What is an oasis in time? Is it downtime? Beach time? Gardening time? Reflect-and-catch- up-on-life time? Is it sacred time? Is it a leisurely meal at a big table surrounded by family and friends? It can be all of these things and more. As you take steps to create more oasis time in your life, you will discover what it is for you.

The idea is that for one day, or maybe half a day, each week, you set aside your doing-for-the-sake-of-doing mind, your it’s-never-enough mind, and your crazy nonstop trying-to-control-things mind. You enter a period of contentment and equanimity—an alternative reality of timelessness, of soul time, right in the middle of the frenzy and the perceived time desert.

When you take off your “getting things done” glasses, you soften your vision. And when you soften your vision, you can see that the world right in front of you is magnificent. You give your anxious nervous system a break. Start with an hour or two. Or start with fifteen minutes. And don’t do it just once. Practice setting aside time each week to discover that there is another world right in front of you.

Every oasis in time provides renewal. Each one is restorative in some way. And with practice, you can experience a sense of timelessness, you can let go of that nagging feeling that there is something else to be done. You become fully absorbed in the present moment. You fully engage with the people right in front of you. You notice the clouds drifting by and the wind blowing through the trees.

When was the last time you put away your to-do list and lived in the present moment for a solid stretch of time? When was the last time you didn’t check social media or e-mail for an entire day? When was the last time you ignored your screens for twenty-four hours? Most people are so tied to the grid that they can’t imagine getting off of it. But it can be done. You can do it, and you will only benefit as a result.

When trying something new, it’s handy to have a model. And one time-tested, incredibly effective model for pulling away from the over- work/overconsumption trap is the Sabbath. I offer here five gateways to weekly rest and renewal that come out of my own and others’ experiments with Sabbath time. These are principles, not rules, and are designed to help you try out oasis practices and find the ones that are most fulfilling and achievable for you. As you start your journey to oasis time, revisit these gateways regularly to remind yourself how to stay on track. Over time, you will find it easier and easier to create a time of relaxed, connected joy and share it with others.

The Five Gateways

From years of practice and study, as well as talking to and learning from hundreds of people, I have found five gateways that will help structure your journey and shape your oasis time. Taken together, these strategies and reminders will open the way, starting us down the path that shifts us out of the world of action and into the world of renewal of the soul.

  1. Protect and prepare. Protect your time off and guard it fiercely. Prepare and plan for it. Planning makes all the difference in creating an oasis that is truly restoring. Consider what social time, activities, food, and spiritual connection your oasis time will include.

  2. Begin and end. Name your starting and ending times and stick to both as best as you can. Oasis time can come to shape your week, and it works best when it is clear and time limited. The rhythm of a regular oasis time gives you essential boundaries that help you focus at work and let go when not at work. 

  3. Disconnect to connect. Put down your digital devices. Experience life without checking for text messages, social media updates, or e-mail. Instead, connect with yourself, with others, and with your sense of what has greater meaning and is life sustaining. 

  4. Slow down to savor. Slowing your movements helps to slow your mind, and vice versa. This is key to savoring the delectable aspects of now, which is all about pleasure, enjoyment, and entering the present moment. Even a painful now can be savored for the innately fulfilling texture of a well-lived life. 

  5. Let go of achieving to rest reflect and play release the tension of going after any goal, large or small. When you do this, you let go of worries and expectations. Then you can finally rest well, reflect deeply (alone or with others), and play more freely. 

Now, pull out your calendar and identify the hour of oasis time that you are determined to create for yourself this weekend. Don’t let anything get in your way. Know in advance that we all have the “just one more thing” syndrome. We have to decide to just stop. Put the list down. Put our phone down. Look up at the sky or down at the earth and shift our mind to a difference frequency. Just for one hour to start.

Reprinted from Oasis in Time by Marilyn Paul. By permission of Rodale Books.