Your Life Needs You to Stop the Chaos and Start Fueling Your Soul
It happened so quickly. My face went flush with a sudden swirl of dizziness. I’m sure I began to move with the motion of the car as the dizzy threw my balance off kilter. But I was sitting, not standing. In fact, I was in the driver’s seat. Alone in the car as I felt my head begin to float and my strength begin to fade. I gripped the wheel tighter, then my breath got short.
I was on the freeway, in traffic, heading home from work. The pain in my left arm was growing and moving quickly into my chest. Or was it the other way around? I couldn’t catch my breath and started sweating. A lot. I knew I had to get to the side of the road but I was so confused. “This isn’t happening” I said to myself as I gripped harder and tried to keep my focus, my consciousness, and the car straight. But the sweat, the dizziness and pain were winning. Weeks before, a co-worker, a valued friend and team member of my organization, had passed away in her car while sitting in traffic with her kids in the back seat. Now it was happening to me. I was sure of it. I made it to the berm, stopped, and then made a call for help.
This was 1998 and the juggling act and stress of my life at that time had peaked and the underlying mental and emotional chaos (that I had done well keeping inside) was now spilling out physically in a terrible way. And while there are 100 lessons for a lifetime that come along with this moment, it was the call for help that landed me with a therapist, and a subsequent sabbatical, that I want to talk about today.
Because someone needs this today.
Someone with escalating chaos and underlying stress needs to read and listen… and avoid what nearly did me in.
A sabbatical is an extended period of time (many weeks, maybe months, sometimes years) where one disconnects from and leaves behind core and day-to-day responsibilities, work and routines for a completely different environment — a completely different set of daily patterns. This is done in order to step into a clear and specified state of being, different than the one before. Sounds great, right? So much harder to do than say, I know. Yet it is so much needed and should be far more valued than anyone thinks.
It is not a vacation or short time away. That’s a different thing. This is a complete and comprehensive change of situation intended to give the mind, body and soul its best opportunity to heal, focus, be enriched and/or anchor in an intended purpose. A cycle of renewal. A cycle that we all need and must learn to embrace, but hardly any of us do.
Sabbaticals are used for mental health, physical healing and/or spiritual renewal. And in conjunction it creates moments for potential career changing clarity, character strengthening, professional direction, academic discovery or moments for massive creativity, creation and life clarity. It shouldn’t have to come to an emergency sabbatical as it did for me, but those are important too. Especially when the sirens go off.
Sabbaticals are unfortunately rarely used in a culture where productivity is worshiped, success is tied to activity and years of conditioning have made “family” more defined by “responsibility” and “presence” than deep love and faithful connection in time of need. Yet, in no other time in history could this be as important as it is right now. The 24×7 go-mode culture of achievement and ‘keeping up with everyone around me’ is real. As they say, “the struggle is (very) real.”
The concept of the sabbatical is based on the Biblical practice of shmita. According to Leviticus 25, Jews in the Land of Israel were instructed by God to take a year-long break from working the fields every seven years. A “sabbatical” is built into God’s word and modeled by God from the very beginning, when after six days of creating, “on the seventh day God rested”. In early modern times a sabbatical came to mean an extended absence in the career of an individual to fulfill some career or lifelong goal: e.g., writing a book, travelling extensively, research.
That fact is, however, sabbaticals are needed as a regular cycle of renewal and purpose.
Unfortunately, today’s society has them ill-used and little talked about. While many companies actually support and offer both paid and unpaid extended leaves, people do not ask and do not try. Generally, people do not have the courage to rise above the stigma and thoughts that others place on disconnecting and leaving responsibility behind. Even when it’s for an extended period of mental, emotional or physical health focus. The approval of others (“what would they think?”) along with the ingrained inputs of culturally accepted norms and the unabridged values of past generations (“you can’t disconnect from your family, your friends, your children”) prevent us from caring for ourselves in much needed ways.
Sabbaticals aren’t just another word for vacation. They’re a word for an active pursuit of purpose and health. Humans were never meant to deal with the “always on / never off” routines that today’s technological and generational shifts have produced. And even without these shifts, from the beginning “sabbatical” was demonstrated by both God and man through disconnection of the day-to-day and pausing of responsibility, to rest… recover, renew.
When was the last time you had complete sustained disconnection?
Today’s world is full of never stop Instagram inputting, news feeding, work productivity, child needing, keep up with the Jones’ material greeding —- and that noise not only makes it hard to hear, but also creates an environment that accelerates the deterioration of our mind, body and souls.
Yet, we are so afraid of what others might think if we truly do what our entire system, our entire selves, our entire bodies, minds and souls are asking of us.. telling us.
We are so afraid of the “cost” of disconnecting.
Yet no one accounts for the “cost” of not.
The cost of sabbatical is real, there is no doubt. It may require sacrifice and trade-offs. Sacrifice that will feel very real in the here and now. But sacrifices that in the scheme of life will indeed only be temporary.
The cost of not disconnecting? The cost of not leaving, unplugging, and arranging for the care of the things and people that will continue without you? The cost of not doing those things is a slow fade. Hard to see. But real. Very real.
And one more thing.
That cost is not temporary. It is permanent.
And slowly the wheels will come off one by one… over time… and eventually you are done. And those things and those people you were so afraid of temporarily disappointing and being without… they are gone from you too.
Take a sabbatical. Begin planning now.
If you can only do weeks, do weeks. But get yourself there.
One thing I’ve learned in my years (and I wish I would’ve understood this earlier) is that what you think is not possible, likely is. Go further, you can do it, plan your sabbatical. Start now.
The noise is real and the deterioration is accelerating.
Your body is telling you. Your mind already knows. Your soul is carrying weight it cannot sustain.
Let Go and Let’s Go.
A testimonial – A final note from one person with a busy life, young children, juggling careers and trying to maintain a high standard of living and upper-class lifestyle… courtesy of Bianca Alexander and www.concsciouslivingtv.com
“I took my first spiritual sabbatical in the mystical vortexes of Sedona, Arizona after reaching a personal and professional crossroads. My husband Michael was earning good money, but lacking deeper meaning working as a corporate consultant. Despite early success in Hollywood, my on-camera career had reached a disappointing plateau. When Michael lost his biggest client and my agent sent me on my 10th Burger King commercial (though I was vegetarian!), I took it as a sign from the Universe. It was time to move in another direction. After a deep meditation, we decided to unplug from an everyday routine that was no longer working for us and temporarily move to Northern Arizona.
For ten magical months, we meditated, hiked majestic red rocks and recalibrated our life goals. Though it was hard to leave the comfortable familiarity of everyday life, our careers and loved ones in L.A., the time away helped us realign with more important personal, professional and spiritual priorities. We did make time to visit the children on several occasions, but in the end, it was a complete time away and our lives were forever changed — changed in wholly and fully unexpected and unanticipated ways… for the better.”