Trying to Unplug

Updated: Aug 8, 2018

The cell phone sleeping bag offered by Sabbath Manifesto.

I am a big fan of the Sabbath Manifesto, a project out of the progressive Jewish tradition that has drafted ten principles for creating sabbath. Their first principle is to avoid technology. For one day a week, the Sabbath Manifesto encourages us to turn off our computers, televisions, tablets, and phones and disconnect from the constant rush of information. They even offer an awesome sleeping bag for your phone--a cute reminder that you have set an intention for the day to be disconnected. 

For the past few weeks, I have been striving to live out a few of the Sabbath Manifest principles one day a week. I wish I could say that they have added joy to my life, that I have rested and been nourished during this time of being unplugged. The truth is that I have failed miserably.

Creating sabbath is hard, especially for those of us who live in communities and cultures that don't encourage, support, or even understand your desire to disconnect and unplug. I am sure that creating sabbath is a challenge and a discipline even for those immersed in traditions that honor sabbath with weekly cultural practices. I also know that practicing sabbath on your own is a unique and, perhaps, especially tricky challenge. 

When everyone in your house is busy watching their favorite shows on Netflix or commenting on their friends latest post on Instagram, it can quickly feel too legalistic or even too Luddite to keep yourself unplugged. After all, what's the real difference between scanning Pinterest and leisurely thumbing through a magazine? What's the real difference between binging on the latest episodes of Orange is the New Blackand reading a fun novel?

Over the past few weeks, I have given in pretty easily to these rationalizations.

The Jewish philosopher Abraham Heschel famously wrote that practicing sabbath created a "cathedral in time." To create that cathedral, we need to build some walls and boundaries around our time and activities. The truth is, with my phone in my hand or sitting in front of my computer, the boundaries and walls around my time slip away. Without even thinking about it, I am responding to emails and texts from coworkers or adding items to my shopping list on Amazon. 

Creating sabbath isn't just about building walls and boundaries. It's also about enjoying the gifts of life that we are usually too busy and too distracted to notice. I love that the Sabbath Manifesto includes in their principles to go outside, to lights candles, to drink wine, and to eat bread. Creating sabbath in your life is about enjoying creation and sharing a meal with people that you love. 

For now, I will keep on striving to incorporate these principles into my life on a more regular basis, acknowledging the fact that I won't always succeed. Incorporating spiritual practices, such as sabbath, into your life requires that you also offer yourself grace. I will keep on trying to unplug and to let go off of my consumerist impulses one day a week.

I don't live in a culture or community that supports this practice but I am lucky that I have a faith community that gathers around the table twice a month to light candles, to drink wine, and to eat bread together. In these moments of conversation and nourishment, I do find rest and renewal.

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