I find I keep returning to thoughts about stillness and rest and what it means to invite stillness into our lives — what it means to invite rest. Perhaps this is because I still feel deeply tired most of the time, and so restless. Perhaps this is because I still struggle daily to invite rest into my life.
To invite rest into my life feels so radically counter-culture in our ever-busier modern society.
To invite rest is to turn off the TV even though you haven’t seen the most recent episode of The Big Bang Theory and it’s airing next.
To invite rest is to put down the book, perhaps even to choose not to finish the book at all, even if you’re a hundred pages in.
To invite rest is to put yourself to bed even when you really don’t want to.
And then to invite rest is to remember that falling asleep is not your responsibility. Your responsibility is to lie in the dark, warmly snuggled beneath the covers, and to remember what it is to rest: a body prone, a body still, a body breathing slowly. Your responsibility is to close the eyes and calm the mind, to rest in that contentment and let sleep do what it will.
To invite rest is to take a walk in the middle of the work day even though you don’t feel you’re supposed to or to get up for another glass of water or to use the bathroom even though you just got up for another glass of water or to use the bathroom not very long ago.
To invite rest is sometimes ten minutes alone in the empty bathroom, doing nothing at all except pondering the freckles on your thighs and listening to the hum of the fans overhead — buzzing like your own unsettled thoughts.
To invite rest is, inevitably, to say no.
To say no to your friends and your family, to say “I’m going to bed now” and then to walk out of the room, to say “Sorry but I can’t go to your party” even though the only thing you had planned was a quiet night at home.
To invite rest is to create space for yourself in the face of your obligations, in the face of your dreams and desires — to say no to the 10,000 things that compete for your attention in every moment, the ideas, the inspirations, the notifications on your phone, the ever-scrolling social media feeds, the news ticker tape that scrolls and scrolls and scrolls with a million human tragedies you didn’t know about until now.
To invite rest is to clear the decks, to pare down to just what is essential and then to carve out hours and minutes for your rest
For sleep, for meditation, for writing, for going on a walk to no-place in particular, for coloring or painting or sketching, for meeting yourself on the pages of your journal or inscribing your dreams into physical reality with a pair of scissors and a glue stick and all the hope you can muster from the very depths of your heart.
And the thing I am trying, but maybe also failing to say is that we talk about rest like it’s supposed to be easy and I think it might be the very hardest thing in the world.
To invite rest is often to take your own needs and put them higher than everyone else’s.
It’s dangerous to think that this placing of needs as priorities is an act of selfishness — an ungenerous act of greed. That this lying down in the dark when we are tired is a luxury that might prevent us from being the kindhearted and generous people we know deep down we were meant to be.
And, of course, it isn’t easy to put our needs first — it isn’t easy because there’s so much muchness out there: so many books to read, TV shows to enjoy, children to feed, friends to spend time with. There’s so much out there to be and see and do.
But in order to be and see and do all the things we want to we have to first honor our limitations.
The change has to start in us and for us and it has to start with our ability to care for ourselves, with our ability to reclaim our need to rest, our need to eat and to drink and to pee.
The story of making life beautiful and kind and meaningful begins with our ability to reclaim the worthiness of our untended needs and our ability to say no.
The world doesn’t need us to show up tapped out and numbed out and drugged up and exhausted.
There are enough of us walking around like that already.
The world needs us to show up strong and rested and ready to rumble so that we might find hope of healing in our broken and battered places.
And healing begins, as always, with a period of heightened rest.
What are you healing from? Let me know in the comments below!