It was about a year ago. I was caught in traffic on one of Toronto’s main streets on my way home from work, and we weren’t just moving slowly, we had stopped altogether. I’d already finished most of the items on my work to-do list for that day, but by this hour I was more focused on anotherWe weren't just moving slowly, we had stopped altogether to-do list. I was heading home to respond to the clients in my online therapy job. Since I had been working for two different agencies at the time, I’d given up my morning exercise routine and was hoping to fit in a quick date with my treadmill that evening. I probably also needed a haircut, my laundry needed folding, and there were emails and text messages still waiting to be answered.

In recent years, there’s been a popular rise in the practice of Mindfulness—a lifestyle which teaches us to be present in the moment, to calm ourselves by focusing only on the here-and-now, shutting out the excess noise and constant rush of our daily lives. Being mindful of ourselves and the moment we’re in allows us to take a break from constantly analyzing and judging our pasts and anticipating (and worrying about) our futures. It allows us to experience reality solely for what it is and not how we think it should be.

What practicing the art of Mindfulness can do to our day, observing Shabbat already does for our week. From early in the book of Genesis and throughout many of Judaism’s key texts, it’s clear that we humans were created to work, be creative, and use our talents and abilities to transform the world we share. For six days of the week, we’re supposed to make to-do lists. We’re born to advance and strive to further our potentials. But, as much as G‑d calls on us to engage with the world in which He placed us, He also calls on us to abstain from creating.

Shabbat is an oasis in time, a 25-hour period during which, instead of striving to complete to-do lists, we work on engaging in to-be lists. For 25 hours, whatever we think we were supposed to achieve during the previous six days is no longer relevant; instead of doing, we simply be. We recognize that G‑d is the Creator of the world, and that we are part of a plan far grander than we can comprehend. This doesn’t mean that we don’t need to finish those tasks, but it means that we take a break and work on being present. We don’t schedule appointments. We shut off the devices that we are glued to during the week, and instead we connect with our Source, each other, and our inner selves. We ensure that we take time to eat proper meals, and enjoy those meals with family and friends. In short, we disconnect to reconnect.

Of course, Shabbat isn’t just another day to relax and recharge. It’s a mitzvah, a divine command, which we are enjoined to celebrate as per the Torah’s direction.

Practicing Mindfulness doesn’t erase all our stressors, and celebrating Shabbat doesn’t magically wipe those to-do lists clean, but they do help us shift out of auto-pilot and take control of where we’re steering our lives. Yes, we’ll still need to make time to attend that PTA meeting, our bills regrettably won’t pay themselves, and the grass still needs to be cut. But celebrating Shabbat arms us with a sense of peace and calm to embrace whatever hiccups the week ahead will throw our way.

As I sat in that never-ending line of cars, there wereIn life there are no shortcuts wide-open exits to side-streets that I could have taken—streets with no cars. But those weren’t the exits I was supposed to take; they would have only made my trip longer. True, they may have seemed like shorter routes at first glance, but in life there are no shortcuts. Sometimes the longer-shorter way is actually the fastest path to achieving greatness, because sticking with it gets us where we need to go. Sometimes those traffic jams—the moments in our lives where we feel most stagnant—are really gifts G‑d bestows upon us to ensure that we make time to breathe.

Mindfulness isn’t easy, nor is it a quick-fix. It takes courage to slow down when everyone around us is screaming at us to speed things up. But we know that nothing in life is random; we can learn from every experience and every person we meet. Perhaps, what sitting in traffic teaches us is that it’s OK to not move at times. It’s OK to take that break, to disconnect to reconnect. Because ultimately, if we never learn how to just be, how can we hope to become anything more than we currently are?