You don’t have to be a psychologist to realise that life in the 21st Century is increasingly like riding an out of control roller-coaster that continues on, ad-infinititum, with never an opportunity to get off. The result of this is a life full of underlying anxiety, overflowing with stress and beset with lifestyle illnesses and psychological suffering that would have been unimaginable just a few generations ago.
Today I want to suggest to you an idea that may seem radical to many of you, yet would have been blindingly obvious to our forebears. It is a practice that every culture and every religion has encouraged, and which is found in every tribe and nation of the world. Only the most technologically ‘advanced’ nations, equipped with the most labour saving devices per household have found they no longer have time for such a practice, and suffer the physical, psychological and spiritual trauma that results from seeking to perpetually run the engine of their life at maximum revs.
The practice I am speaking of is that of the Sabbath, a day of rest, a lazy day, or as the title of this blog says, a Shalom day. The word Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace, and a Shalom day is a 24 hour period where the entire day spent awake is focussed on regaining our inner equilibrium, finding our centre and getting ourselves anchored in a peaceful state. The benefits are obvious. Our health improves as the stress levels of life are reduced. Our relationships benefit as we learn to release anger and breathe again. Our happiness levels soar as we give ourselves permission to rediscover the wonder of the world around us, and our sleep is invigorated as the neurotic jabbering of an overworked mind is gently hushed and brought to rest.
Taking such a day is like allowing yourself a retreat from the chaotic and hectic world you inhabit the rest of the week to rediscover the joy of simply being. Here are some ideas to get you going:
- Make your Shalom day a tech free day. Switch off your phone, computer, TV and radio the evening before and leave it off until the next morning.
- Wake up slowly and sit in bed with a cup of tea. Take time to look from your window, to feel your body coming alive, to take some deep, thankful breaths.
- Whatever you do today, do it s-l-o-w-l-y. This is not a day for rush. Tear up your schedules and to-do lists.
- Spend some some meditating, praying, slowly reading an inspirational book and allowing time to really ponder its message.
- Take a slow walk in the country. Try to encounter all you see as though it were the first time you are seeing it.
- Eat your food slowly and mindfully, tasting deeply the flavours and textures.
- Do a little craft work. Hand write a letter to someone you love. Gaze at a flower. Wonder at the stars.
- One Thing Only! Today is not a day for multi-tasking. Whatever you are doing, just do that one thing. If you are washing up, wash up like you are bathing the baby Jesus. If you are writing, just write. Be present, body, mind and soul in every activity of the day.
- Sit beside some water; a lake or a river for example. Allow your soul to be restored. Listen to the lap of each wave. Lose yourself in the moment.
- Go to bed early. Give thanks for all the blessings in your life. Read some of your favourite childhood novel before you fall asleep.
You cannot give to anyone that which you do not possess yourself. Taking a day like this may seem self-indulgent, but to nurture peace within yourself is the best gift you can give everyone around you. And out of the blessings of your Shalom day, you will be able to minister Shalom to all those you come in contact with.