Liz is my physical therapist and I have her on speed dial; we catch up with each other over an injury at least once a year. She’s met my friends and knows my cats’ names. This (very good) relationship is the consequence of my constant striving for athletic accomplishments. A few years ago, it was boxing, then weight lifting, then cycling. Did you know that the psoas muscle is almost always under stress? Or that you can do your own hip adjustment with some static flexing combined with massage? Or that deep breathing helps to release trigger points?
In between my athletic endeavors, I spend most of my time seated and typing on a computer—I write and teach for a living. Every few months, my body feels ill-used by my day job, and I decide that what I really need to do is train for a century bike ride or enter the Golden Gloves boxing tournament. After these impulsive decisions lead to injury, Liz is there to put me back together and to remind me that people who are Olympic athletes and people who spend all day sitting are the groups that need the most bodywork.
Not that I was ever an Olympic caliber athlete, but I do fluctuate between the extremes represented by serious competitive athletes and couch potatoes. Granted, my couch potato days produce pages and lectures, but they are still amazingly sedentary—so much so that I’m afraid to wear a step counter. I don’t want to face the fact that walking back and forth to the refrigerator comprises all of my daily activity.
So what does my bodily extremism have to do with sabbath taking? I mean, it seems like I rest too much, and then go full force, and then rest, ad infinitum. Well, this cycle itself is the anti-sabbath; going back and forth between extremes allows for no deep rest. With Liz’s help, I have come to some sense of moderation: sets of exercises that help me sit for long periods of time and still be able to jump on my bike for a long ride. And accompanying these exercises are stretches and foam roller massage routines.
Through these bodily practices, I’ve realized that sabbath is not a state of complete rest, but rather a practice of moderation and supportive care that is sustainable. For my mental rest, social connections with others, and worship, I can have sabbath be a dedicated day once a week, but for my body, I need mini-sabbaths throughout the week. These mini-sabbaths of bodily care remind me of my limits and keep me from running back and forth between extremes. And so, #ForSabbathsSake, I always have a foam roller in my car, Liz on speed dial, and a list of bodily practices that make my activities and life sustainable.
Kristel Clayville is Visiting Professor of Religion at Eureka College as well as an adjunct professor at Meadville Lombard Theological School and Lexington Theological School. She is currently finishing her doctoral dissertation at the University of Chicago on the ethics of biblical interpretation in the context of climate change. She is ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and has a background in chaplaincy. This year she is a fellow at the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago.
In A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles,” Marianne Williamson writes that “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” In preparation for the launch of my new book, For Sabbath’s Sake (released on October 1st), I asked prominent authors, theologians, bloggers, and ministers to “let their own light shine,” by writing on the joys and challenges of sabbath practices. During this guest blog series, these writers will help us learn from one another, and, in turn, give us permission to explore our own sabbath journeys.
I want to hear from you, too!
Take a photo of yourself—or a selfie—while engaging in a sabbath practice (rest, worship, or a community gathering). Share the photo on social media and include #ForSabbathsSake in your post. Give yourself and others permission to enjoy the gift of sabbath.