Remember back in school when the teacher would punish bad behavior with a “Time-Out?” It was used as a humiliating tactic to separate miscreants from the pack and exclude misdemeanors from the fun. Nowadays, wouldn’t you just kill to have a time-out enforced by your boss, your kids, or your socially-addicted friends? I can hear the soul crying out right now, “Please, tell me to go to the corner and sit in silence with no distractions for 15 minutes.”
The biggest gift we can give ourselves and each other, beyond the material and the edible this holiday season, is time to unwind. Call it vacation without the travel: a soul vacation away from the expectations that surround us, the constant pings from our devices and the business of thoughts that keeps us going.
The holidays seem like a particularly good time to reflect on time out. In fact, their original intention was exactly that: don’t work, don’t worry and don’t feel alone. Nonetheless, holiday madness is upon us. I’ve already noticed changes in the traffic patterns and in people’s short bandwidth for anything outside of their scheduled agenda. While driving home from training Sunday night at 6:00pm, it felt like I was looking down the pipeline of the 405 at rush hour: red and yellow arteries 8 lanes-wide for miles on end. Where were we all going?
What if we started World Time-Out day? The rules would be: no driving, no texting, no emailing, no planning, no phone calls, no homework. The prescription would be impromptu activities, quiet time, walking, leisure activities and sharing company with those who are physically closest to you. This is not a new idea and has been practiced by Jews for millennia. It’s called the Sabbath and some still observe it every week. This is also the root of the word “sabbatical,” an extended absence in order to accomplish something.
Even the land was given a sabbatical in biblical times. On the seventh year, the farmer would refrain from working the soil to let it breathe and self-rejuvenate. How many people do you know-yourself included-who could benefit from a break? How many of those people would even entertain taking 2-12 months off in order to give themselves that needed repose?
It astounds me how many people believe that their lives will fall apart if they stop pushing it forward each day. Yes, there is no doubt that progress depends on hard work, but there’s enough of us in the world these days that we can surely share the load, right? Or is that really the root of the problem: we believe that our individual contribution is so special and irreplaceable, that all of society will crumble if we are not there to keep it standing up? That the emails will explode on our computer screens and the whole nation will freeze because of our delayed response? A popular term to describe this is FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.
Are you really that important? Yes, you REALLY are that important that you owe it to yourself to put your needs first, not the needs imposed by everyone around you. Pull back from the pressures, observe what is immediately around you (including yourself) and see how life continues on in so many special ways.
Wouldn’t that be the best gift you could receive and give this holiday season?