Right now, you probably have bells dinging, to-do lists staring you down, and notifications popping up on every electronic device you own. In the ever increasing speed of our lives, we praise efficiency and getting things done. Keeping up the pace, however, is likely affecting your sleep, your relationships, and your health.
In her book, An Oasis in Time: How a Day of Rest can Save your Life, Marilyn Paul, PhD, presents a compelling case for incorporating intentional downtime every week. For Paul, a slow return to her family’s heritage of Judaism and the tradition of the Sabbath created a life-changing shift in her routine. After being diagnosed with an immune deficiency disease, she realized she could not sustain the crazy pace of her life.
In her book, she invites readers of all faiths and belief systems to create ‘oasis time’ as a way of stepping out of the rapid current of technology and everyday life, into the still, deep, and renewing waters of restoration, communion, and grace.
The Five Gateways
Paul lays out a plan for creating oasis time that is based on spiritual traditions of the West. The richness incorporated into these traditions can be invited into a modern interpretation of what speaks to each individual. She presents five ‘gateways’ to design your own personal experience:
1. Protect and Prepare
To create a deeply restorative oasis, you have to guard your time and be intentional in what you choose to include. “Consider what social time, activities, food, and spiritual connection [will be part of your oasis]”
2. Begin and End
There will always be ‘one more thing to do’ before starting your oasis time. Paul encourages readers to commit to a beginning and an end—and stick to it.
Start your oasis time with a special action, ritual or blessing. Rituals help make the transition between the end of work and the start of renewal.
Choose something that is meaningful and consistent. Seal the end of your time with something that marks a clear ending.
3. Disconnect to Connect
There has been a lot of talk about taking technology time-outs. Paul admits this may feel difficult, in part due to the addictive nature of technology, especially social platforms.
Rather than thinking of unplugging as disconnecting from the world, think of it as reconnecting with what’s most important in your life. Oasis time helps each of us devote ourselves fully to the people, activities, and pursuits that are right in front of us.
Connection is also found through contemplating a higher power, and the deeper meaning of our lives.
4. Slow Down to Savor
Slowing down from not only the physical pace but also the mental pace of our lives is crucial, as evidenced by the attention meditation and mindfulness are receiving, in all realms.
Slowing down and experiencing open time and space refresh us. Giving us renewed energy and a clearer head. We enjoy ourselves more because we aren’t so frantic. We can reflect on our experience and correct our course as needed.
5. Let Go of Achieving to Rest, Reflect, and Play
To take an oasis means stopping. It means committing to setting down your to-do lists, both your actual to-do lists and the ones that pulse in your veins.
When we are constantly driving toward achievement is when we set ourselves up for burning out. Though it may feel counterintuitive at first, Paul insists that releasing this relentless drive will actually allow more energy to flow when we return to our tasks with clarity and focus.
A Personal Approach to Renewal
Paul goes on to explore why we need oasis time, what keeps us from allowing it into our lives, and relates a multitude of strategies and stories of people she’s worked with in successfully carving this time out in a deeply personal way. Though the idea initiated from a religious tradition, she is adamant in her commitment that everyone has to create an oasis time that means something—to them. You may find renewal in strolling through the forest, relaxing by a stream, or by gathering with dear friends to share a meal.
The invitation to create an oasis time every week can feel daunting, but as Paul writes:
We cannot protect ourselves from hardship, but we can return to our island of tranquility and connection once a week, and in so doing become resourceful enough to rise to our challenges and stand up with vigor and vitality… Week by week, you’ll turn to your oasis time with relief.
When I intentionally create space to do the things that fill me up rather than deplete me, I know that I show up in all parts of my life more whole, more patient, more full. I feel relief simply contemplating this idea of oasis time. And now I have the tools to plan it.