GNL number 21


A report of doings at meeting #21, April 5, 2009
including liturgical notes, major themes, and odds and ends


The Little Duck

Now we are ready to look
at something pretty special.
It is a duck riding the ocean
a hundred feet beyond the surf,
as he cuddles in the swells.
There is a big heaving in the Atlantic,
and he is part of it.
He can rest while the Atlantic heaves,
because he rests in the Atlantic.
Probably he doesn’t know
how large the ocean is.
And neither do you.
But he realizes it.
And what does he do, I ask you?
He sits down in it.
He reposes in the immediate
as if it were infinity, which it is.
That is religion, and the duck has it.
How about you?

—-Donald C Babcock


Ann led off this discussion of SABBATH/REST by saying what comes up for her on the theme is the idea of hibernation, the way nature has written downtime into the design of life, like breathing.  She also read Ed Young’s 8 “take-times”,  Lily Tomlin’s “timeless” quote,  and some 6-wordies.  For all these and her comments, see AFTERWORDS, below.

Nancy said Sabbath to her was any day committed for pause from the usual agenda-driven life—to recover, remember, reflect.  Like monthly COS. And, rest:  smaller islets of pause, time-out, again to reconnect.   She gave some favorite examples, with an anecdote about Bubber the looking-dog, a Wendell Berry poem on finding rest in nature, the 6-line prayer, and Stella Resnick’s Rx for little surrenders.  See AW.

Sue read quotations from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel that have been especially meaningful to her in Shabbat practice, and said she had learned much for her practice from Chris.  She also spoke of the difficulty she’s had finding the rest part in retirement, but vowed again to keep trying to cut back.  For her quotes and personal notes, see AW.

Adair also used the word difficulty, feeling some with the Sabbath idea, which she said she’d had no real experience of growing up. But she gave us a vivid verbal picture of a Bubber-like scene she’d witnessed—3 golden retrievers sitting, heads turned the same direction, just looking.   She also brought a show-and-tell: a big, beautiful book on Hebrew Illuminations.

Jack said each day’s become Sabbath for him because of his pleasure in life, and he gazed around the room, calling each of us in this little sabbath gathering special in our way.  He had his Spiritual Treasury at hand and Sue read from it a favorite and fitting prayer he had learned from his days at Quaker Powell House. This in AW.

Like Sue, Cynthia alluded to having a hard time finding rest in retirement, but also in even approaching the subject at this moment with her own personal space so shaken by the Binghamton killings, because of her sister’s working next door to the scene.  She said she was full of painful thoughts and questions about how to respond to our society’s violence.  We could only think of rest in terms of prayer. She later contributed a wonderful poem on rest by 19thc. thinker John S. Dwight. See AW.

Chris spoke of the Friday night Shabbat that is her practice, and recalled Sundays as a child—the special meals and Sunday drives, and later as wife to a minister, not enjoying the day.  She too confessed to not enough “rest”, and taking her job everywhere she goes.  But she’s really, really working on priorities!  (like laundry.)

By the end of this meeting, we’d also realized that in addition to “rest”, there are probably more good words beginning with “r” than any other letter.  Here’s just some of a rash of r-words that appeared in about 10 seconds:  relief, release, respite, relaxation, remember, repose, respect, revive, rejuvenate, recover, refresh, restore, rejoice, replenish, regenerate, reflect, reverence….


We who have lost our sense and our senses—our touch, our smell, our vision of who we are,
we who frantically force and press all things, without rest for body or spirit,
hurting our earth and injuring ourselves:
we call a halt.
We want to rest.  We need to rest and allow the earth to rest.
We need to reflect and to rediscover the mystery that lives in us,
that is the ground of every unique expression of life,
the source of the fascination that calls all things to communion.
We declare a Sabbath, a space of quiet:
for simply being and letting be,
for recovering the great, forgotten truths,
for learning how to live again.

—-UN Environmental Sabbath Program

NEXT TIME:  Sunday, May 10 (1030) at Adair’s place, 236 Rosenberg Rd., Sharon Springs.  The topic is SACRED GROUND.


A couple editorial notes:

Please add to your topic consideration these two ideas—SUCCESS/FAILURE (what is), and CHILDREN’S BOOKS, VOL.III. And please check the COS blogsite sometime.


from Ann:


TAKE TIME for repose
it is the germ of creation
TAKE TIME to read
it is the foundation of wisdom
TAKE TIME to think
it is the source of strength
TAKE TIME to work
it is the path to patience and success
TAKE TIME to play
it is the secret of youth and constancy
TAKE TIME to be cheerful
it is the appreciation of life that brings happiness
TAKE TIME to share
it is in fellowship and sound relationships one finds meaning
TAKE TIME to rejoice
for joy is the music of the soul.

~Ed Young, an excerpt from an illustrated lecture on Chinese Characters delivered by Mr. Young upon acceptance of the 1990 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for the picture book Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story. Mr. Young keeps these eight points over his desk as he works.

“For fast acting relief; try slowing down.” ~Lily Tomlin

Personal notes—
Animals adapt by ‘sleeping’ through the times when it would be hard to get food. By doing this, their bodies use less energy and their food lasts longer in their bodies. They wake up when they can get food again. Rest for the brain, time to sort out, sift through, organize to be able to continue looking for food for thought. Humans need the time out, hibernation, as does any animal, or plant for that matter – not sure about rocks.

