My Own Personal Sabbath #21

Every Sunday since mid-May 2020, I have been taking my own personal Sabbath, where I tune out of the news and social media and turn off my ringer and all notifications on my phone. This past weekend, I started Saturday and am extending it through Tuesday, because of the presidential debate on Tuesday night. What follows is what I’ve been reading, watching, listening to, doing so far this extended Sabbath.

As the weekend began, I had lots of choice for what I might read, from Kindle deals I’ve recently purchased to ebooks I have checked out from the Free Library of Philadelphia that I thought I might read but hadn’t yet. After a few misfires throughout much of Saturday, I finally settled on beginning to read Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kakat-Zinn, a recent ebook I picked up through a Kindle deal. There are three parts to the book. So far, I’ve read the first part and here are a few highlights from that first part:

TRY: Stopping, sitting down, and becoming aware of your breathing once in a while throughout the day. It can be for five minutes, or even five seconds. Let go into full acceptance of the present moment, including how you are feeling and what you perceive to be happening. For these moments, don’t try to change anything at all, just breathe and let go. Breathe and let be. Die to having to have anything be different in this moment; in your mind and in your heart, give yourself permission to allow this moment to be exactly as it is, and allow yourself to be exactly as you are. Then, when you’re ready, move in the direction your heart tells you to go, mindfully and with resolution.

If we don’t really know where we are standing— a knowing that comes directly from the cultivation of mindfulness— we may only go in circles, for all our efforts and expectations. So, in meditation practice, the best way to get somewhere is to let go of trying to get anywhere at all.

Nor are we forcing ourselves to be non-judgmental, calm, or relaxed. And we are certainly not promoting self-consciousness or indulging in self-preoccupation. Rather, we are simply inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.

The spirit of mindfulness is to practice for its own sake, and just to take each moment as it comes—pleasant or unpleasant, good, bad, or ugly—and then work with that because it is what is present now. 

TRY: During the day, see if you can detect the bloom of the present moment in every moment, the ordinary ones, the “in-between” ones, even the hard ones. Work at allowing more things to unfold in your life without forcing them to happen and without rejecting the ones that don’t fit your idea of what “should” be happening. See if you can sense the “spaces” through which you might move with no effort… 

Being in a hurry usually doesn’t help, and it can create a great deal of suffering—sometimes in us, sometimes in those who have to be around us. 

A non-judging orientation certainly does not mean that you cease knowing how to act or behave responsibly in society, or that anything anybody does is okay. It simply means that we can act with much greater clarity in our own lives, and be more balanced, more effective, and more ethical in our activities, if we know that we are immersed in a stream of unconscious liking and disliking which screens us from the world and from the basic purity of our own being. The mind states of liking and disliking can take up permanent residency in us, unconsciously feeding addictive behaviors in all domains of life. When we are able to recognize and name the seeds of greediness or craving, however subtle, in the mind’s constant wanting and pursuing of the things or results that we like, and the seeds of aversion or hatred in our rejecting or maneuvering to avoid the things we don’t like, that stops us for a moment and reminds us that such forces really are at work in our own minds to one extent or another almost all the time. It’s no exaggeration to say that they have a chronic, viral-like toxicity that prevents us from seeing things as they actually are and mobilizing our true potential.

Meditation does not involve trying to change your thinking by thinking some more. It involves watching thought itself. The watching is the holding. By watching your thoughts without being drawn into them, you can learn something profoundly liberating about thinking itself, which may help you to be less of a prisoner of those thought patterns—often so strong in us—which are narrow, inaccurate, self-involved, habitual to the point of being imprisoning, and also just plain wrong. 

TRY: Recognizing the ways in which you meet obstacles with harshness. Experiment with being soft when your impulse is to be hard, generous when your impulse is to be withholding, open when your impulse is to close up or shut down emotionally. When there is grief or sadness, try letting it be here. Allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling. Notice any labels you attach to crying or feeling vulnerable. Let go of the labels. Just feel what you are feeling, all the while cultivating moment- to- moment awareness, riding the waves of “up” and “down,” “good” and “bad,” “weak” and “strong,” until you see that they are all inadequate to fully describe your experience. Be with the experience itself. Trust in your deepest strength of all: to be present, to be wakeful.

