“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Friday, 7 October 2011

Lesson from a laid-back cat

At our annual Unitarian Summer School, the topic of the workshop group I was in was "inner peace". We looked at various different paths to this desirable goal, and one that really caught my attention was the idea of Sabbath observance; of resting on the seventh day. Generally I find that it is only too easy to do bits & pieces of work every day, whether for church or domestic, and never really have a proper day off. Coincidentally, I had bought a book on the subject a few weeks earlier, and had found the idea very attractive, but hadn't done anything about it. However, at Summer School, a group of us decided to pledge ourselves to making the effort to practice Sabbath observance in our own lives at home, and on Tuesday evening, my first Sabbath started with a lit candle and a shared meal.

On the Wednesday, my husband and son were at work and my daughter was at school, so I was free to carry out my intention of observing a day of rest. I had decided that it would be a screen-free day - no computer, no mobile phone, no TV, and also a housework-free day. On normal days it is my practice to get up, have a shower, have breakfast, and then log in to the computer to check any incoming e-mails, and to look on Facebook.

I had decided to spend the day stitching, reading, journalling and reflecting, perhaps listening to some classical music, but nothing rowdy. But by half-past nine in the morning, I was feeling decidedly twitchy, as though I ought to be doing something. At this point I realised that Lynne Baab, author of Sabbath Keeping, had been right. I too am one of those people who has been sucked into the trap of judging myself and my life by what I do, and by what I achieve. The tricky bit of the day was going to be slowing down, stopping, just being. And trying to find God in the silence.

Lynne Baab suggests that as the Sabbath is supposed to be about resting in God's presence, one should spend some time sitting, just breathing, being, rather than doing. I have always found this hard. But on Wednesday, I was taught how to be still, and how to simply be, by my cat, Bruno. He came and sat on my knee, and I stroked him, and he purred, and then had a doze, while I just sat, and reflected on the love and trust he gives me, no matter what I do. My cat was an angel  that day, a messenger of the divine.

One laid-back cat
Several things about this first Sabbath day surprised me: how long the day seemed, and how slowly it passed (although this was not a bad thing, just surprising); how much I missed writing on a computer - using pen and paper now seems odd; and the strong feeling of disconnection that came from not checking my e-mails or being on Facebook.

But it was a good day. I did feel rested, and by the end of the day (thanks to Bruno) I had relaxed sufficiently to be still, and to trust to God to do the rest. I appreciated the gift of unhurried time, the opportunity to pause, to reflect, to think, without feeling that I had to dash off and do the next thing on the to-do list.


  1. great bolg post Sue - thanks for sharing this very special day.

  2. I want to come back as a cat in my next life :)