Rest – honouring our need to exist before we do anything
by Jan Niemand
We, humans, are exceptional creatures. We have accomplished many incredible things in a very short space of time… We have studied, utilised and basically mastered many aspects of electricity in little over 300s since Benjamin Franklin first started studying static and lightning in the 1700s. Now, electricity is so commonplace, that we are shocked to hear of peoples who have missed the electrical revolution of society completely! We’ve placed men in space and even sent a few to the depths of the sea (which still remains largely unexplored, by the way!). Modern medicine, accessible sanitation and basic nutrition mean that on average, we are living longer than any other generation before us.
However, for all our smarts, we seem to be in trouble as a society at large. I increasingly consult clients that have lost a fundamental skill somewhere down the line… The ability to rest. There is a LOT I can say about rest, especially from the Judeo-Christian perspective on the Sabbath. But I these three things are essential to understand before we even begin talking about rest.
- Rest means doing nothing
- Admit it, you have Sabbathophia
- Technology is not helping
- Rest does not mean doing nothing
My entire family and I recently fell ill with German measles (rubella). Well, I would be lying if I said my entire family. That’s not true. My wife is immune. The rest of us? Well, we were a virus infested pool misery for an entire week. That’s right, a toddler, a baby and a daddy. All convinced they were about to cross the threshold into eternity. But all jokes aside. I was caught off guard, not by the sickness’s sudden onset and symptoms, but at my own reaction. I was frustrated. Severely frustrated. Why? Because I could not work! I even attempted to answer emails in my fever-ridden delirium. Why? Because I have to work, I can’t do nothing! Until it hit me (pun intended)… my body is NOT doing nothing. It’s doing everything it can to keep me alive! My immune system is running rampant to fight the foreign invaders, and it’s taking heavy shots. The sad part is, I’m not helping at all. Having convinced myself to get back into bed, I had to fight the urge to quickly get up and just finish off that one thing…
Lesson learned – rest does not mean doing nothing. Rest means that we spend energy, time and resources on things which are not immediately PRODUCTIVE. Rest is a quality statement – I exist before I do ANYTHING.
- Admit it, you have Sabbathophobia
After 4 days of struggling against the tide, I succumbed and rested (well, the fever basically dragged me down as well. Ask my poor wife… apparently it was bad… I don’t remember much). As I began quieting down, I realised anew why we all have Sabbathophobia (a deep-seated fear of rest). Rest causes us to show up, to take stock and to reflect. Sounds easy enough, right? But it terrifies us. Why? Because looking in the mirror is painful, and we tend to avoid that. Or at most, we give ourselves cursory glances, just to cringe a little and look away again. Resting, truly resting, allows those fears we keep stuffed under the carpet of our subconscious mind to surface. Deep stuff like, “am I really doing something significant with my life?” or “will I ever be able to measure up to…” You get the point.
Lesson learned – if we rest frequently in our lives, we actually have a lot less stuff to fear. But we don’t. So it piles up. So we become busier. Rinse and repeat.
- Technology isn’t helping
After embracing my fears (or at least acknowledging them openly to myself… still working on them), another strange thing happened. I felt the urge to pick my phone up. A lot. I even heard alerts which my phone never signalled. Then the scrolling… the endless scrolling of feeds. Mindlessly looking for something to… I don’t know… make me better? What was I looking for? Nothing really amused me anyway and I struggling to put coherent sentences together so chatting with friends was tedious. So what was I doing with the screen 10cms away from my face? I was attempting to feed to stimulation monster. The stimulation monster is the little monster we have in our brain. It craves pics, videos, alerts, messages, pings, rings… whatever! As long as I did not have to connect to myself. Technology has brought the world very, very close. Everything, from a random cat to the next global catastrophe is seconds away. Think about that. A volcano can erupt in Hawai’i and a large chunk of the earth’s population knows about it within a few hours. And MOST of those people have never even been to Hawai’i! Tech is brilliant, but it has created an overstimulated society that has become uncomfortable with having a cell phone switched off for an evening…
Lesson learned – getting to know yourself again through rest can be hard at first. But if you resist the urge to fill the silence with noise, pics, videos and junk for a while, you will love the silence. You will relish the silence. Depend on it.
In summary. I had to catch German measles; slow down to a crawl; cut communication with almost the entire world to realise… that I want to rest more. I need to rest more. Without the measles, please! Somewhere we’ve swallowed the lie hook, line and sinker that by working harder, doing more, packing the schedule and putting in more hours… we will be more… what? Fulfilled? Satisfied? Happy? Safe?
It is a lie.
And if you struggle to rest, find someone to help you.
It’s worth it.
September 25, 2018