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Behaving as if the To Do List is Done!
by Oralee Stiles
What would you do, how would you be if everything were done? What if you could be with friends or family without feeling like you were stealing the time from something you were supposed to do or something you started but hadn’t finished? What would it be like to have a day with NO list of things to do?

If this sounds like a bit of heaven, that is how it is meant to sound. The way to get an immediate taste of this is to BEHAVE AS IF it is true. There is something very powerful about the rhythm in the creation chapter of Genesis. All the work of creation is done in six days and the seventh is a day of rest, a day of respect for the natural rhythms of life, a day to be set apart and made Holy, a Sabbath.

This may sound simple or easy. I found it very difficult to do. I had integrated the value and pressure of work through my years of owning the book and resource store, Stiles For Relaxation. When I took time off there was a nagging sense I “should” be doing something else. Today there continue to be so many choices and so many competing demands for how to spend time. I tried taking a Sabbath day here and there but nothing worked with consistency.

When I am visiting my converted Orthodox Jewish daughter and her family in New York, I do as they do and observe the Sabbath. Here in Portland, I’m not in a community that holds that value. I have seen the weekend as a time to do different things, but I had no reason to not be doing work as well. In fact, I felt no freedom from work. There was always something more that needed to be done - professional work, house or yard work, shopping. A “to do” list constantly circled my head.

In 1999, I finally had enough desire and enough courage to keep the Sabbath on Sundays. In terms of work, I see Saturday night butting right up against Monday morning. Sunday just does not exist for work. Sunday is my freedom day now. I keep it for time with family, friends or a worshipping community, for time to read uplifting and spiritually inspiring books, for naps, for being in nature, for luxuriously long meditation and prayer times.

I keep it free of work, of shopping, of anything on my “to do” list. It is a day to taste the sense of completion. I behave as if there is nothing I need to get done. It is a glorious day for me now. I want to keep it. I have to guard it carefully from my working ways and from the culture around me. Many temptations and rationalizations come up in my mind. I have to be very clear and very intentional. Keeping the day set apart is very much like mindfulness meditation. As temptations come up to distract me or to do work, I notice them and let them pass through my mind. I return my focus to what the day is about for me.

Interestingly, I find I get as much or more done during the week with less burn out. I know Sunday is coming and on that day I experience what it is like to have the weight of my doing lifted off my being. I breathe fully and joyously. I enter a different experience of time. Instead of rushing, I am lingering. Instead of moving to what’s next, I am appreciating the moment. I slow down and feel a deep gratitude for Life and for the people I now have time to enjoy. What a blessing!

Putting this practice solidly in my life has been one of major benefits for me of the Lighten UP philosphy. In the Lighten UP classes, I teach about the value of the Sabbath in one’s life to support the process of making changes and honoring natural rhythms. Another way the teaching impacts my life and helps others is in understanding and valuing ourselves in our own unique processes. I have developed more compassion for how I function - what works and doesn’t work for me. While my load has been lightened in my external world, it is my internal world that is experiencing the most benefit.

Oralee Stiles is a Spiritual Director, leads women’s and men’s spirituality groups, is coproducer and host of PrimeTimers, an AT&T cable television show and teaches Lighten UP classes with Ellen Montgomery and Marzenda Stiles McComb. Call 503-288-8058 for further information.

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