Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sabbath Survival

One of the foundational concepts for the farm, and for my own notion of sustainability from a human point of view, was the biblical concept of Sabbath. "Six days you shall toil, on the seventh you shall rest." (A loose paraphrase garbled together from many translations, I'm sure.)

It's an important concept for sustainable farming...at least for sustaining the farmer. It's a good preventative health program for maintaining sanity and avoiding burnout. Things will NEVER be "caught up" or "done"; you can't wait til those mythical times to reward yourself with a break because you'll work yourself to death trying to achieve the unachieveable.

So the Sabbath is a very practical system for scheduling "arbitrary" or "artificial" breaks on a regular basis, in just about the right balance most of the time.

Until my Sabbatical (taking the seventh year off to rest self and fields) a few years ago, I kept the Sabbath pretty regularly. My sabbath was a bit off kilter, to accommodate the realities of interweaving my spiritual/farming life with the modern workaday world "out there". My Sabbath started when I was entirely unpacked from Farmer's Market on Saturday and ended after church on Sunday. That let me work Saturday morning (Market) and Sunday afternoon (prime time for people to want to bring their families out the farm on THEIR Sabbath--a rest for them, but work for me as a tour guide). It worked pretty well.

Al that changed when I returned to the farm after my Sabbatical to find it in shambles, and concurrently had the opportunity to purchase the land next door: Big financial and work sinkholes. One of the casualties of my current life structure--full time off-farm job in addition to the farm in addition to the new property--has been having a Sabbath "rest day". I don't seem to have ANY dedicated time off, let along a whole day. But somehow I mostly don't miss it. I feel sustained anyway.

I was reflecting on this today, and realized that before Sabbatical, my Sabbath practice or "rule" has been that the Sabbath is a time when I don't have work. But what is "work" when nearly everything I do is stuff I like doing, even if I AM exhausted? Is spinning a relaxing hobby or a value-added enterprise? Is gardening a pastime or a career? In various traditions, many entertainment and social activities have been banned on the Sabbath. Pre-Sabbatical, I eventually arrived at a loose interpret that worked well for me: simply, that I didn't have to do anything I didn't want to do. But I was also supposed to keep the focus on God during the Sabbath, so that my activities were undertaken in a spirit of praise, rejoicing, prayer, meditation, etc.

Today's insight is that during "the week" we do what the world wants us to do; our focus wanders wherever it will. On the Sabbath we do what God wants us to do; we try to keep the focus on God.

Now, since both the farm and the off-farm job are ministry work--God's work--to me in a very real sense, I am ALWAYS doing what God wants me to do. And so every day is a Sabbath day, renewing and sustaining me in miraculous ways.

I know there will come a time when I will need to spend my Sabbath time in prayer and meditation. of a different kind that driving the bus, pulling weeds, teaching apprentices. This current pace is not sustainable in the long term. But for now (God willing) it seems to be working...as long as I keep my focus on God.

Does that answer all your questions about how I can DO everything I'm doing in my life right now? It's my best explanation.

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