The Importance of Rest

I know the importance of rest, the trouble is, it’s so hard to enact in this world I live in.

Emerging out of the (rather wet) summer holidays, I was starting my run up to leap into all the things I said ‘I’ll do in September’, when, mid-leap, Covid felled me. I seem to get it pretty badly, as in I feel bad. Like a bout of ‘flu, and then exhaustion for weeks after.

I have allowed myself afternoon naps (and loved them!), but still find it difficult to rest without justification.

Our culture of achievement, our ‘meritocracy’, doesn’t allow for the cyclical nature of our energies (so often attributed to the feminine energy, but male too I think). The ebb and flow of our lives, just like the seasons.

In fact part of why I love being in nature so much is it’s insistence of doing what needs to be done, the next most necessary step. And if that is resting, lying dormant or hibernation, so be it. Wendell Berry writes in his poem “The Peace of Wild Things’, ‘I come into the peace of wild things, who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief….For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free’.

Nicola Jane Hobbs, who bills herself as ‘The Relaxed Woman’ on Instagram says, ‘Instead of asking ‘Have I worked hard enough to deserve a rest?’, I’ve started asking, ‘Have I rested enough to do my best, most meaningful work?’ Though this still implies we should rest in order to work, I like the flipping around of our usual mindset. Another quote that’s been following me around is this one (I’m afraid I can’t find who wrote it): ‘What if our measure of success was marked by how many books we read, how well we slept, how readily we laughed?’ Being, rather than doing. And of course, we’re ‘being’ even when we’re resting. We’re gathering in, holding steady.

So perhaps the key to resting is nothing more or less than a complete shift in thinking about what success, achievement and satisfaction are.

Katherine May’s book ‘Wintering’, which I’ve quoted here before, is a kind of coming to terms with a (temporary) end to doing, and an acceptance that action will come again, but not now.

She writes, ‘Life meanders like a path through woods. We have seasons when we flourish and seasons when the leaves fall from us, revealing our bare bones. Given time, they grow again’.