Tips for Taking Your Radical COVID-19 Sabbatical
Sir Isaac Newton left Cambridge College in 1665 because it closed in the wake of the Bubonic plague. He took to the English countryside and lived on a farm for nearly two years during which time he developed what would become calculous and he developed the theory of gravity and motion (while sitting beneath an apple tree). Somehow, away from the ivory towers and the pressure to produce and connect with other academics, he had two powerful breakthroughs.
What if this enforced quarantine away from your work is your greatest opportunity, creatively speaking?
Many of us have been sent home from work, have lost business temporarily or are home because our kids schools are closed. What if we all treated this as if we were entering a radical sabbatical?
In 2010 I electively took six weeks away from my medical practice. I can say it was one of the most profound and significant experiences of my life. And I have a few ideas about how best to approach your COVID Sabbatical. I hope they help!
No. 1: Embrace J.R. Tolkien’s quote: “All who wander are not lost.”. Allow yourself to wander, day dream and drift. This will feel very weird at first if you are currently living a fast paced extremely productive life.
How could you wander? Take a slow (read: NOT A WORKOUT PACE) walk around your hood without headphones. If you can access a wild space, all the better. Grab a book off your shelf and crack it open to a “random” page and read it. Watch that documentary that has you curious. Sketch or paint. Lie under an apple tree. Declutter some old files or your computer’s desktop. Rake the yard or weed your garden.
No. 2: Think about what would be cool if you accomplished it during this time.
For this tip we have my mother to thank. About two weeks into my sabbatical, my mother called and asked me, “I’m worried your sabbatical will go so quickly and you’ll have nothing to show for it if you don’t have a plan”. I found the question deeply annoying (Can’t I just rest?!!), but I’m so glad she asked. I thought to myself, “I want to write a book .” I not only wrote the bones of my first book during my sabbatical, but I ended up writing five books in a space of seven years. I never saw that coming.
What would be amazing to have accomplished by the end of 6 weeks lockdown? A new book of poems? Gaining a deeper understanding of vedic astrology? Recording a story you can submit to “The Moth” podcast? To learn the basic chords of F, G and A minor on your guitar so you can start learning songs to actually sing”? Finishing something creative you started a while back? What would feel incredible? How will you accomplish it? Could you dedicate ten minutes a day, an hour, three hours? Put your dream on the schedule.
No. 3: Allow yourself to follow your curiosity…no matter how weird it seems. If you are following No. 1 above and wandering quite a bit, weird stuff will begin to show up that makes you curious. Books, blogs, images, snippets of conversation, lines in movies….pay attention.
During my sabbatical, a book fell off the shelf. It was all about animal spirits. Being a majorly scientific lady at the time, the idea sounded absolutely ludicrous. But something said, READ ME. And I did. That book, it turned out, would set me on an amazing spiritual and personal growth trajectory which I am still riding on today. I am eternally grateful.
What are you feeling drawn to these days? A certain sort of paper flower making? A Kundalini yoga meditation? A style of ancient cheesemaking? A beastie friendly landscaping movement? How could you explore it more via youtube, conversations, books? Or, what raw materials do you have on hand that you could play with? Maybe you’ve simply been longing for more meaning in your life and work and aren’t sure where to begin? If so, studying the acclaimed video lessons at Life Pirate Academy could be powerful.
No. 4 Get Ready.
While on sabbatical you are, by definition, in a liminal period. You aren’t really “working”, but, yet, if you are engaged creatively in exploring something new, you aren’t NOT working .
Think of it like this: you are being prepared and preparing to be a new, upgraded iteration of YOU.
What do you sense you are going to need in this next phase? Let your intuition guide you. Maybe you’re going to need nerves of steel…if so, now is a great time to build a solid meditation practice. Maybe you realize you need to get off the hooch or the flour/sugar? There are a bazillion anonymous (and free) group telecalls you can join to learn how to recover with the help for 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous etc. Maybe a stronger faith/spiritual practice is the thing. How could you begin to tend that part of you each day? What else do you need?
Still not sure what you’d like to complete by the time your Radical COVID-19 Sabbatical is over, but you’d like to have something to show at the end?
Check out The One Hundred Day Project (and search the hashtag #100dayproject on Instagram to see examples) and launch one. If you do one, I guarantee you’ll have fun, learn more about where creativity comes from and you’ll uplift and encourage others.
Why not go for it?
Mine created the raw material for my new book coming June 1.
If you allow this liminal period to be like stepping into the dark womb (of the unknown) to see what wants to be created, this could be amazing. Plant your seeds, water them and watch them grow.
Who knows, when you emerge in several weeks time, you might have discovered something more powerful than gravity….you might discover the immense creative power that’s been lying dormant within you.
Personally, I can’t wait to see what you realize in this precious time. I hope you’ll share it with me!
If you could use some support dreaming up your 100 day project or dealing with the discomfort of doing less/wandering, let’s connect for a “pick my brain” session! It’s what I do.
With much love,