September 2010


Start your sabbatical with a retreat, not a holiday. This initial retreat will help set the tone of your sabbatical. In order to pray well, you need to prepare to pray. Think of this retreat like as slow journey away from the temptations and distractions of the active life. Here are some ideas to help you make a start:

  • Sleep, for a week or as long as needed—this will give you physical rest
  • Spend a day without a watch; attune to natural rhythms
  • Prepare and eat simple meals; do not be overly concerned about taste
  • Cut down the use of communications technology
  • Identify your patterns of media consumption and set limits
  • Keep a journal

As you slow down and minimize noise in your life, you may begin to feel empty, bored, or edgy. Persist in your intention; you will reap the rewards later. This initial period of detachment from distractions prepares you to cultivate an appetite for spiritual things. As you notice movements of your heart, the following simple prayers may help:

  • Make haste, O God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O Lord (Psalm 70:1).
  • Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner (also known as the Jesus Prayer).

Both these prayers are practiced by Christians who desire to pray continually, as instructed by the Apostle Paul (1 Thess 5:17). They are not magical incantations nor mindless mantras, but a simple means to cultivate attentiveness to God and to the inner state of your heart. Your perspective on the little events of daily life will begin to change as the Holy Spirit influences your thoughts. These prayers are addressed to God. You are therefore inviting God’s presence into situations as they unfold every minute. A bad day may cause you to pray more, and at the end of it, you may rejoice that you have never prayed more in a single day.

Your posture towards the other—the person you speak to, who gives you direction, annoys or ignores you—changes when you know the ultimate love of God. The reassurance of God’s love gives you freedom from constantly reacting to the other. Instead, by calling upon God through prayer, you become the presence of Christ for the other. At the same time, you recognize your posture (as someone in need) before God. You also begin to see God’s love for the other and the other’s need for God. Without being conscious of it, you are allowing the power of the Holy Spirit to flow through you to love, to forgive, to bless, to discern good and evil.

The retreat at the start of your sabbatical allows you to stop and withdraw from endless activity to rest and cultivate personal disciplines. It shifts your attention from worldly distractions to prayerful attentiveness towards God. Some practices you find helpful during your retreat can be toned down and adapted to daily life over the course of your sabbatical.

Next-> Having your sabbatical: loving your neighbour

Previous-> Plan your sabbatical

Spotted in September 2010:

  1. House Crow
  2. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
  3. Rock Pigeon
  4. Common Myna
  5. Crested Myna
  6. Yellow-Vented Bulbul
  7. Oriental Magpie Robin
  8. Black-Naped Oriole
  9. Asian Glossy Starling
  10. White-Throated Kingfisher
  11. Orange-breasted Green Pigeon
  12. Peaceful Dove
  13. Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher
  14. Little Green Pigeon
  15. Coppersmith Barbet
  16. Blackthroat

Spotted at a PLUS highway rest stop near Tapah:

  • Blue Rock Thrush

After working in a demanding profession for a number of years, you may instinctively feel the need to take an extended break. Year long sabbaticals used to be reserved for clergy and academics. These days, sabbaticals tend to be shorter and increasingly adopted by marketplace professionals to rest, rejuvenate, and reevaluate their lives. At the end of a sabbatical, you may return to your current profession with renewed energy and purpose or make a change. Whatever the change, whether small or great, it would be significant and purposeful. Even a slight change in direction, if maintained for a long time, would take you to a very different destination. A sabbatical, therefore, helps you live an intentional life.

To have a good sabbatical, you need to plan ahead. Haste, crowds, and noise—these are not helpful for the cultivation of the spiritual life. You need to find a place and schedule a time away from these distractions. Ask other people who have taken sabbaticals. Speak to your pastor. Seek out a spiritual director; if none are available, lean on the Holy Spirit to be your guide. In talking to others, be wary of plans imposed on you. The initial part of your sabbatical should be set aside to withdraw from the active life and to be quiet and still before God—to cease from doing and just be.

The sabbatical is not useful only in terms of what emerges out of it. The sabbatical in and of itself is intentional time spent with your heavenly Lover. This time is seen as wasted or useless by those who do not know God or who only have a distant or superficial relationship with Him. So you will need courage to take a sabbatical, especially if one is not imposed on you in the form of joblessness, ill health or some other form of pain. You may want to set aside five minutes a day just to wait on the Lord for a spiritual intention that shapes your sabbatical.

The final practicality, which may delay your sabbatical, is financing. Although you may go on holiday, the sabbatical is not primarily a vacation. At the very least, you should have enough savings set aside for basic food, shelter and clothing. You may also be concerned about whether you will have a job after your sabbatical. If you have been a good and dependable worker, most employers would not want to lose you. While an extended leave from work of six months may not be possible, most employers will be open to no-pay leave of around three months if this is planned well in advance. For these reasons, start planning your sabbatical at least a year ahead.

Next -> Starting Your Sabbatical