Six Wordies—
Mind and body rested, tally ho!
Drift into the mind, enjoy, return.
It’s a bath cleans me up.
It’s a bath keeps me clean.


from Nancy:

…..I used to have a big dog named Bubber who was one of my most important teachers.  He used to sit out on our deck up in the mountains and just look.  It was difficult for me to imagine what he was looking at all the time, so one day I just went out and sat beside him and “looked”.  I sat with him for a long time and experienced just sitting and just looking.  I learned to take time just to sit and look.  One sees so much when one just sits and looks.  Doing nothing else…just looking.   …..not all of us can have Bubbers, but all of us can develop the skill to sit and look.
—–Anne Wilson Schaef

When despair for the world grows in me
and i wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief.  I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light.  For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
—–Wendell Berry

6-Line Prayer

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.

—–from Josh Baran, in his anthology, 365 Nirvana Here and Now
(6th line is Josh’s favorite)

On Surrender:
During the course of each day, stop for a few minutes—Close your eyes, inhale deeply, all the way to the top of your chest, and blow the air out in a complete exhale,  Imagine that you are also blowing out any tension or unpleasant feelings you’ve picked up along the way.  Then rotate your head a few times, stretch your neck, your arms and back.  Yawn and relax your jaw, and reconnect to your senses—scanning your environment slowly with your eyes, smelling the air, hearing distant sounds, feeling the objects that touch your skin, the tastes in your mouth.      Practicing little moments of surrender makes big surrenders easier.  As reistence and angst diminish, softness and trust grow, as so too grow feelings of love and tenderness…..
—–Gestalt therapist Stella Resnick


from Sue:

Quotations from The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel, Shambhala, 2003

  • “labor is the means toward an end, and the Sabbath as a day of rest, as a day of abstaining from toil, in not for the purpose of recovering one’s lost strength and becoming fit for the forthcoming labor. The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life…….The Sabbath is not for the sake of the weekdays; the weekdays are for the sake of Sabbath. It is not an interlude but the climax of living.” p.2
  • “Labor is a craft, but perfect rest is an art. It is the result of an accord of body, mind and imagination. To attain a degree of excellence in art, one must accept its discipine, one must abjure slothfulness.” p.3
  • “Labor without dignity is the cause of misery; rest without spirit the source of depravity.” p.7
  • “After the six days of creation—what did the universe still lack? Menuha. Came the Sabbath, came menuha, and the universe was complete.” [Quoted as a Midrash by Rashi on Megillah 9a; on Genesis 2:2; Tosafot Sanhedrin 38a]
    • “Menuha, which we usually render with “rest,” means here much more than withdrawal from labor and exertion, more than freedom from toil, strain or activity of any kind. Menuha is not a negative concept but something real and intrinsically positive. ……
  • “What was created on the seventh day? Tranquility, serenity, peace and repose.” p. 13 [Genesis Rabba 10,9]
  • “It is one thing to race or be driven by the vicissitudes that menace life, and another thing to stand still and to embrace the presence of an eternal moment.” p. 19

“A pious man once took a stroll in his vineyard on the Sabbath. He saw a breach in the fence, and then determined to mend it when the Sabbath would be over. At the expiration of the Sabbath he decided: since the thought of repairing the fence occurred to me on the Sabbath, I shall never repair it.”

~Alice Walker:   “Anybody can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week.” In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens

Personal Thoughts:
How grateful I am that it happens every week. What a reminder!! What a constancy.
My great grandfather Dov Baer Marshak (check Geni) arrived in this country in 1911 from Liverpool. In Liverpool he and his family boarded the ship on the Sabbath. This so upset him that on his arrival in Chicago (the end of his journey), he fasted for three days. Now that I make the Sabbath I think of him often, since I’ve returned to the practice of something he valued that his children and grandchildren left behind them.
How I began to keep the Sabbath; Christine helped me begin. It’s often a challenging day. It’s supposed to be a piece of paradise, perfect, and of course I’m always making judgments and picking out imperfections. I have meetings and other events scheduled that day because the dominant culture does not keep Saturday as the Sabbath. Taking a drive can be a mindful of imperfections–other people’s driving, the weather, etc. Buddhist meditation practice is helpful to me in helping me keep to the present moment–to BE PRESENT.


from Jack: 

O God, we thirst for Thee,
And at the same time we are immersed in
The sparkling water of Thy Presence.
Help us to be aware.
—–Prayer learned at Powell House in 1960’s, author unknown


from Cynthia: 

Being that April is poetry month and CoS topic for 04/05/09 was “rest”, I went in search of a poem. I found several that  focused on ‘death’ meaning  ‘rest’ , which I did not choose! This one resonated  in my mind as a complex, life-giving concept- which I like and completely accept:

Is not true leisure
one with true toil?
Rest is not quitting
the busy career-
Rest is the fitting
of self to its sphere.

‘Tis the brook’s motion,
clear without strife,
fleeing to the ocean
after its life.

——John Sullivan Dwight:  [1813-1893]
– graduated at Harvard in 1832, at the Cambridge divinity school in 1835, and in 1840 was ordained pastor of the Unitarian Church in Northampton, Massachusetts.He soon left the ministry from sympathy with the socialistic ideas of the famous Brook Farm community, of which he was one of the founders, and where he lived for five years, teaching Latin, Greek, German, and music, and at the same time farming, cutting wood, cultivating trees, and engaging in other industries. He returned to Boston in 1848 and devoted himself to literature


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: