By Bianca Alexander
In our high-tech world filled with 24-7 technology, social media and the need to be connected to our smart phones at every turn, the idea of getting away to unplug and rejuvenate spiritually seems absolutely foreign.
But the ritual of going on sabbatical is as old as time. With biblical origins in the Hebrew word shabbat (i.e., Sabbath) corresponding to the seventh day of the week in which God rested after creating the Universe, sabbaticals can take place in a variety of ways.
Every seven years, many professionals in academia, the clergy and the business world take time off from work to pursue personal development and long-term creative projects. Today, many outside of these fields are able to benefit from going on sabbatical whenever they feel overwhelmed or simply in need of a deeper connection to their spiritual path.
I took my first spiritual sabbatical in the mystical vortexes of Sedona, Arizona after reaching a personal and professional crossroads. My husband Michael was earning good money, but lacking deeper meaning working as a corporate consultant. Despite early success in Hollywood, my on-camera career had reached a disappointing plateau. When Michael lost his biggest client and my agent sent me on my 10th Burger King commercial (though I was vegetarian!), I took it as a sign from the Universe. It was time to move in another direction. After a deep meditation, we decided to unplug from an everyday routine that was no longer working for us and move to Northern Arizona.
For ten magical months, we meditated, hiked majestic red rocks and recalibrated our life goals. Though it was hard to leave the comfortable familiarity of everyday life, our careers and loved ones in L.A., the time away helped us realign with more important personal, professional and spiritual priorities.
If you’re in need of a spiritual reboot, you don’t have to move to Sedona to recharge your batteries. Whether you can spare seven months for an extended soul journey or just a few hours of retreat at home, read on for tips on creating the best spiritual sabbatical for you:
- Be Intentional. Before packing your bags, set a clear intention on why you need a sabbatical and what you hope to accomplish during the time away. Whether it’s deepening your spiritual practice, getting emotionally and physically healthy, or finding your life’s purpose, being clear on your goals will steer your sabbatical in the right direction.
- Choose a Destination. No matter where you go, there you are, so pick a destination that nourishes the inner qualities you wish to cultivate during your retreat. Consider places in or near nature, like by the ocean or a secluded mountain getaway. If your time is limited, create a mini-sabbatical by attending a weekend workshop with a trusted spiritual teacher, or take a mental health day off from work to indulge in a long hike, dabble in your favorite creative hobby, or to just relax and do nothing.
- Handle Your Responsibilities. Before checking out, determine how long you can afford to be away from a regular paycheck. Negotiate a return date and any compensated leave you may be eligible for with your employer, assuring them that this investment in your emotional health will help you return refreshed and more productive. Set aside enough to cover bills and all living expenses during your sabbatical. If you have kids or care for an elderly parent, book a babysitter or ask friends to take turns cooking or cleaning so you can carve out precious time for yourself. Remember, it’s impossible to fully love someone else until you learn to love yourself.
- Unplug from the Matrix. One of the best things about taking sabbatical is the chance to disconnect from day-to-day routines that keep us stuck. Say goodbye to draining relationships and other obligations that no longer serve your spiritual path. Schedule time to do nothing. Take a digital detox: unplug from anything that sucks the life force, from social media and smart phones to binge-watching TV shows that deprive us of inner dialogue we need to evolve. With this freed up energy, you’ll have more stamina for the hard work of going within. Spend time contemplating the meaning of life. Meditate on your soul.
- Embrace the Journey. Though you’ve set an intention, spiritual journeys never unfold in a linear manner. Embrace the fact that you are embarking on a soul adventure. Surrender to the wisdom that the Universe is in control, and that it can be trusted to move you toward your best self. Expect the unexpected. Stay flexible and open to new experiences. Often, it’s the inevitable twists and turns of life that provide the best lessons to make us wiser.
In the end, it doesn’t matter when or where you go on your next sabbatical – only that you take one. In the words of Aristotle, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” By taking time every now and then to consciously unplug from the demands of life, it eventually becomes easier to plug in to what matters most.