We’re all suffering cerebral congestion running around multi-tasking and keeping our hamster wheels rotating at full tilt. We are processing extreme amounts of information and often feel overloaded with the tsunami of data enveloping us. There doesn’t seem to be enough “time” to empty oneself of stored up concerns. There is no space given to the mind to quieten down and refuel. You often hear people’s habitual excuse for not taking time off - “I am too busy”. Its like they are wearing a badge of honor. Its as if “busyness” is the umbrella excuse for “don’t ask me to rest”.
Benjamin Franklin said, "time is money." This has become our MO as we go about lives. Bleeding into and steering our internal lives, and, who we are. This thought is so prevelent within Seattle, the thought of, "if I don't do ____, I won't make it."
Extreme productivity has become the measure of a man and it appears we are mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically exhausted. And yet we resist rest with every fiber of our beings? Why? Have people internalized resting as a weakness? Where did we get the idea that we are human doers not human beings?
To Do List Depletion
We have created impossible to do lists that can never be finished. We place so many demands on our time that have to be coupled with urgency. Many of my clients are so tired that they are unable to deal with even the smallest hiccups in their lives because they have no physical energy or mental clarity for action or reflection. We are suffering from always being “on”. The more we frantically run faster to complete tasks in this results-orientated world, the further we fall behind and our self-worth plummets. There is a global epidemic that is damaging our health - and that is the outright resistance to rest or taking “Sabbath” time. I know this is a term used predominantly within a Judeo-Christian setting, but I strongly believe that there is something here that can be gleaned from the theology of "Sabbath" within our lives, whether we believe in God or not.
From Output to Input
In his book Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now, Walter Brueggemann points out four areas of resistance that the Sabbath encompasses, one of which is anxiety. Brueggemann states that the freeing of the Israelites involved a shift from a system way of living to one of a deep-rooted relationship. It was a shift away from anxious productivity and an emphasis on results towards committed neighborliness. He argues that while the Israelites were under the slavery of the Egyptians, they were forced to labor and were ultimately anxious about their future, yet they began to become comfortable with this way of being. Not unlike our own culture of Seattle. Most of us are familiar with the rough details of the Israelites’ desert wanderings and are aware that this was not an easy shift. It quite frankly sucked. Rather, I can imagine that it was one in which the ego-self was thriving.
“In our own contemporary context of the rat race of anxiety, the celebration of Sabbath is an act of both resistance and alternative. It is resistance because it is a visible insistence that our lives are not defined by the production and consumption of commodity goods.”
What You Resist Persists
I think resting is very hard for folks. It may even involve pain. I can recall some of my own experiences of getting massages or taking a hot bath. At some point, you begin to feel pain or resistance towards it. Yet we know it is good for us. Something comes up and we can’t handle it. Rest or “Sabbath” is a form of resistance. Not only to ourselves and that which needs to grow, develop, or mature but to the way of living that may have brought about these pains. Rest involves turning your phone off and unplugging.
This seems to be almost impossible for people. They have equated rest with distraction. To take a “break” is often about surfing the net, watching a series on Netflix or scrolling through social media. This is not resting in the sense of renewal of self. It is keeping the ego entertained and distracted so the pains, hurts, anxieties and worries don’t surface and overwhelm you.
"There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord. Life goes wrong when the control of space, the acquisition of things of space, becomes our sole concern.” The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man by Abraham Joshua Heschel
Plugging Back into Source
I often ask people, “How are you going to take care of yourself?” Within a Judeo-Christian perspective, the idea of the Sabbath is a reference to therapy as being a constant cycle of risk, play, and rest. The contemporary Sabbath is seen as a day of rest, on which we go to church or sit around the house and take naps. It is a different approach to productivity. While this is all true, the Sabbath is a day that is intended to ground us in the sense of our true Self. It is a returning to our primal oneness, from which we were never meant to be separated.
But you don’t allow ourselves the time and space to connect to our centers or our source. We show our devotion to busyness instead and are left empty as a result. The brain needs downtime in order to be innovative. You need to take moments of idleness to see the bigger picture of your life. You sharpen your mind when you stop resisting rest and allow yourself the quiet of a walk in the park, a reflection in your garden, a meditation in your living room or staring into space daydreaming with no agenda and no goal. Rest replenishes the soul and improves all levels of performance. Often when you allow yourself to rest you are engaging in moral compass maintenance so you can truly check in with your “self”.
“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” Ovid
The Gift of Rest
If you can embrace instead of resisting rest, you will see the development of deeper relationships. You will also have more life force and energy in reserve in the case of crisis or emergencies in your life. Give yourself the gift of less stress, a healthier body and opportunities for self reflection.
If you are bound to your “to do” list –put rest as the number one priority. When its in your calendar you must obey yourself! And don’t forget to include your family in the rest routine. Let is become the way that you all rejuvenate.
And heed Brueggemans warning:
“Multitasking is the drive to be more than we are, to control more than we do, to extend our power and our effectiveness. Such practice yields a divided self, with full attention given to nothing.”
Now go and take a well deserved rest.