For more than three years, I’ve been following an Ayurvedic dinacharya, as prescribed by my Ayurvedic doctor. I try to adhere to my daily routine as closely as possible. Even when I’m traveling around the world, without access to hot water, or other elements that are part of my Rx, I try to maintain my dinacharya.
On my last visit to my Ayurvedic doctor, as was to be expected, he made a few tweaks to my dinacharya. He simplified some, and then added on more layers to my routine. With just a slight sense of humor, I told my partner, “Now my dinacharya includes Shabbat.”
As much as I think I disconnect from stressors all around, my doctor wants me to have a cleaner break. Once a week, I should turn off all devices for 24 hours.
For many years, I’ve understood the benefits of shutting down a few hours before bedtime. TVs went to Goodwill. Same with the stereo. I cut back considerably on the time spent on my laptop. However, my smartphone is my lifeline. It is my everything. Messenger. Alarm clock. Timer. CD player. Guided meditation source. Camera. Calculator. Flashlight. Newsroom. Social network. And, it’s even a telephone sometimes.
I totally get the importance of disconnecting. While I have never honored the sabbath, I appreciate the benefits it has on your body, mind, and soul. However, for most of us that have never followed the traditional Jewish rules of the sabbath, it can be difficult to adopt or accept.
Saturdays in Israel often mean beach time, so, who am I to say turn that down.
Haddassah Mendoza-Elias lived in Jerusalem when she was in her 20s. The Chicago-area resident returns as frequently as she can. She wasn’t raised in a family that turned off electronics and turned in the car keys on the sabbath. Haddassah admits it’s very hard to shut down in the States. But, she relishes honoring the day of rest, and her family always had Shabbat meals.
“I observe (Shabbat) when I’m in Israel because of the peace that I get. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Jewish guide for living, the Torah, has built-in recharge time. There is space to relax and almost a societal requirement to participate in Shabbat in one way or another. Keeping Shabbat is helpful for keeping things in perspective because you have to prioritize things. What can wait for 24 hours, and what cannot? It’s refreshing to discover that most things can wait.”
Estee is a dynamo of a Zumba teacher at the Jerusalem YMCA. She exudes passion and a Type A personality. Just as she moves to the fast beats in Zumba, so does she speak and think at techno dance speed. Estee, like Haddassah, says it’s rare that something can’t wait. The mother of eight talks about why disconnecting on the Sabbath is so beneficial. Even her non-religious adult children respect and relax during Shabbat.
“When they walk into my home on Shabbat, everything is turned off. It’s family time. It really makes a giant difference in their lives. Even for the non-religious ones. It’s more than connecting with other people. It’s connecting with yourself. We have to be important to ourselves. Sometimes you need you.” Estee admits that while it may not have been easy to keep the rules going in her household, now, her kids “wouldn’t have it any other way.
Her remarks strike a chord with me. Much of my daily dinacharya is precisely so that I can connect with myself, rather than the fast-paced world around me. In fact, the purpose of breathwork, meditation, and yoga is about disconnecting from the outside world and re-connecting with the inner being. Many studies have confirmed this. But just maybe, Shabbat can take you further. After all, the rituals of Shabbat have been going on for about the same time as yoga and meditation. Just like with yoga and Ayurveda, the benefits of these practices have been proven over thousands of years.
Estee’s 13-year-old daughter, Ora Leah, speaks like an old yogi. Her words relay her wise soul. She explains how she is more centered and grounded with the practice of Shabbat. You listen to your body and your soul. “There’s no clock or alarm on Shabbat. You eat when you’re hungry. Sleep when you want. For as long as you want. Also, it’s quality time. It’s a beautiful thing. Even to get together with friends.”
No wonder I enjoy the peace and quiet of blackouts. The beach to the city. A lack of artificial sounds and sights amplifies the benefits of my daily dinacharya.
Ora Leah recounts an experiment in Asia. In an attempt to increase productivity, they initiated ten-day work weeks. Employees were given a day of rest every ten days. However, the “brilliant” theory backfired. Illnesses rose. “Your body needs to rest,” underscores Ora Leah.
We need to prioritize ourselves. Our bodies. Our minds. Even more importantly, our spirits. Each of which is certainly far more important than any post on Facebook, the urge to get in your car and go shopping, or checking your unending string of emails. Disconnect from the artificial. Connect to the natural. Add Shabbat to your dinacharya. Sunset to sunset, any day of the week.