Monday, August 31, 2015


We've all heard something like it before:

"I'll sleep when I'm dead."

"Rest is for the week."

"It's all about the hustle."

Our modern culture isn't big on rest. And that shouldn't come as a surprise given our proclivities-bordering-on-obsession in regards to distraction, over-indulgence, materialism, and commerce. If we do anything at all as a people, we go. We associate stopping with weakness, we are addicted to an ideal of constant achievement, and we are uncomfortable with stillness & quiet. We define a successful life in terms of measurable quantities (read: "bank account") and relegate any and all attention that could be paid to the inner life to a back burner that never gets lit.

Rest is not our thing.

This thought has been bouncing around in my own head for at least a year now. I discovered awhile back that I more-or-less sucked at rest. For the life of me, I could not take a solid day off without feeling like I was missing out on an opportunity to do something. For that reason, I found myself massively frustrated every time I wound up moderately sick - which is to say, sick enough to make being around people in a social context completely inappropriate but not sick enough that I would feel justified in just letting myself recover. I would find myself asking questions like, "Am I really so sick that I can't workout a little?" and "I can still practice, right?"

For whatever reason, the sense of need I felt to do would make me feel like a slacker if I didn't power through in some way and accomplish something. 

I think I had bought into the lie that enough hard work, enough effort, and enough achievement in some way magically guaranteed the realization of my dreams. If I could just continue to keep chipping away at the stone, eventually God would have to move me right where I'd always wanted to be.

But then I began thinking about all of the things that go unheeded when the idea of rest (not to mention the necessity of it) is viewed as a universal pejorative. Did I really want to be the guy who couldn't slow down, who couldn't relax, and who couldn't find it within himself to appreciate where he was at any given moment if that place didn't happen to be THE PLACE he hoped & prayed he would one day end up?

Lovable ball of dualities that I am, I happen to be a blogger who doesn't read very many blogs. This, however, comes from a blog I peruse every now and again:

You have heard the hackneyed saying: “Life is a road, not a destination.”  Nothing could be further from the truth in our world.  Many people covet what they do not have, live only for what they want to achieve, are always looking to the next bend in the road, sacrifice the people in their lives for progress toward their goals, and are unsatisfied with where they are.  But maybe this was truly the case with the patriarchs – they thought in terms of the road rather than the destination.  It was enough for them to simply live the life of faith, unhurried and unencumbered, while enjoying the different “seasons” of the covenant relationship.  Perhaps we, too, should live and think more in such terms.

Speaking of the ancient peoples of the Hebrew Old Testament, the writer of this blog post had made a fabulous observation in regards to rest: that in at least one instance of history, people understood that their futures were decided by more than their individual efforts, that they happened to be where they were for a reason, and that slowing down and appreciating where they were (instead of constantly focusing on where they wanted to be) was a completely normal & healthy part of life.

I also happened to recently read the following within the pages of Eric Greitens' great book, Resilience:

We spend the bulk of our lives doing things. And yet some of the most meaningful parts of our lives come when we simply choose to be, when we let time carry us, when we "face sacred moments". Space is something we strive to control and conquer; you can grab things with your hands. You can't grab time. You can't slow it down or speed it up. Time is beyond your control. Yet you have to live meaningfully in time as well as in space.
As [Rabbi] Heschel says: "He who wants to enter the holiness of the [rest] day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce, of being yoked to toil. He must go away from the screech of dissonant days, from the nervousness and fury of acquisitiveness and the betrayal in embezzling his own life. He must say farewell to manual work and learn to understand that the world has already been created and will survive without the help of man."

I think it's safe to say that a message was getting sent. I hope that I've properly received it.

There is time for everything. Which means that there is time to slow down. There is time to focus on the being and not all of the doing. There is time to reflect, to ponder, to daydream. There is time to relax and to recover. There is time to not work. There is time to absorb and to be absorbed. There is time to spend celebrating and appreciating the work & the art of others instead of brooding over our own. All of this is real, and careers and dreams and the world will not end if we decide to partake of it.

So, here's to learning how to become better at rest. Here's to taking a step back and realizing we can't do it all by ourselves. Here's to realizing that the inner life matters more than the exterior one, and to cultivate that inner life, we must slow down from time to time. Here's to directing attention towards being and not simply doing. Here's to taking the last hour of the day and turning on some soft music, reading a book, and allowing our minds to come to a stop before trying to sleep. Here's to being in our own minds every once in awhile instead of allowing the world to dictate to us what we will spend our time thinking about.

Here's to rest. To celebrating it, cherishing it, and prioritizing it. How might life be different if we actually decided to take it easy from time to time?

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