Saving the World in One Day - Shabbat Around the World

08/11/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

It's Friday mid-afternoon and I'm winding down my week, finishing my calls, making final notes and shutting down my computer in preparation for 25 hours of recharging. We call it 'Shabbat' and I follow all of the rules that come with it: no TV or radio, no driving, no lighting fires, no work, no cooking, no . . . Listen, it's not exactly what I'm 'not' doing, it's more what I am doing. I'm saving the world.

For the next 25 hours nothing gets in between my children, my wife and I but sleep. We'll eat a dinner together with our extended family and some friends. After our guests leave, my wife, kids and I will go for a walk, talk, come home and all cuddle up to read before falling asleep. Either my wife or I will usher the kids off to their own beds because they usually nod off while reading.

Tomorrow morning we'll eat a light breakfast together, walk over to pray and meet with others, have a communal meal, come back home and nap a little, go for a walk, play games together, read some inspiring materials, eat again, sometimes sleep a little more, and in general 'do nothing' together. Nothing but save the world. No kidding, we're saving the world.

I explained Shabbat to a friend this way the other day: years ago I was an actor traveling the country for months at a time. We'd be in a different hotel each night and I'd mostly just grab some clothes off the top of my duffle bag every day to get me to the shows and home from them because we worked all week and onstage we had costumes so no one cared how we looked.

Come the weekend, I'd dig deep into the dufflebag, take out my best clothes, clean and iron them, get ready for rest and relaxation. I'd enjoy a period of good food, friends, fun and recharging my batteries. Celebrating Shabbat is something like that -- it's digging deep into my soul, pulling out my best 'spiritual' garb, and resting from the 'stuff' that happens every day.

It's not rocket science, lots of books are written on the idea that rest is not optional for peak performance. I really recommend The Power of Full Engagement, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, where they explain the rhythm of exertion and rest as a key concept to reaching full potential. Working long hours without recharging is the equivalent of driving a car without ever stopping to fuel up or do maintenance. It's crucial, not optional that you stop, rest and recharge in order to be effective. The more regular your periods of rest and recharge, the more effective you can be.

So how does taking a 25 hour break have anything to do with saving the world? Well for me, it is not only physical and spiritual recharging; it's also emotional and intellectual. I've just added a new consideration, it's not like I've invented it, it's just that it is actually in my consciousness now on a whole new level. Each Shabbat I take a break from judging, criticizing, pre-judging, impatience and my weekly thought addictions of 'how, what, who, how many, where, what next, etc.' I leave the mind that I've been filling all week with 'stuff', thoughts, judgment, criticism and complaint and let it all go for one day. I listen as if everything I read is true, as if everything people say to me is true. Since I can't purchase anything, sign anything or discuss business, this restful naiveté is affordable.

For this one day a week I rest from adding emotional pollution to the world and that, in short, is saving the world.

Think about it: one day where everyone is perfect in your eyes. One day where you don't immediately add whatever anyone says or does to a predetermined opinion of them, to a muddy pool of opinion and judgment. One day where everyone else's foibles are off limits. Think of how much freer and open all of your relationships would be if you could wipe out all of the cobwebs and see with new eyes!

I'm also saving the world literally. Think about the possibility, in terms of global pollution, not just emotional pollution, if everyone in the world pledged to take one day where they didn't turn on lights or use electricity, didn't drive a car, pre-cooked a day's meals so they didn't have to use cooking gas, where all public transportation was shut down except for emergency teams.

Think about the possibility of a world where at least one day a week everyone turned off their cell phones, got away from their computer terminals and their TV screens and went for a walk. Think of a world where at least one day a week people met in the streets, said hello and rested from their effort and struggles, rested from habitual thinking and prejudices. Can you imagine if everyone in the world meditated or prayed, individually or communally, at least once a week or read something that inspired, moved and encouraged them at least once every week?

What would Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth' scenario be if every culture in the world shut down for one day every week of no fossil fuel burning (aside from the few lights it takes to light a communal room for reading and games)? He'd have to re-vamp all of his scenarios because even one world-wide day of no fossil fuel burning would change even the worst pollution scenario.

It's really not that inconceivable that every culture could take this on - it's already a practice to observe one day of rest, whether or not it's called Shabbat, not only for Jews but for Christians, Muslims and even Wiccans. But there's a secret here, and as long as it's just you and me talking, I can let you in on it: it's not necessary for the whole world to do this to make a difference. If I could just convince you to take a rest day and you could convince someone else . . .

Come on, it's simple to save the world. It's not always easy; but it is simple. Stop. Take a rest. Recharge. Inspire. Breathe. Talk. Sleep. Eat. Meditate. Don't do. Be.

Simple. Not always easy. But worth it?

Can you take on spreading the word?
Can you share this with at least one other person and challenge them to create their own personal Shabbat to save the world?
What are you doing, what can you do and all the other questions that follow.
Let me hear from you and I'll respond as quickly as I can -- just not on Shabbat.