What comes up when you think about rest? It is a four-letter word for some. I find that rest gets confused with weakness, laziness, and apathy a lot, but rest done well can be a gift and a place of growth.
There is no weakness in rest. It is a place to inventory what is working well and what needs reevaluation. While training for a marathon, rest is the place where growth and strengthening take place. Every run and workout breaks down the body and the pauses taken are where healing and strengthening occur. Working forever breaks you down until you are injured and depleted. In life, the rest is where all of the sorting and organizing happens. The space between activities is where your life gets synthesized.
There is no action in rest. This is where the false correlations to laziness and apathy come in. Rest is something that seems so frowned upon in our society because it looks like nothing. There is no visible result. You don’t get to the end of a nights sleep with a thing. There isn’t anything tangible. You can’t see the results, but the results come later when you are in action or are producing something. The focus of movement. The strength of conviction. The clarity of vision. The quality of the result. These products don’t happen without the inaction of rest to balance the action of our daily work.
I’ve often wondered why rest has been so badly demonized.
Is it because of the action of the unnecessary being pruned away? It makes sense. We are obsessed with accumulation- knowledge, action, accolades, growth… being the best, most, highest, tallest… the -est. These are all forms of expansion. More. But rest is the opposite. It is contraction and release of all that is not used. Conservation. We are beings of finite energy so our form is constantly looking for ways to economize the energy and resources we have. Our bodies don’t want to expend any more than we have to in order to do our work. Rest allows us to strengthen and heal what is crucial and release the things that are not. We need to have that evaluation to balance action and move forward intelligently.
Another thought that I have about rest and removal of all things extra is that it forces us to put down all of the actions and items that we use to keep ourselves distracted from ourselves. How often do you just sit? Without music. Without your phone. Without a book. Without a journal. Without a thought. True rest. How often do we take the time to be with ourselves and just feel what our bodies are feeling? I think that there is so much fear associated with this. It’s why meditation is so hard. It is why we take pills or listen to soothing sounds to help us fall asleep. Anything to keep us from feeling what is true in this present moment. Why? Does this go back to our values? I know that when I started putting down all of my distractions I was horrified to discover that I was running away from my values. Cruising in the wrong direction. I felt stuck when I had to stop, look around, and admit that I was lost. I think people don’t want to rest because they’ll be forced to reckon with the fact that their identities aren’t working for them and they need to be released. Then what? What are you if not your tightly held identity?
Winter is a time of rest. Plants wither back to only their most basic and necessary parts and wait to grow anew in the Spring. Nobody would ever call plants weak, lazy, or apathetic. They just are. They rest and that is all there is to it. The new forms that plants take in the Spring are familiar to the form they had the cycle before, but different. Maybe strong and better suited to the environment, in which case they grow well and strong. Maybe worse off than the year before, in which case growth is slow and they conserve their strength. Either way, the season ends, they are reduced back to the essentials, and then start it all again during the next year.
How do you feel about rest? Is it something you have negative associations with or is it a place from which you can reevaluate and take stock of the resources you have and move forward with focus and intelligence?