Dr. Marilyn Paul is the author of It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys and An Oasis in Time: How a Day of Rest Can Save Your Life. She is the co-founder of Bridgeway Partners, a consulting firm dedicated to using systems thinking approaches to multi-sectoral and complex organizational challenges.


We spoke at the end of August 2022, and I was excited to talk to Marilyn since we've been introduced by her husband, former guest of the podcast, David Peter Stroh, and my discovery of her delightful book, An Oasis in Time. Avid listeners of the podcast would know that I am a designer by profession, but I've studied religious studies in my master's degree. I did this out of curiosity for the ways religions use design to create supportive frameworks for our lives, whether they are philosophical, social, institutional, or personal.


I've been especially fascinated by the way that religions design and structure time itself through ritual and community to produce valuable experiences. Meditation, pilgrimage, and the Jewish Sabbath are all examples of wonderful ways of structuring time. In fact, it was the Sabbath that opened the door to Buddhist meditation and spirituality in my own life, and Marilyn is the only person I know who wrote about it enthusiastically, pragmatically, and from an accessible secular perspective.


Her book is not just meant for Jewish people. It's a passionate defense and advocacy for the value of a weekly day of rest. A day intentionally and deeply separated from the mundane concerns of work, money, and achievement. And it's also a practical guide for how to set such a day up and embark on a journey of making it richer, more beautiful, more meaningful, and more social over time. The conversation was delightful and thought-provoking.




In this conversation we talk about:

  • What it was like to grow up with two therapist parents.
  • Her early interest in climate change and how it shaped her choices.
  • Suffering from what she calls chronic disorganization, and how she learned to tame chaos and to be more organized.
  • The spirituality of organizing.
  • The role of meditation in her journey.
  • How she discovered the Sabbath and recognized its importance in her life.
  • What the Sabbath has to do with gratefulness.
  • How to remember who we are as human beings.
  • And many other topics. 


We live in a hectic, modern society, but I found that having a day of rest helps me stay sane and stable throughout it all, and helps me stay connected to my own values and to the present, even in the most stressful times. This conversation was a chance to enrich this day of rest. What stayed with me is Marilyn's call to make it richer, mark it more decisively, and enjoy great food and great company. It's a lifelong process, but I'm learning.


This conversation is one a dozen or so weekly conversations we already have lined up for you with thinkers, designers, makers, authors, and activists who are working to change our world for the better. So follow this podcast on your favorite podcasting app, or head over to to find links to those apps and subscribe.


And now, let's jump right in with Dr. Marilyn Paul.




[5:18] Life in the Present

[6:45] Early Childhood Lessons

[10:34] An Interest in Climate

[11:45] Chronic Disorganization

[14:45] Taming Chaos

[17:42] The Rhythm of Organizing

[19:23] The Spirituality of Organizing

[22:39] Meditation

[25:13] Discovering Shabbat

[36:21] The Soul of Shabbat

[39:48] An Oasis in Time

[44:07] Designing Shabbat

[47:32] The Green Sabbath Project

[50:33] A Short Sermon