Time Off For Good Behavior: Parshah Behar

Behar 2014Admit it, part of fantasizing a beach vacation is the vision of kicking back to do absolutely nothing without a shred of guilt. You’ve earned it. Sit. Stare. Dream. Drink. Nap. No obligations to do or be anything but be limp and relaxed.

The sad irony is how hard it is to gift ourselves that luxury.

Academics have a great job perk called a sabbatical. Teach six years, then get one off (though research and writing are implied). Farmers do something similar: letting fields lie fallow so the soil can replenish. What comes after is supposed to be richer and more nourishing than what came before.

It requires prep and planning. But if you do it right, life is easier. Time to do…..whatever you want! In ancient Israel, produce was free for all each seventh year. In addition, after seven cycles of seven years, the 50th was called a jubilee year. In a jubilee year, slaves are freed. All of them, freed; poof, chains gone.

When you think about your life, are there times you step back and see the changes? The big cycles and evolutions? Not just in yourself but also in those around you. Seeing young men/women you knew as toddlers or high-schoolers suddenly becoming married and parents?

We get used to life in the day-to-day. There may be changes and bends in the road, but sometimes they’re subtle. Perhaps you’re changing so slowly you don’t notice or create a moment of conscious choice, but when you look back they’re very clear. There’s obvious exceptions like birthdays ending in zero or five, graduations, weddings, and the like. But when do you give yourself a big chunk of time to look around and feel where you are on your path?

The past month I’ve been living in a construction zone. A long, tedious process of deconstruction and site prep, and now the glories of beautification. A change from old to new, with a fallow time in between.

I’ve needed it, and love the bursts of creativity it has engendered. But before that came discomfort. Watching how s.l.o.w.l.y. people work. Surrendering control. Abandoning the known. Forced quietude. Lots more being than doing.

For the record, my meditation practice includes lots of watching quietly. Wood stove in the winter; yard and sky in summer. Each season has a different tune and soundtrack. Different rhythms, but the basic message is the same: Feed your soul.

That’s the core message of this parshah: Take the time to feed your soul.

Maybe you can’t do it for a whole year. But take at least a little time each day to sit and watch. Listen, and give thanks. Work up to doing it one day a week, say, shabbat. Find special times during the year to yourself periods of quietude and perspective. To slow down and be present.

You’ll spend some of your mental energy in the past or future. But there will come a depth of welcome silence that will nourish and replenish you, if you let it.

Summer’s coming. Your jubilee moments may include a hammock, a hummingbird feeder, and or a gin and tonic. Whatever brings you quiet bliss, sit back and drink in the luxurious vibes of your jubilant now.