Concentration can be of great value, but it can also be seriously limiting if you become seduced by the pleasant quality of this inner experience and come to see it as a refuge from life in an unpleasant and unsatisfactory world. You might be tempted to avoid the messiness of daily living for the tranquility of stillness and peacefulness. This of course would be an attachment to stillness, and like any strong attachment, it leads to delusion. It arrests development and short- circuits the cultivation of wisdom.

Meditation does not involve trying to change your thinking by thinking some more. It involves watching thought itself. The watching is the holding. By watching your thoughts without being drawn into them, you can learn something profoundly liberating about thinking itself, which may help you to be less of a prisoner of those thought patterns—often so strong in us—which are narrow, inaccurate, self-involved, habitual to the point of being imprisoning, and also just plain wrong.

Dwelling inwardly for extended periods, we come to know something of the poverty of always looking outside ourselves for happiness, understanding, and wisdom. It’s not that God, the environment, and other people cannot help us to be happy or to find satisfaction. It’s just that our happiness, satisfaction, and our understanding, even of God, will be no deeper than our capacity to know ourselves inwardly, to encounter the outer world from the deep comfort that comes from being at home in one’s own skin, from an intimate familiarity with the ways of one’s own mind and body.

Dwelling in stillness and looking inward for some part of each day, we touch what is most real and reliable in ourselves and most easily overlooked and undeveloped. When we can be centered in ourselves, even for brief periods of time in the face of the pull of the outer world, not having to look elsewhere for something to fill us up or make us happy, we can be at home wherever we find ourselves, at peace with things as they are, moment by moment.

This past month, at the recommendation of my therapist, I started using a meditation app, Insight Timer. I’ve mostly been meditating with a Morning and Evening Examen from a website called God in All Things created by a married Jesuit lay minister named Andy Otto. I also took a guided course, Learn How To Meditate In Seven Days, on the app. So this is just a natural progression/next step on the journey to read more about mindful meditation.


Yesterday I also decided to try a show new to me, Mystery Road, an Australian show. An Acorn TV show, it had been available for free on Amazon Prime, but it’s not now so I’m watching it on Hoopla through the Free Library of Philadelphia. That’s also where my wife and I watched The Brokenwood Mysteries, a New Zealand mystery series. While you only can borrow four titles per month with Hoopla, what was good that each season of The Brokenwood Mysteries was four episodes long. Mystery Road is six episodes long, so I’ve now watched four episodes, but with it being the end of September, I won’t have to wait too long to watch the last two (with my wife, she’s catching up on it today with me).

The story seems simple: Two young men go missing from a cattle station. Detective Jay Swan, played by Aaron Pedersen, is called in to investigate with local copy Emma James, played by Judy Davis. Except, of course, it isn’t that simple as Swan and James discover. Both Pederson and Davis are excellent in their roles and the story, four episodes in, is very good since I want to see the rest of it and now have roped my wife into watching it.


Last night, after reading a review of Adele’s 21 (each Sunday Pitchfork reviews a significant album from the past), I listened to it again and it still is stunning for songs like this:


Tonight as we watch Mystery Road, Kim and I are enjoying a little (or maybe a lot of) wine as we celebrate the resolution of an $11,000 bill from my knee surgery last year. I learned in May, almost eight months after my surgery, that our insurance company denied the claim back in October shortly after the surgery and that the bill was under dispute. Since May, we have been going back and forth with the hospital and the insurance company, but on Saturday we received a letter from the hospital’s financial assistance office that I had been given a 100 percent discount backdated to September of last year and for the next three months. This morning, I called the financial assistance office to confirm that meant I didn’t owe anything and they said my bill was $0.

My Own Personal Sabbath #20

Every Sunday since mid-May 2020, I have been taking my own personal Sabbath, where I tune out of the news and social media and turn off my ringer and all notifications on my phoneThis past weekend, I started my Sabbath early on Saturday.

