Holidays, Living, Politics, Spiritual Disciplines

Shalom Days

IMG_1018You 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. 

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Allotment, Simplicity, Sustainability

Eden, Allotments and Thoreau.

GetFileAttachment-1Right now I’m sitting on a collapsible chair looking over one tenth of an acre of well tilled soil hiding the precious seeds that will provide my family with sustenance for the year. It’s a long way from the wilderness we inherited from the last residents and represents some pretty back-breaking work through what has been an incredibly tough year; but somehow the satisfaction is greater than words can describe.

I do believe that our first year working the land has taught us more about life, the universe and everything than an entire university degree could have afforded us, and for little more than the £15 annual fee we pay for the privilege. We have begun to learn the lore of the land, the wisdom of the honest earth and the rhythms of nature in a way we could never have known locked in an office cubicle peering at a virtual world displayed upon the screen of a computer. We have watched the swallows soaring in their magnificently choreographed flights and known the joy of foraging blackberries, plums and chestnuts in the wilderness that lies adjacent to our little plot. We have breathed lungfulls of soft summer air and shivered in biting wind and dug the earth as it miraculously transformed from stone to crumbly soil and back to stone again. We have observed the dance of pollinating bees and started to catch a glimpse of the magic of this incredible system that turns inorganic into organic and then into the stuff of life itself, only to recycle itself back into the ground from whence it came. When in 1845, Thoreau, “went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived” he was simply looking for a kind of life that fitted more closely the geography of his heart. I think the search is universal and timeless.

If life is about happiness and peace, then God chose a wise habitat for our forefathers when he placed them in a garden and told them to till the soil. Modern man’s self imposed exile from the simple act of digging the earth and growing crops sends him searching for an automated, flat packed, zip-locked Eden that lies just around the next technological corner or consumer purchase. But the exile is self imposed. Perhaps it’s time for the children of the generation that, “paved paradise and put up a parking lot” to reclaim the inheritance given freely to all peoples of the earth by their creator, tear up the parking lot and plant a tree..

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Holidays

Resolutions for 2017

This is the time of year when we all like to review the course of our lives and tweak our trajectory to help ensure our direction remains true to our heart. Here then are my personal resolutions for 2017. Please feel free to hold me to them and post your own if you feel brave!

1. Recognising that there is more to life than simply going faster, I resolve to slow down in 2017 in order to appreciate the wonder around me right now rather than pursue a future that is not guaranteed.

2. Aware that the most important thing I have to do right now is the thing I am currently doing, I resolve to live deeply in the moment. If I worship, I worship with all my heart. If I listen, I listen with all my attention. If I drink tea, I drink tea with perfect mindfulness.

3. Knowing that 2017 will bring untold suffering to millions, I resolve to live in such a way that helps relieve the suffering of those I am in contact with and helps reduce the overall burden that my life places on the world around me.

The secret with changing your life is to make small changes consistently and review those decisions continually.  Don’t wait until you’re a billion miles off course before you try to course-correct or the new direction won’t last long. Instead, make a little tweak then another little tweak until you’re lined up with where you want to go.  Don’t become obsessed with getting where you’re going though – the destination is absolutely secondary to the journey!  Review every evening.  Take a few moments before you go to bed to take a look at how you have lived your day.  Was it congruent to the decisions you made at the beginning of the year about the type of journey you wanted to take?  Do you need another small course-correction?  

May 2017 be your best year ever and may you find rest for your heart and joy in the journey.  May your path be filled with light, your valleys be filled with hope, and every step be filled with peace.

Tom & Jo  xx

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