Thursday, 26 May 2016

On Sabbatical (and finding it hard to relax)

As I write, I'm four days in to my first ever sabbatical. I never had a 'gap year' or anything similar, so this is the first time in all my adult life when I've not been working full time at something. It feels weird!

The closest I suppose I've come to anything similar is my 3 maternity leaves, but as anyone who has had babies knows, that is really not a break in any meaningful sense. Though to be fair to those of you who think maternity leave really is a break, when I was pregnant with my first I did think it was going to be a nice break.  I even bought a piano, thinking that on maternity leave I would of course have time to learn to play it. (Cue hollow laughter). As it turned out, for the first few weeks I didn't even have time to eat lunch. And I was back at college for the second year of my theology training 2 months after he was born, as it was either that or take a whole year out which we just couldn't afford at that time (no maternity pay when you are training for ordination).

So this is the first time I've had anything like an actual sabbath period in my working life. I keep feeling that I should be doing something. In fact, I haven't yet broken myself of the habit of making a daily To Do list - garden, quilt, have a swim - and feeling guilty when I don't manage everything on the list.

I had a quiet day at Shepherd's Dene retreat house yesterday, and found that even then, I was stressing about not achieving sufficient 'spiritual quiet day' success! Do you find that a problem when you go on retreat?

The message I came away with was simply to  relax and let be. As anyone who knows me in real life will testify, this is definitely the spiritual gift that I am most in need of! So though I started the sabbatical with a list of things I wanted to achieve, I am really hoping that I can relax, and for perhaps the first time in my life, find out who I am before God when I am not achieving stuff. I know the theory of 'being not doing', but putting it into practice in real life - in MY real life -  feels like a real leap into the unknown.


  1. the 30 days will definitely give you that being and finding out stuff. Abide in peace (as an alternative dismissal for sabbaticals)

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  3. It usually takes me 3 days to settle down in a silent retreat, which is why I go for a week at a time.

    It does take a while for the brain to get into a new rhythm.

  4. Every summer I make a list of things I want to do : swim in the sea, drink Pimms with friends, picnic in the woods etc. They are not improving or challenging but I have fun making them happen and I feel a sense of achievement. I can recommend it as a good way to change pace.