and on the 7th day

handmade chopstick rests

I have long been fascinated by the concept of the “Sabbath” and it’s many derivations. Most of us are familiar with it in a religious context, a part of the biblical story of Creation. The first time I learned about keeping the Sabbath beyond “God rested on the 7th day,” was when my pastor in high school discussed the concept of rest at length. What he said made a lot of sense to my harried, have-to-get-a-scholarship-or-else mind.

Rest is important. It heals, it energizes, it recharges.

The next time I heard about the concept of the Sabbath was at a conference in college. This time it wasn’t the weekly sabbath they were talking about. It was a seven year cycle. Do you know about this? It’s so cool: every seven years, the people of Israel were to take a whole year off from agriculture. Slaves who had worked for 6 years were to go free. Debts were reduced to zero. The civilization was reborn every 7 years.

Rest is important. It teaches us to prepare, to go free, to be generous.

Recently, I heard an interview with Judith Shulevitz, author of The Sabbath World, where she described the general principle behind the rules of traditional Sabbath keeping:

the basic principle uniting all of these rules is about acknowledging that humans do not exert mastery over the world

Hearing this was a real light bulb moment for me. Whether in mowing the grass, cooking a meal, knitting a scarf, drawing a picture, or coding a website, every act of creation is in some small way an act of mastery over our physical world. Our ability to create, to posit new ideas, to carve something out of nothing is what makes us human, separates us from the rest of the natural world.

What happens when we take a day off from creating? from “exerting mastery over the world?”

We melt back into the fabric of the universe. We see things as they really are and not how we want them to be. We reclaim the bonds of family & friendship. We are no longer separate from the world, but a part of it. Of course, the religious tradition of the Sabbath is beautiful but I think the idea has something to teach all of us, regardless of our faith tradition.

Rest is important. It cushions us, reconnects us, rescues us.

Would you consider keeping a creative sabbath? Turning off the creative switch can be just as difficult as trying to turn it on. It can also be terrifying. If you need help to flip the switch, give these ideas a try:

Observe. Observation can be very much the opposite of creativity. Allow the creative output of others to wash over you. Sit still and watch the world. Absorb the broad scope of creation with every breath and movement.

Journal. Okay, journaling is a creative act. But I mean the kind of journaling that is a reaction to the world not an effort to shape it. Stream of consciousness. Recording ideas as they come but not acting on them. Allow yourself to observe your own thoughts as they appear in your journal.

Participate. Be present. Eat, talk, and read with a special mindfulness. Allow yourself the experience of truly participating in the world you’re living in. Don’t worry about control, wallow in submission.

Rest is a big ol’ invitation for the creative spirit to take control of you.

When your rest is complete, you will find yourself more able to handle the tasks ahead of you. You’ll find yourself better able to exert control of your creative process. Deliberate rest gives you the power to be unapologetically inspired the vast majority of the time. I’ve been glad to reclaim this idea since hearing that interview. I don’t mind putting off chores, working til all hours of the night, or wearing myself thin as long as I have a period of deliberate rest, a period of submission.

Do you allow yourself rest? Do you relinquish control of your world? Do you keep a Sabbath?

{above: handmade chopstick rests by sumiko}

16 thoughts on “and on the 7th day

  1. I am trying to keep this concept of taking a day to rest, spend time on my family, and leaving the computer alone. Summer is one of my busy seasons and rest is so hard to accomplish when my mind wants to ponder about what I should be doing to take over my sewing world instead. Thanks for your thoughts on what resting accomplishes aside from the religious aspect.

    1. Lori – I’m ALL for taking over the world! And most of the time, I work hard, with wild abandon (is that even possible??). But I recognize the need to step aside – which normally only comes about once a week.

      I think we strive for this imaginary “balance” thing – when really what we need is crazy hectic productivity the vast majority of the time. Then – at the appointed hour – we rest like we’ve never rested before.


  2. While I don’t set aside a certain day for rest, I’m learning to be more in tune with when my body/brain is telling me I need to step away from work. I am usually reluctant, but find that I am rewarded with clarity and a better perspective when I know when to “pause”.

