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Notes from sabbatical: Structure

October 24, 2010

Here was my method for creating my sabbatical:

First, I found a location. I had a pretty specific idea in mind… I wanted somewhere I could hole myself away in isolation for several days, without having to interact with anyone, not even to pay for a meal or say “I don’t need fresh towels today, thank you.” I wanted to be able to burn some candles. I wanted to be able to sing or dance or scream or cry in this space, at any hour of night or day, without worrying about interfering with anyone else’s rest or relaxation.

I found a cabin in a state park, and it’s off-season, and I went in the middle of the week, so even the few cabins around me that were occupied were empty by the time I left. There was a fridge and a stove, so I was able to pack in and cook my own food — easier on my diet and my hermit-like isolation. There was a wood-burning fireplace, which I was able to burn tealight candles in pretty much constantly. Awesome.

Before I left, I made a “camp activities sampler list” for myself: activities I might want to do, things that would serve my overall intention. Things like “stretch” and “meditate” and “write a list of 77 things you love” and “sing along with 80’s music” and “degauss chakras”. I made sure I had several physical things, several emotionally comforting/uplifting things, several spiritual things, and several thinking/writing type things. And several things that incorporated as many of those together as possible!

I packed up the stuff I’d need to do those activities. And I made sure I treated this list like a convenient list of options, NOT like an agenda or must-do list. I gave myself permission to NOT-DO any of them. When I felt restless, or wanted a break from drawing, I could wander over to the list and see if any of them caught my eye. Or I could just sit there and tune in to myself and say, “Okay, what do I really want to do right now?”

I was pleasantly surprised that “lounge around and do nothing” was never the answer I got. I’d tune in, quiet my mind, and feel a desire to do some stretches. Or start cooking dinner. Or change the music. Or whatever. I was pleased to discover that I’m less lazy than I’d thought, and that part of me genuinely does have some healthy desires, and that part of me is actually capable of knowing those desires if I just try to listen.

So I had this very modular and open structure… bits and pieces that I could place together in whatever way seemed right at the time. But enough structure that I never felt lost, or adrift, or bored.


I wonder if that’s the way I need to start scheduling my days? Not a monastic schedule of set hours, but instead this sort of flexible, shifting container that can slide around me like a Rubik’s cube. Hmmm. I’m going to sit with this and look at the idea from several sides.

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