Guest Post: A Secular Sabbath

This guest post is part of my blog break festival. The festival continues through December, so please check it out and consider submitting a post! Also, don’t forget to enter my birth jewelry giveaway.

I was happy to review Sarah’s book earlier this year and I absolutely love this guest post from her explaining how digital sabbaticals work in her own life. At our own house we have been observing “computer off day” every Sunday for a number of years. It is most excellent—amazing how much “more time” appears in my life when the digital noise is silenced for a spell. I do need to make sure I commit to having Sundays be “app off days” too, because I didn’t have those devices when I started the practice and it is very easy to trick myself into thinking it is okay to check, “just one thing” on Sunday as long as it isn’t on a computer! (Of course, these days I use my i-devices more often than my laptop anyway)

A Secular Sabbath

by Sarah Whedon

“It is one thing to race or be driven by the vicissitudes that menace life, and another thing to stand still and to embrace the presence of an eternal moment.” -Abraham Joshua Heschel in The Sabbath

 I love that I had the mental space to generate the idea for this guest post while I was taking a short break from everything to do with blogging.

 You see, my dreams at night had begun taking the distressing form of social media streams: Facebook, Twitter, Hootsuite, Google+, GoogleReader, email, Moodle, Skype, WordPress. (Side note: these are all web-based tools with free versions that I use regularly. There, now if you go look one up, reading about taking a break was also productive.) 

I spend most of my time at home with young kids, but I also manage to volunteer for a couple of reproductive health and justice organizations, Chair an online seminary department, and manage a blog, because I can do most of it online from home using those apps.

My dreams were a warning sign, though, about how I was managing my time and mental resources. I listened, and I decided that once a week I would observe a social media Sabbath. I originally got the idea of limiting technology use once a week from Michael Pollan, whose version is about greening your lifestyle, which is also appealing.

He, of course, got the Sabbath idea from Jewish tradition, in which the day is a time to rest from work, and focus on family and holy things. Michael Pollan’s version doesn’t borrow much from the rich traditions of Jewish observance, my version isn’t exactly like Michael Pollan’s version, and if you decide to observe a secular sabbath, yours won’t be exactly like mine.

Here’s what I do: from 6:30am to 6:30pm on Fridays I’m officially off social media (in practice it’s usually a few hours longer). I don’t use any of the apps I’ve listed above, nor do I do “just one quick Google search” to look something up that I get curious about. I do use my smart phone to take pictures of my kids, navigate around town, and (gasp) talk to loved ones, because those aren’t the uses that were causing me trouble. 

When I observe my version of a secular Sabbath I find that I’m more present all day Friday, and actually all the other days, too. Nobody minds that I’m offline for a day, especially because I set Friday posts to run in advance, and let people know I won’t be available. I don’t dream about social media anymore. And when I step away from the constant input of internet data, I can have my own ideas, like the idea that while Molly is trying to take a bit of a break, I can share how I take my break. 

So that’s how I’ve been claiming some rest time each week for the past month or so. Do you take technology fasts or Sabbaths? How do you do it?

Sarah Whedon is Chair of the Department of Theology and Religious History at Cherry Hill Seminary and is the founding editor of Pagan Families: Resources for Pagan Pregnancy and Birth. Sarah’s teaching, research, and advocacy work center around topics of spirituality, feminism, and reproduction. She makes her home in San Francisco with her partner and their children.Whedon2crop.jpg

4 thoughts on “Guest Post: A Secular Sabbath

  1. Pingback: Blog Break Festival! | Talk Birth

  2. Pingback: From the editor’s desk: On the web

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