by Joey Horvath
Module Five: Reading and Reflection on Contemplative Living
Reference: Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in Our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller
I suppose I’ve always honored Sabbath to some extent; however, it wasn’t until I read the book “Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in Our Busy Lives” by Wayne Muller that I was able to embrace a more holistic application of it in my life. I wasn’t aware until recently just how inconsistent my approach to Sabbath has been. Hence, I have become more intentional about my practices and as a result I have begun to experience with greater freedom the fruits that Sabbath offers.
I have recently started to light a candle when entering into Contemplative Prayer in the morning and when engaging in the Awareness Examen at night. It’s a good reminder for me that I’m standing on holy ground and that it should be approached in an appropriate manner. The simple act of lighting a candle helps me to feel more grounded when entering into prayer by encouraging my heart, mind, body and soul to arrive at the place of prayer at the same time.
Throughout my life I have been prone to anxiety, which has manifested itself physically in the form of chronic fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, difficultly concentrating, irritability, agitation, restlessness and sleeplessness. I have a tendency to push the river far too often; however, I am slowly learning to “seek recovery every 90-120 minutes” throughout the day to combat this compulsion.  I’m beginning to consistently step away from whatever I’m engaged in by “eating something, hydrating, moving physically and changing channels both mentally and emotionally”.  These mini-Sabbaths are helping me to establish calm, focus and rest in the midst of the busyness of life.
I am learning to appreciate how important breathing is as a form of meditation. I’m finding that by closing my eyes and simply following my breath at different times throughout the day, I’m better able to cope with the in-the-moment and daily stressors that present themselves. Far too often my breath feels quite labored; however, when I focus on the rhythm of my breath I sense it becoming less restricted and freer flowing. My heart rate begins to slow, the fog in my brain starts to lift and the tightness in my body slowly releases.
Muller quotes a clergyman who told him, “When I spend any time at all in nature I open up, I rekindle a relationship with the natural world. I lose any sense of neediness, and the world opens herself to me. After a while, I feel there is nothing I am seeking, nothing I need.”  Like the clergyman, time spent in nature is such a blessing for me. When I’m outside, I feel alive! I go for walks along the beach virtually every day, which is rejuvenating for me. I love the cool, crisp air and how it feels on my face. I love how open and hopeful life seems when walls, density and demands don’t confine me. I feel more open to receive the Lord’s blessings.
It’s one thing when I step out for a good brisk walk but it’s another thing altogether when I step out just for a stroll. Life slows down and I’m able to see things as they are. Like the crow that sat beside me while I was watching the dogs play at the beach the other day. Normally, I wouldn’t have paid it much attention. But on that day, this creature and how it lives its life captivated me. I was drawn into the moment and the moment was enough.
Lately, I’ve been exploring “Sabbath Walks” with greater intentionality. Yesterday, I was drawn to a grassy area near the beach where I decided to lay down. Initially, my thoughts were racing; however, it wasn’t long before I found myself without a care in the world. I can’t remember the last time this happened. I basked in the sun and watched the birds fly overhead while I planted my bare feet into the coolness of the grass. I felt truly present and relaxed. What a blessing to bask in God’s creation without any time or thought pressures. My body felt light, my mind felt at ease and I eventually drifted off. I felt safe. I awoke refreshed with a smile on my face.
Last weekend I attended a BBQ at a friends place and his two young daughters asked me to play soccer with them in the backyard. It was so fun to just “play” like a kid again; however, I noticed that I was quite competitive while doing so. I had to win, just not by too much as they’re only 6 and 8 years old! I experienced a joy that I haven’t felt in awhile. Ah, to be a kid again! Why not?
A few times lately I have found myself taking my time getting out of bed on Sunday mornings. It’s so refreshing to allow the Sabbath to unfold at its own pace. I’m able to approach the day with a greater sense of freedom and the day seems fuller for it.
I am realizing just how much I need Sabbath. I’m finding that I’m becoming more intentional and disciplined about it and my soul is thankful for the new rhythm that is being established. Perhaps the souls of others I’m in contact with will be as well. As Muller suggests, “At our best, we become Sabbath for one another.” 
References: &  Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz; The Making of a Corporate Athlete (Harvard Business Review, January 2001)  &  Wayne Muller; Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in Our Busy Lives (Bantam Books, September 2000)