Rest is the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be… to rest is not self-indulgent, to rest is to prepare to give the best of ourselves, and to perhaps, most importantly, arrive at a place where we are able to understand what we have already been given.-David Whyte, Consolations
The world needs you and what you have to offer. But it needs the fully-alive, well-rested you, not the exhausted you. Imagine a world where women make rest and rhythm a priority and operate more from their full power.-Karen Brody, Daring to Rest
Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will move mountains. -Unknown
It may seem strange to talk about rest at the beginning of a new year, when our culture is focused on ambitious, reinvent-your-life goals and bold new beginnings.
But new beginnings and ambitious goals are actually always seeded in seasons of rest. Each 24-hour day begins at midnight, when, if we are lucky, we are asleep – resting. In the northern hemisphere, each calendar year begins in winter, when the flora and fauna of four-season climates slow down to hibernate. And each new human life begins in a season of germination when it appears to the outside world that nothing is happening. Babies grow stunningly fast, but only with generous, envy-inducing amounts of sleep.
We can learn from these examples that rest is not stagnant, but generative. New beginnings and fresh growth can only emerge from seasons of stillness, darkness, and quiet.
For women who are in multiple caregiving roles (which may be most of us), few things are as elusive – or important – as rest. At nearly 22 months old, my twins still do not sleep through the night at least half the time. As I’m writing this, it’s 5am on a Friday, and I can hear one of them fussing in the next room, several hours before they’re “supposed” to wake up. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in this stage of parenting is that while rest must be a non-negotiable part of my self-care, it also must be flexible and able to adapt to the season of life that I’m actually in.
In his gorgeous book Consolations, author David Whyte imagines rest as a state of dynamic equilibrium: a beautiful interweaving of giving and receiving, rather than a state of frozen, absolute stillness. With this framework, we can expand our perspective on rest to include the entirety of our lives and look for places where the equilibrium may be out of whack and in need of adjustment.
Where in your life is your sense of equilibrium off-kilter? How could some form of rest help you find a more sustainable rhythm?
For me, one of the ways “rest” showed up last year was in allowing myself to stop running. I’ve been a runner since I was 14, and while I’ve never been fast, hadn’t missed a week of running except for major surgeries and pregnancy. But since giving birth, running hadn’t felt the same – even short runs felt hard to recover from, and I just didn’t want to run anymore. Instead of forcing myself to keep pushing through, I decided to giving running a rest and switch to lower-intensity movement – and my body has never been happier. Even when I’m in motion, I can tap into a sense of feeling well-rested in my body that was missing when I was running several times a week. Equilibrium is a highly individual equation, and it’s wonderfully life-giving.
What would be possible for you if you increased your tolerance for rest? How would this month, and this year, be different?
I’ll leave you with a few more words from David Whyte:
Rested, we are ready for the world but not held hostage by it, rested we care again for the right things and the right people in the right way. In rest we reestablish the goals that make us more generous, more courageous, more of an invitation, someone we want to remember, and someone others would want to remember too.