Holy rest is an art form. It’s not simply the absence of work. It is the presence of all the sacred pleasures you can partake in: a festive meal, family and friends, a good book, a little romance, a walk in nature, a prayer to God.
--Rabbi Naomi Levy
What did your last Sunday look like? Was it a day devoted to the art form of Holy Rest? Like many women, Sunday has become a day not to slow down but to catch up: on chores, cleaning, errands, the work I didn’t finish last week or a futile attempt to get a head start on next week’s “To-Do” list.
However, recently I enjoyed a Sunday to remember with my daughter: attending a Gospel Brunch in a beautiful California garden on a gorgeous day, basking in an abundance of inspirational music, delicious food, charm, laughter and conviviality. We were guests at Oprah Winfrey’s “Promised Land” ranch to celebrate her new book The Wisdom of Sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations.
“The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is read something inspiring. I like jump-starting my day with a reminder that I am a spiritual being having a human experience. My favorite teachings are always within reach, right on my nightstand. Many of them are by thought leaders and visionaries who’ve joined me on my show Super Soul Sunday. If there is anything that represents the heartbeat of who I am and the work I strive to put out in the world, it’s the conversations I’ve been blessed to experience on this show. For me, they represent a new way of thinking about life’s big questions, lighting a path forward and reminding us that we are all connected, explains Oprah in the November issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. “I’ve always believed the knowledge and ideas shared each week on the show would make a powerfully transcendent book. I believed it even more strongly after going through more than 200 hours of Super Soul tapes in search of the most impactful sparks of brilliance from the men and women who’ve sat in my backyard in Santa Barbara and shared their wisdom.”
I’ve been blessed to be a part of the Super Soul experience, discussing with Oprah both the transformative power of gratitude and the always challenging conversation about women and money in Peace and Plenty. The wondrous aspect of having a conversation with Oprah is that she creates a “safe” place in which you can express your deepest feelings and insights knowing you are heard and protected. Now Oprah’s captured the essence of these soulful conversations in between the elegant covers of this beautiful book. As for the selections, Oprah used her personal sense of wonder as a compass for those heart-to-heart revelations – the “Ah, ha” moments that triggered a pause, inspiring and inviting the response: “I never thought of it that way.”
The result of her gleanings is a devotional perfectly suited for the nightstand. A lot of books audition for pride of place on my nightstand. But as well as comfort and inspiration, these few books are also chosen for their beauty. Like a woman with repose of the soul, The Wisdom of Sundays gladdens both my artist’s desire for beauty and seeker’s poetic pilgrimage on the pages, which are illustrated with beautiful photographs taken at the home she calls the “Promised Land,” which could be a setting for the garden of Eden.
However, as enchanting and as enriching as the entire afternoon was, the enormous personal lesson I took away, my own “Ah, ha” moment was a glimpse and glimmer of what, I believe, continues to allow Oprah to remain such a vibrant, bright light in a world that grows increasingly dark. It’s her spiritual electricity. Even with decades of fame, money, success, power and influence, she’s never lost track of her spiritual roots or the abiding source of her strength and wisdom. There was a whole lot of praising the Lord going on at this Gospel Brunch and it thrilled me with tears of joy and goosebumps. The songs and the singers were mighty, powerful, and true, especially, the stirring gospel hymn “Stand” (which was said to be among Oprah’s mother/mentor Dr. Maya Angelou’s favorites) Well, I was standing and it moved through me like bolt of Holy Spirit lightening.
After you’ve gone through the hurt
After you’ve done all you can
After you’ve gone through the pain
After you’ve done all you can
After you’ve gone through the storm
After you’ve done all you can
After you’ve gone through the rain
After you’ve done all you can, prayed and cried
After you’ve done all you can, you just stand…
God has a purpose, yes, God has a plan.
But here’s the crucial thing: before we can stand still long enough to receive the blessing, we have to be willing to stop and pause. Pause one day a week for sacred rest, renewal and reconnection. Pause first thing in the morning for loving advice from kindred spirits in The Wisdom of Sundays. Pause long enough to write down why we’re grateful for just being able to stand.
Ah, yes, this is honoring the Sabbath. Remember? The seventh day when the Great Creator paused after bringing forth the cosmos and then, instructed us to do the same. We have to be willing to open ourselves to the space between the pauses of rejoicing and reconciliation. The Pause that ends the estrangement between your body and soul. The Pause that gets results when we can’t. The Pause that delights in delivering dreams to our doorstep or redirecting them towards our own passions instead of other people’s priorities.
Most of the women I know are so overworked, overwrought and trapped in this frantic and exhausting 24/7 Breaking News culture, we don’t know how to help ourselves any longer and we’re worn to a raveling. How about realizing that we can’t help ourselves or anyone else unless we stop, not dead in our tracks, but while we’re still alive. Can you plan to give yourself time off for good behavior? How about this coming Sunday? And have I got a great recommendation for a bit of Sunday reading.
“My prayer is that this book becomes a companion for you,” Oprah shares with us. “That at any point in your own lifelong adventure, you’ll be able to open The Wisdom of Sundays and find—as I do in the cherished books on my bedside table—just the right words of comfort and clarity.
“What I know for sure: Your soul is as unique as your fingerprint. Finding its truest expression is a forever exploration. And sometimes it helps to have a wise and trusted friend along for the ride.”
Sending dearest love and blessings on our courage, XO SBB