Plan Your 2011 Sabbatical

This Christmas season it seems that everywhere I turn, people are telling me about laying low, reassessing, taking time off, hibernating.

It’s true that winter lends itself to this already, and perhaps my own attunement to this message has to do with the imposed sabbatical that’s just around the corner as my partner and I wait for Baby James to arrive. Seasoned parents, I’m sure, will tell me that having a new baby is not a sabbatical, but I say, why not?

A sabbatical is, according to Wikipedia, a “ceasing,” a rest from work, or a hiatus. For most of us, going nonstop at breakneck speed is just part of what we’ve trained ourselves to do. We’re working, starting and growing businesses, writing books, trying to stay on top of social media. This is only the beginning, and it’s literally exhausting.

One of my writers is taking the month of December off. My mom has devised a series of weeklong workshops for 2011 in which she’s inviting writers, artists, and entrepreneurs to come to her retreat center, Pine Manor, to gift themselves the space to just be with their creative process. Another of my writers, like me, is expecting a baby, and the invitation to approach her away from work as a sabbatical was a welcome relief from the self-imposed pressure she felt around taking time off.

We live in a culture that doesn’t value time off, and so we must carve it out for ourselves. We all know that stepping away from something gives us perspective, and yet too seldom do we actually heed our own instincts for fear that we’ll fall behind, or worse, fall completely off track.

This month I have an offering and an invitation. My offering is a poem by Mark Nepo, the brilliant teacher and poet I have the honor of representing at Three Intentions.

Kiss Everything on Fire

Everyone keeps stopping me with their urgency.
As if the secret of life was written in a corner
of their mind and before they could
read it, it burst aflame.
The first hundred times, I rushed to do their
bidding. Then one day, exhausted by my own
secrets burning, I stopped running and
kissed everything on fire.
And yes, it scarred my lip and now
I have trouble saying anything complicated,
but wind no longer gets trapped in my head.
I know you understand. I’ve seen you suffer
the secrets no one asked us to keep secret. I’ve
seen them burning up your mind. But today,
we can part the veils and let in whatever
it is we thought we had to keep out.
Today, urgency dies because the heart
has burned its excuses.

My invitation is to plan a sabbatical. Perhaps it’s just a week, but find a time to get away in 2011. Get it on your calendar and make no exceptions! It’s not so much a time to put your projects on hold as it is to approach them from a slower, more intentional place and see what’s there for you. Go on retreat, take a “staycation,” rent a beach house for a few days, find silence. And see what opens up when the urgency dies.

Until next month!


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