Plan to end your sabbatical the same way you started it–with a retreat. This will give you an opportunity to reflect on how you have changed. What are some of the practices you want to maintain, albeit in a simpler form, as you return to the marketplace? How can you maintain and strengthen the habits of prayer you have cultivated? Thomas Kelly, in a Testament of Devotion, claims that it is possible to live at two levels simultaneously–that of interior prayerful attentiveness to God and that of external activity, including mental activity. To what extent this is attainable remains to be experienced. Nothing prevents you from repeatedly making a start.

Continue to cultivate attentiveness towards God. Whenever you remember, say a simple word of prayer. Nurture inner silence in your heart. In this way, you are more aware of subtle distracting attractions and can turn away from them before the pull becomes too strong. In the same way, you become aware of little inner promptings of the Spirit: a burden to pray for someone, a task to work on, a request to turn down. In this way you are led to engage the world in your particular sphere of influence, and not be overly anxious about everything else. Over time, you may only need to say one word of the prayer to bring yourself to the posture of attentiveness.

Now, let’s turn to the topic of distractions. There are very many ways to fill our time and spend our lives in this world. Media and entertainment options abound. Electronic devices and the computer beckon us. Set limits and boundaries for these activities so you preserve time for prayer. In order to pray well, we need to prepare to pray. Preparation includes planning regular, unhurried times at a quiet place away from crowds and noise.

Do not be discouraged if life gets too busy and you cannot or forget to pray.Start again, and keep starting again. Over time, the posture of prayer will grow on you. Your life becomes simpler. Some days you will find yourself walking with the Spirit and it happens effortlessly by grace. Keep praying. Maintain the course. Plan your next sabbatical. You will be surprised at the person you’ve become then.

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