    1. Hey Bonnie! I don’t think a certain day is important. In my experience though, using a day (any day) is a good strategy. It helps me focus & produce much more the other 6 days.

  3. When I used to go to work, I find it SO important to take a mandatory one day off for myself to rest after a hectic week, otherwise, I get (even) crankier come Monday and a lot less productive the next week.

    Now that I am spending time on starting my business full time, it’s a lot harder to schedule time to rest because you don’t have a set framework where the workweek ends on Friday, and I feel guilty when I do rest, if that makes sense….

  4. Wow. Wow wow wow. This might be one of my favorite of your posts to date. I’m constantly struggling to make time for rest and am feeling the need for it now more than ever. Last night our power was out for two hours and it was the most peaceful two hours I can remember in a long time. My husband & I just sat in the dark with only a few candles lit and we just “were”. We’re now thinking about having a weekly intentional “power outage” (bar the air conditioner of course!). Thanks for continuing to dig deep and sharing your thoughts with us!

  5. Wow…This is excellent. A needed reminder! As a type A, I will literally just work, work, work without a break if only it weren’t for the need to clean house, bathe, get the garden taken care of, and make meals. No joke. “Rest” and “vacation” are almost foreign words to me, yet as Melanie said, when we have had power outages…I just feel so fresh and relaxed afterwards! It’s amazing! It really is time to carve out ‘nothing’ time where I am not involved in anything, anything related to work. Thanks for this one, it’s food for thought.

  6. hey tara!

    i’ve been “resting” since 6/22 and it’s been wonderful.

    i feel like a new person – truly relaxed and more present for my kids. but i must admit – my brain hasn’t stopped swirling with new ideas. LOL.

    rest is good! thanks for the reminder.


  7. this is my favorite posting of yours (but that’s what i always think to myself whenever i read your blog)! i had no idea that a 7 year renewal was a tradition…but that really makes a *lot* of sense.

    escaping to the forest with my family whenever i/we feel that a creative break is necessary is my way to rest. we pick wild mushrooms, asparagus or berries, take a swim and come back feeling like we can take on anything as a family. its been fortuitous for my business as well…i think that the subconscious is so nourished by these outings that creativity just blossoms out of control for a while. and then rest…repeat.

  8. I don’t set aside a particular day per se either. With my two jobs I have a pretty hectic schedule already, then add in family obligations and spur-of-the-moment boyfriend distractions… scheduling rarely goes the way I want it to. I do however recognize my limits, and try to take at least a couple hours a week to myself just to ‘recharge’ by doing something fun and relatively mindless, like playing my DS, or watching Doctor Who. :)

  9. Hah, timely question.

    I attaneded a Jewish Orthodox school and we visited orthodox families in NY: we spent a few Shabbats there. As a school girl I found them boring :-)…but now I deeply understand this tradition, and I agree with it.

    As for the Shabbat for creative energies: I am trying my best. I feel and know that I need rest, but the little voice inside me starts to speak after a day of doing nothing that “you shoud do something for your business”. So I am learning how to switch off at home…I have no problems with swithing off when I am abroad :-)

  10. This is such a timely post for me. I am struggling with family time/housekeeping/business hours and trying to do it all. Your ideas really clarified things for me. Resting, being in the moment, switching it off is so important to a healthy frame of mind. Thanks.

  11. This is so hard to do & yet so worth the ‘effort.’ We all need to recharge & rejuvenate. Our minds will often force us to rest, if we don’t take the time on our own & shut the creativity down, kind of like writer’s block. Thanks for more great advice & another great post!

  12. I try to keep a ‘sabbath’ – I think it’s a good idea, it is essentially ‘following the manufactures instructions for use if you want to get the best out of this product’ :)
    So – I try not to do any laundry or any other housework which means there is more time for building things out of lego and rollerblading.
    The other thing I do on my blog/design journal is a ‘Something Different Sunday’ post – basically this can be anything so long as it is not jewellery related. It has been a good discipline and has meant that I have revived other crafts and hobbies – it’s just good to do something where you aren’t worrying about ‘will this sell?’, ‘this is taking too long, it’s not commercially viable!’ etc

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