By: Angela May
What if wasting time was the most productive thing you could do this week?
No, not mindlessly thumbing through social media reels on your phone or whatever else you do to tune out your responsibilities. I mean intentionally giving yourself permission to rest or play. Some of us need permission to enjoy what is known as a Sabbath Day.
Shelly Miller in her book Rhythms of Rest (2016) insists a ‘plethora of studies show that the brain requires an alternating period of structured work followed by unstructured rest in order to maximise function.’ (18) Instead of maintaining an insane level of busyness on the 24/7 treadmill of life – which by the way is not sustainable, we must choose to step off or cease our efforts if we are going to be effective long term. As Shelly says, the Sabbath – borrowed from the Hebrew word Shabbat, which means ‘to cease,’ is ‘the exhale required after six days of inhaling our work.’ (18) Taking one day a week to rest may be the most productive thing you could do this week.
What Does Rest Look Like
What does rest look like to you? Some religious traditions have built frameworks of ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ in this space; which, end up proving onerous and not the gift that was intended. It really does come down to attitude and intention, and giving yourself permission to ignore the to-do list and inbox. It is an act of trust as well as an act of self-care. This is offset by the promise of increased productivity when you start work again. Some call this day of rest play dates with God. (Boggess, 2014)
The National Institute of Play, a non-profit public benefit corporation dedicated to advancing society’s understanding and application of play, says that many adults believe that play is kids’ stuff and is not a productive use of adult time. Quite the contrary, it seems. Research has shown that play is very productive for adults and is good for our brains and our emotional health. Taking time to play might be the most productive thing you can do to ensure when you do work, it is good work.
When Did You Last Play?
When was the last time you played? By play, I mean genuinely found pleasure in the pursuit of something without turning it into an exercise of production or outcomes? How about ride a bike without looking at your smartwatch, or take a photo without posting it on Instagram. Shelly dares us; ‘let’s give ourselves permission this week to play for the sheer joy of it and see how it informs our rest.’ (144) Be a little child-like and ‘open your mind wide enough that the huge presence of the impossible can fit inside.’ (Boggess, 573) Rediscover the wild joy of wonder! (573)
Being the unique humans that we are, what is one’s persons play is another person’s work. Peter Gray of the National Institute of Play says it has to do with motivation and mental attitude and not so much our actual behaviour. Once you find an activity that engages you and you feel free and joyful, you might just be playing!
For those of us that believe in the God of the Sabbath, this play date with God is linked with trust. Trust enough to step off the treadmill of life and pausing to gain a much-needed perspective of our position. This includes remembering it is not all up to us! There is a lot of letting go of the need to always hustle. For me, it is releasing my breath that I have subconsciously held all week. What if ignoring the laundry and dishes in the sink for one day, and lying on my back looking up at the clouds is the most productive thing I could have done all week? Will you join me this week and enjoy a Sabbath play?