Sabbatical: any extended period of leave from one’s customary work, especially for rest, to acquire new skills or training, etc.
Unintentional: not intentional or deliberate.
In My Unintentional Sabbatical – Part I, I shared my mindful vacation lessons and how I intended to maintain this slower, sustainable pace throughout summer. Returning from vacation in early July, I felt more rested than I had since having my son three years ago. The long-forgotten sense of clear thought and energy became familiar once again.
Acadia National Park
Entering into summer restored was just the jump-start I needed tooffer myself more permission to simply be, to ease up on the to-do list and enjoy the little daily pleasures. There was still some work involved, but it was kept to the basics of seeing my psychotherapy clients without the added tasks of writing, social media, or various other projects.
It was a delightful season of play, as the unusually temperate weather practically insisted on perpetual outdoor presence. A morning bike ride or walk with the dog; playing trucks in the dirt with my son; lots of locally made ice cream; gardening; ball playing; trail running; the occasional chilly, blue-lipped, teeth-chattering swim; and dinner on the gazebo until the sun began its colorful, vibrant descent.
Much time was spent searching for toads.
At the end of a long day, my little guy’s bath water rinsed off the accumulated dirt, sand, and sweat. Scrubbed clean, smelling delicious and snuggling on my lap, we read and recapped the full day. After he settled in for a peaceful slumber, I had time for a movie or leisurely talk with my daughter and husband without the nagging worry of a pre-dawn wake up time rapidly approaching.
Fresh from vacation, those early July days originated with me unintentionally choosing this pace. I love to write, but with the family always at the ready to dive into another beautiful summer day, amusement and fun easily won out. I didn’t fight it.
After a short while, the little judging voice in my head appeared, accosting me with thoughts related to not working, not writing, not being productive. When I first noticed this, I spent some time reflecting on the judgments and how I wanted to spend my summer. Did I want to heed that judging voice? Was it okay to, in some respects, take the summer off?
It was a huge relief to offer myself permission and I soon came to think of this summer as my Unintentional Sabbatical. I suppose at that moment it morphed from unintentional into an intentional one.
The kids enjoying a chalkboard project I worked on with my dad.
Every so often I would be visited by the judging voice urging me to get to work. I would notice this and remind it (and myself) that this was a time to rest, recharge, and connect with my family in a deep way that is simply not possible during the school year.
Play and rest first chose me. Then I chose them. It has been beautiful and memorable and utterly worth it.
As the summer wraps up I am feeling invigorated and ready to write with a rekindled sense of energy and perspective.
We all need some time and space to open up to renewed energy and creativity. This need not be in the form of a summer-long break. Five minutes of daily stillness offers the same benefit on a smaller scale. Meditation – those few moments we take to pause and notice – is much like an abbreviated version of an intentional summer sabbatical.
The key is to stop and be still in order to hear the voice inside that is yearning for more play, more rest, and more mindful living of our days. It informs our decisions in a way that is impossible if we never slow down to listen. We then are able to step out of our automatic conditioning, able to hear the judging voice and assess what is needed, what is wanted, and what may be, ultimately, unnecessary.
I believe when I think back on this summer filled with connection, play, and self-care, I will not remember the writing that did not happen, the projects not completed. The absence of those things has already faded in my memory. No, when all is said and done I will reminisce about a summer filled with what, in the end, really matters.
A peaceful moment of stillness and reflection.
As school commences this week, I am filled with gratitude for the Unintentional (turned Intentional) Summer Sabbatical and all of its blessings and lessons. Feeling both wistful for the summer and excited for the fall, I remind myself to come back over and over to this moment. It is a practice. It is a choice. We can set the pace of our moments, our days, our lives.
May we not get so caught in the busyness that we lose sight of what matters most.
Wishing you and your children a wonderful, mindful school year.