17 Suggestions on the Practice of Saying No: Sabbath
Written by Kate Huey
In a world seduced by the word "yes," Barbara Brown Taylor, in her book, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, gently suggests that we make it a spiritual practice to say "no." What better time than Lent to bring the discipline, and the gift, of Sabbath into your life? Here are 17 suggestions inspired by Chapter 8, "The Practice of Saying No."
Color one day a week on your calendar with your favorite color so you can't add anything to your schedule.
"As much as most of us complain about having too much to do," Taylor observes, "we harbor some pride that we are in such demand."
The world will go on without you if you observe a "news fast" for one day each week.
Taylor writes: "It is hard to watch the eleven o'clock news with your heart wide open, letting in the misery of neighbors near and far, and then sleep soundly through the night."
Keep rocking the baby even after she’s gone to sleep, and think of Psalm 131.
"O God, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother…"
Feed the ducks. Sabbath, Taylor writes, "gives us a rest from our own pecking orders..."
"When two sets of grandparents are at the lake with their grandchildren feeding ducks, it is hard to tell the rich ones from the poor ones."
Sabbath and exercise: go swimming, but let yourself float a long time.
"As you slow down," Taylor says, "your heart does, too….you discover more room around your heart, a greater capacity for fresh air."
Seriously—go outside and look at the stars. For a long time. And hear Psalm 8.
"O God…when I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them…"
Put up a hummingbird feeder, or a finch feeder, and let the show begin.
As Anne Lamott writes, "I think joy and sweetness and affection are a spiritual path. We’re here to know God, to love and serve God, and to be blown away by the beauty and miracle of nature."
Take a walk with your dog, your guide to unnoticed marvels, and let him set the pace.
"Days pass, years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles." (from a penitential prayer offered in Jewish homes at the start of Sabbath)
Teach a child to say no to all things electronic, at least for a little while.
Spend some time together, playing with a toy that doesn't require batteries, light up or make a sound (if you can find one).
Sit on your porch or front step or deck or out in the back yard and listen for what you usually miss.
"In the eyes of the world, there is no payoff for sitting on the porch," Taylor writes, "In the eyes of the true God, the porch is imperative – not every now and then but on a regular basis."
Sit mindfully in God's presence and talk out loud to God.
"O God, you have searched me and known me…. Even before a word is on my tongue, O God, you know it completely…. Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." -Psalm 139
Create a Sabbath space in your home and a Sabbath ritual.
"The first holy thing in all creation, Abraham Heschel says, was not a people or a place, but a day." (BBT)
It’s not all about you: Sabbath is God’s gift to all of creation.
"Sabbath is not only about getting a little rest but also about freeing slaves, forgiving debts, restoring property, and giving the land every seventh year off." (BBT)
Share a quiet and simple meal with someone you love, or someone you’d like to get to know better, someone you miss, someone who makes you laugh.
"In my youth, growing up in a Jewish milieu," Abraham Heschel writes, "there was one thing we did not have to look for and that was exaltation. Every moment is great, we were taught, every moment is unique."
Spend time in a garden without working: say no to weeding for now.
"I like to be there then – sitting, listening for the symphony that will come, watching for the light that has been promised, waiting for the show to begin. I am astonished and grateful each time to have been plopped down into this little corner of the Eden given again to us all each day." (Robert Benson, Digging In: Tending to Life in Your Own Backyard)*
Read – with your feet up – you may just fall asleep.
"You can’t get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." (C.S. Lewis)
Get yourself a lap dog or a cat, and take a nap together.
Doing more may make us feel holy, Taylor writes, but "even if you spent one whole day being good for nothing you would still be precious in God’s sight."
Music and Misery The high notes of life have so much more appeal and applause than the low notes. And yet, none of our most enduring melodies and symphonies can be supported and sustained by the high notes alone.