I began the weekend by continuing The Moving Target, the first Lew Archer, by Ross Macdonald, which I started earlier in the week. I decided to get out of the house and drove to a local ballfield where I finished it. It was good, but I’ve heard the series gets better as it goes.

Then on Sunday, I decided to take a break from the crime noir in California and classic crime, mostly from England, I have been reading over my last few own personal Sabbaths and went to Florida with Tim Dorsey for the sixth in his Serge Storms series, Cadillac Beach. I think it is just what I needed, a hyperkinetic romp through the streets of Miami with Serge at the wheel as opposed to the slow drive along the coast of California with Lew steering. Maybe with as crazy as the world as is right now, I needed the craziness that Dorsey depicts in the late 1990s and early 2000s as a counterbalance.

Later in the afternoon, I went for a walk in a park near where we live. I ended the night by starting Last Bus to Woodstock, the first in the Inspector Morse series, by Colin Dexter, part of a collection of the first three novels in the series. My wife and I have watched much, if not all, of the original TV series and now are making our way through Endeavour on Amazon Prime. I picked up the collection on Google Play Books as part of a deal that wasn’t available on Kindle at the time, but as such, I only can read the collection on my phone. It’s not my first choice of format, but sometimes a reader has to do what a reader has to do.

My Own Personal Sabbath #19

Every Sunday since mid-May 2020, I have been taking my own personal Sabbath, where I tune out of the news and social media and turn off my ringer and all notifications on my phone. This Sunday, I try something new, checking in here on the blog every few hours during the day.

Today began with dishes. Not the most glamorous thing, but there you go. That’s how it started. It is now 10:45 a.m. and I’ve had a bowl of Special K Red Berries with with added fresh strawberries and a hint of cane sugar with soy milk. I’m drinking an iced coffee and listening to this, a show I often listen to on Sunday mornings:

Today, I plan on reading The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett after a friend mentioned the movie series and I realized I never had read any of the books. I was on hold for an ebook version at the Free Library of Philadelphia, but the wait was a few weeks. Then I remembered that our library probably had a copy. We didn’t, but it is in a Library of America Collection of Hammett’s novels we have. The print is small, but not as small as I thought so hopefully I’ll be okay.

Other than that, I’m not sure what I’ll be doing. It’s supposed to be rainy all day so I’m glad I got a walk in yesterday. Actually I went on two walks: the first, a meditative walk using an app called Insight Timer; the second, a walk to Dollar General down the street to get new sponges and cat litter (I know, my life IS exciting!). I might watch something fun later with Kim once she gets up. As a 911 dispatcher, she normally works a 12-hour shift from Saturday into Sunday and then another one tonight into tomorrow, so she’s sleeping now. Check in with y’all later this afternoon. Until then….


It’s now about 1:45 p.m. and I’m about halfway through The Thin Man. Overall, it’s good so far, except one strange diversion to an encyclopedia-like entry about cannibalism in the Old West in the late 1800s. Otherwise, I’m enjoying it. I’m about to have an omelette on a tortilla wrap and a glass of wine (hey, don’t judge me, it’s the weekend).


6 p.m., and I just finished The Thin Man, which was good if not great, after a short nap. In the notes to the collection, I learned, among other things, that the book wasn’t the first in a series and actually was the last novel he wrote. I’m now signing off to eat dinner with Kim before she goes to work.


It’s almost 9 p.m. and I’m now watching Eureka. I think I remember where I left off years ago, in Season 3, so I’m picking up there…or about there.

My Own Personal Sabbath #18

From a journal entry about 20 minutes ago:

Today I read the first Albert Campion mystery, The Crime at Black Dudley, by Margery Allingham and started the second one, Mystery Mile. I also finished The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, the last Sherlock Holmes collection of short stories. It also is the last one in a two-volume collection of the Holmes short stories and novels that I slowly had been making my way through over the last couple of years.

I had to return a book I bought on Kindle because the formatting was off. It’s the second book within the last month I’ve had to return for a refund; the first, a book riddled with typos.

I’m just finished watching the end of an Endeavour episode and just started another. The one I just finished was probably the best writing I read all day. And since I put on the closed captioning, it was reading.