In the process of having a sabbatical one has time to look within, to deal with things that have been put off for other more pressing concerns or because one does not want to deal with them.
In these last weeks of my sabbatical I have found that there are two aspects of my life that have been an issue for me and yet never urgent enough to be immediately addressed. One is my daily reading of the news and another is my daily coffee. Neither of which I would put into an evil force, in fact both help me feel connected with others and the world about me, as I drink coffee with others and chat about the events in the world about us. Yet coffee is still a substance that a colleague has referred to as “Christian speed”. My daily cups of coffee can seem justified, but also can be seen as a habit an unnecessary stimulant and something to look at in my life. Within Buddhist tradition it is seen as a forbidden or harmful element. Getting off coffee, or at least cutting it down to the point where I will only have an occasional cup was in fact hard at first. There was a caffeine need, ever so subtle, that was pulling at me. I have moved to the occasional cup and found it refreshing.
The other issue that has come up in the last days of my sabbatical is my daily reading of the news. It always seemed like a good thing for me to be connected to what is going on in the world. But with computer news it can suck up great amounts of time. And I have found that news generally only confirms what I already believe. I may be gathering new bits of information but only reinforcing already held positions. And in fact these positions only get more entrenched with the more news I read. Books are my new friend, again. And it is keeping me off the computer which has kept me from updating my blog. I am also taking time to read poetry every day instead of the news. It is giving me a much more enhanced view of my immediate world. In a time of great change I find it hard to actually embrace the change for myself. It is easy to see what is happening around me and to fight or take sides. But as a Christian, I find that the hope of redemption and forgiveness always leads me back to that wonderful and freeing cleansing of repentance. So instead of getting angry with the news pundits who I wish would repent and gain some intelligence I simply look within and repent from the news, with my herbal tea and book of poetry.