A Perfect Mother’s Day: Sabbath and The Sanctuary of the Senses

A Perfect Mother’s Day:
Sabbath and The Sanctuary of the Senses
Chelsea Wakefield

It is Mother’s Day here in the mountains of Western North Carolina.  A glorious day, it is about 70 degrees out and there is a gentle breeze blowing through the bright green leaves,  trembling with delight, whispering promises of summer.  The air  is scintillating  and the sunlight shimmers as it filters through the canopy of trees.  It is absolutely enchanting.         

I have been immersed in the Sanctuary of the Senses all day.  I slept in this morning, all the way to 8:30!  When I opened my eyes, the first thing I saw was my husband of twenty years smiling at me from the pillow beside mine.  It is a wonderful thing to be married for so many years and still love the eyes and the smell and touch of the man you share a warm bed with.  And so I began my “Mother’s Day”  feeling very much like I did before I became a mother, like a young lover, happy to be in the embrace of this man I have shared so many years of my life with.  We have been through a lot together,  witnessing each other’s lives,  growing, struggling to understand and support each other, through sickness and health, defeat and victory.  We are still together, sharing this unfolding journey.     

My husband and fifteen year old son took me out to breakfast this morning and I ordered bacon with my pancakes because it’s “my day”, and I am indulging in all my favorite pleasures.  So there I was,  with the two men I love the most, receiving sweet cards and opening Godiva chocolates and just basking in the delicious warmth of their attention.   

I sent them golfing this afternoon, because an afternoon all alone for me, to be in creative flow, is pure pleasure for me.  I can picture them out there together on this perfect day, father and son, enjoying the same breeze and shimmering light, sharing special time together.   

There is a wonderful waterfall not far from our house, in the woods.  It is a place I like to go to be still.  My own private little sanctuary. Today I walked there and sat on the log bench and took in the sight and sound of the water cascading down, over ancient, terraced rocks and I felt the moist, cool air on my skin.  The lingering satisfaction of a perfect morning filled me and I closed my eyes and breathed it all in and was deeply grateful.  After my walk I lay down on my couch and watched the light through the leaves and fell asleep and when I awoke I felt rested, peaceful, deeply happy and wanted to write.

When I turned on my computer, I was drawn to read a handout from my friend Karen Jackson, who leads workshops on connecting Role and Soul.  This handout was about Sabbath.   There is much important work to do in the world, but we all need Sabbath.  We need it more than we realize.  Today was a Sabbath day for me.   I am always quite busy, seeing clients, writing, presenting, and today I just needed the quiet of the afternoon to rest and reflect and let the shimmering sunlight and the whispering leaves just speak to me in a language that soothes my soul. 

Today I gave myself permission to suspend the forward push of my “planning, organizing and accomplishing inner characters”.  If they were in charge, I would never rest.  Today I have wandering from one pleasurable experience to another, full of things my soul finds most replenishing.  I haven’t picked up the house.  I haven’t done a dish.  A rare day for a woman, I think.   

It has been a day of quiet pleasures,  being with the people I love most and then having time to myself.  I feel refreshed, clear….luminous.  When I was a kid, the Sabbath meant going to church.   Today I dwelt in the Sanctuary of the Senses.   I can feel the echo of some distant fundamentalism that tells me this is heretical, but I think the Celts would have understood.  Sabbath today meant rest and quiet, but it also meant a reverence for creation, and the sights, smells, tastes,  sounds, and feel of being created….embodied.   I am grateful for all of it.  I can feel God smiling.  

My guys just called, enthusiastically reporting their golf adventures and asking me if I might be interested in begin taken out for an Italian dinner.  I can’t think of anything I’d like more to finish a perfectly sensuous Sabbath Mother’s Day.  

These thoughts were dashed on paper for pure pleasure on the day they bubbled up.  All the work involving editing and refining was done the following week. Write to me and tell me what Sabbath means for you.
The following handout on Sabbath sparked this essay.  I got this while attending Karen Jackson’s wonderful training program on Spiritual Discernment in Circles of Trust: The Clearness Committee Process.  This program is based on the Quaker discernment process and Parker Palmer’s work.
For more information about Karen’s work you can reached her at:
Karen L. Jackson, Ed.D.
Retreat Leader and Program Facilitator
Connecting Role and Soul

Reclaiming Sabbath – Exploring a Rhythm of Rest and Renewal
selections from Wayne Muller’s Sabbath, Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest. 

In the relentless busyness of modern life, we have lost the rhythm between work and rest.

All life requires a rhythm of rest. There is a rhythm in our waking activity and the body’s need for rest…there is a rhythm as the active growth of spring and summer is quieted by the necessary dormancy of fall and winter…in our bodies, the heart perceptibly rests after each life-giving beat; the lungs rest between inhale and exhale.

We have lost this essential rhythm. Our culture supposes that action and accomplishment are better than rest, that doing something – anything – is better than doing nothing. Because of our desire to succeed, to meet the ever- growing expectations, we do not rest. Because we do not rest, we lose our way.

A successful life has become a violent enterprise. We make war on our own bodies, pushing them beyond their limits; war on our children, because we cannot find time to be with them when they are hurt and afraid, and need our company; war on our spirit, because we are too preoccupied to listen to the quiet voices that seek to nourish and refresh us; war on our communities, because we are fearfully protecting what we have, and do not feel safe enough to be kind and generous; war on the earth, because we do not take the time to place our feet on the ground and allow it to feed us, to taste its blessings and give thanks.

Our standard greeting has become: I am so busy. We say this with no small degree of pride, as if our exhaustion were a trophy, our ability to withstand stress a mark of real character. The busier we are, the more important we seem to ourselves, and, we imagine, to others.

Our lack of rest and reflection is not just a personal affliction. It colors the way we build and sustain community, it dictates the way we respond to suffering, and it shapes the way we seek peace and healing in the world.

Thomas Merton said it this way: “There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence…(and that is) activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of this violence.”

How have we allowed this to happen? I suggest it is this: we have forgotten the Sabbath. If busyness has become a kind of violence, we do not have to stretch our perception very far to see that Sabbath time – effortless, nourishing rest – can invite a healing of this violence…Sabbath is a way of being in time where we remember who we are, and remember what we know… Sabbath creates a marker for us so, if we are lost, we can find a way back to our center.

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