSTEIN invites us to have a meditative weekly retreat-day called Sabbath.   In this video, she shares how each of us can have a weekly ritual of contemplation, storytelling, and deepening spiritual teachings by taking a day off.  Sylvia shares some of her own personal meditations she does while waiting in line at the grocery store, or when she notices her mind getting pulled into digital distractions.

What is Sabbath?

Sabbath is connected to the word sabbatical – taking time away from work commitments to rest and study new things. This time is generally a period of enriching lives at home and in the workplace.


When is Sabbath?

Every major religion recognizes the need for Sabbath and celebrates it on different days: Muslim’s Sabbath is Friday, Jewish Sabbath is Saturday, and Christian Sabbath is Sunday.

What do traditional Jewish and Christian religions say about Sabbath?

The purpose of Sabbath is to take a time out from employment to identify and connect with the true values of life, in other words to solidify their ethos. In the Hebrew Bible, Exodus 20:10 says the following:

“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10. but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy…”

Both Jewish and Christian prayer services often begin and end with the phrase “may peace be with you”. The Sabbath day is for us to relax so that we can feel peace.


Why is it so hard to observe Sabbath in the US?

Today, we live in an “always plugged in world” where we work well beyond the standard 9 to 5 shift for seven days a week. In the past, before society shifted its focus to a world of commerce, businesses would close and the weekends was the time to visit family, to relax and find peace with nature, and to renew ties with our friends and our faith. Over time, we’ve habituated to an on-the-go lifestyle while completely mitigating a real connection with family and friends, and a sense of inner peace.

What are some traditions with Sabbath?

Depending on the religion, Sabbath can be practiced in many ways. Some are more traditional or formal, like Orthodox Judaism where traveling in a car is not practiced. Activities would generally involve spending time with family, going to the movies or attending the ball game.

Here’s a quick list of various traditions I found from a quick search.  Please comment below to help educate us on your religion and traditions so I can build this link list J

Jewish: See Observe section- http://www.jewfaq.org/shabbat.htm and http://www.orthodox-jews.com/shabbat-observance.html#axzz3Tf4Mwrxf

Muslim: http://muslimvoices.org/do-muslims-observe-the-sabbath/

Christian: See our personal resolution section: http://www.khouse.org/articles/2000/223/

What should we restrain from doing to honor Sabbath?

Sylvia shares a discussion she had with her Rabbi on the appropriate Sabbath activities. She learned that Sabbath activities are meant to restore connection with your family, with the world, to this Earth, and to the cosmos that we’re part of. In essence, Sylvia’s approach has been focused less on the specifics about an activity and more on the intention and how that time nourishes and feeds your heart and soul. For example, gardening may be prohibited, but if it makes you feel good and alive then focus more on it being a Sabbath activity. The same principle applies with using electronics or talking on the phone with family and friends. If the activity honors the overall intention of connection, then let your heart be the ultimate guide.


Electronics Guide for Sabbath and Life

The great values brought forth by the computing age have often made us unaware of where it may limit us. Emails, texts, social media, Google and computers in general have kept us attached to knowing what is happening at any moment. The harm, however, comes when our attachment is so strong that we have a hard time letting go. Our mind believes that we must stay connected. But, this is just an illusion. Most things don’t require immediate attention and can wait a day or longer. During Sabbath, consider creating some space and letting go of your attachment to computers.

Sylvia describes how computers are like bait for our fish-like minds and how our need to know is a lure.


Why is it important to break our trance to electronics?

Sylvia shares her own realization of being immersed while working on her book that she missed the opportunity to really connect with a friend who was ill and suffering. She describes how she used that experience to self reflect and reconnect with her values and what really mattered to her, her friend and love.


“Waiting in line” Meditation

Meditation helps us be present and connect to the world around us. So, what is a meditation we can do while waiting in line for coffee? Waiting in a restaurant? Waiting at a stop light? Sylvia explains what she does during these gaps in her schedule: http://youtu.be/th4iaj599yo?t=14m42s

Why is taking a digital break important?

Today’s innovations are both dazzling and challenging. Electronics often don’t allow us to gain space to relax from a busy day. We’re unable to disconnect from our normal routines, unplug from being entertained and can’t stop ourselves from catching up with the latest news and gossip. In the end, we tend to habitually connect which causes us to miss the experiences that are happening offline.

Sylvia shares a story of when she boarded a train full of people that were busying away on their electronics. Instead of joining the crowd, she decided to talk to the passenger sitting next to her. What transpired from this act of resistance was an unexpected and profound connection with another person.

Sylvia discovered many lessons after her conversation with this passenger. First, she found herself guilty of doing what so many of us do – make up stories that separate us. Next, she realized that a simple inquiry revealed that this seemingly put-together gal sitting next to her was privately going through tremendous stress and suffering. Lastly, she found that the connection with this gal was healing to both her and the stranger when both disconnected from their normal routine.

How often do we zone out and go into another world while traveling? How often do we choose to connect with our “real friends” online while another person is sitting right next to us? We sometimes forget that connecting online can also create a sense of disconnect. Imagine what would happen if the next time you use these moments of pause to connect with a stranger as Sylvia did.


Meditation to use next time you need a break

We use electronics to distract us from our uncomfortable feelings (fatigue, boredom, worry, etc.) and to free us from the drudgery our monotonous routines. Sylvia offers an alternative to try next time you need a break. This meditation will help change the tape playing in your mind. It offers a way to give you a burst of energy and move you from an unhelpful state of mind and into a place of openness and love.


Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered

Online content (shopping, news, blog posts, videos) has the ability to bewitch, bother, and bewilder us. It leaves our minds too full, so we must find time to contemplate and give our mind some space.

When was the last time you were stumped about something? How did you overcome that brief moment of perplexity? The Internet allows us to always be in the “know” and in many ways it is becoming our brains. The merits of having the World Wide Web at our fingertips are clear, but what about the downsides?

Sylvia shares a personal story of how her obsessions for knowing information (e.g.- authors name) had kept her from her meditation retreat and what she learned from that experience upon self-reflection.  http://youtu.be/th4iaj599yo?t=26m9s

How space can heal old traumas

Sylvia explains how our mind creates imprints and how these imprints are a double edged sword. On one hand, imprints allow us to remember a beautiful passage from a favorite author; on the other hand, they bring up traumatic memories.

Sylvia shares a story of Dali Lama’s cultural unfamiliarity with self-loathing. In his culture, we are precious beings and self-loathing is an incomprehensible state. She explains how self-loathing happens as a result of us experiencing tough memories but never creating the space to contemplate and let go of those traumatic events.


About Buddhist Teacher and Author – Sylvia Boorstein

Sylvia Boorstein is a co-founding teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California, where she leads a popular weekly class on Wednesday mornings. She is also a Senior Teacher at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. She lectures nationally on Buddhism and mindfulness; she teaches vipassana and metta meditation. She emphasizes seeing daily life as practice and has a special ability to illustrate how we can be mindful standing in a grocery store checkout line as well as sitting on a meditation cushion.

A practicing psychotherapist since 1967, Boorstein has a Ph.D. in psychology, and has been a presenter at the American Psychiatric Association. Widely respected by her peers, she is often a keynote speaker at Buddhist, interfaith, and meditation conferences.

Her books include It’s Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness; Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There: A Mindfulness Retreat; That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist: On Being a Faithful Jew and a Passionate Buddhist; Pay Attention for Goodness’ Sake: The Buddhist Path of Kindness; and Happiness Is an Inside Job.

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