The Benefits of Relaxation: Why You Need to Add a Day of Rest to Your Schedule

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An Old-Fashioned Concept?

My great-grandmother, an Alabama farmwife, would never have understood this dilemma. It's not that she was a stranger to hard, bone-wearying work: Six days a week she rose before dawn, worked all day long, and was busy doing handwork late into the night. (You should see the hand-tatted lace tablecloth I inherited from her.) But on the seventh day she rested. She wouldn't even cook or crochet on Sunday. The same woman who viewed wasting time as a sin was content to doze all afternoon and feed her family sandwiches for supper. For her, "Keep holy the Sabbath" was a God-ordained injunction against the weekday trap of making every instant count.

It's tempting for people today to believe their great-grandparents never encountered the urgency life invokes now. A hundred years ago there were no grocery stores open on Sunday, no Internet beeping the arrival of e-mail, no cell phones on vibrate even during meals. And yet weeds grew in farm furrows just as energetically on Sunday as on any other day of the week, and tomatoes continued to ripen for canning, so there must have been a great temptation, even for our ancestors, to get a head start on the week ahead.

My great-grandmother didn't give in to the temptation, but I do.

Or I did, until that rainy Sunday when my little boy invited me to play Monopoly. That's when it hit me that one easy, overlooked cure for the slightly breathless way I go through life might simply be to honor the Sabbath. What would it be like to set aside one whole day -- or even an afternoon -- to rest? To read on the porch swing, play games with the kids, take a walk in the woods, or have coffee with a friend?

Rest. Delight. Are such things even possible in the 21st century?

Continued on page 3:  The Modern Sabbath


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