When I’m not getting enough rest, I feel like a shadow of myself. Last week on Facebook, poet David Whyte shared an excerpt from his essay “Rest” that describes its five stages. I am dreaming, wishing, longing to somehow make it all the way through all of them, all the way to stillness and ease, fully restored, even as I have no idea how that might actually happen or exactly how to do it.
In the first stage of rest is the sense of stopping, of giving up on what we have been doing or how we have been being.
In the second stage is the sense of slowly coming home, the physical journey into the body’s un-coerced and un-bullied self, as if trying to remember the way or even the destination itself.
In the third state is a sense of healing and self-forgiveness and of arrival.
In the fourth stage, deep in the primal exchange of the breath is the give and the take, the blessing and the being blessed and the ability to delight in both.
The fifth stage of rest is a sense of absolute readiness and presence, a delight in and an anticipation of the world and all its forms; the sense of being the meeting itself between inner and outer, and of receiving and responding occurring in one spontaneous movement.
Which stage of rest do you find yourself in today, kind and gentle reader? I must admit, I find myself resisting even the first step. I’m aware that many of my habitual patterns, my ways of being and thinking no longer serve me, don’t represent the actions of a woman in love with herself, and yet I can’t seem to stop, to give up. I keep pushing. Just the other day, I pledged to stop doing this, to let go of smashing myself to bits, and this is my heart’s desire, but there is still the question of “how?” when I want so much, have so many ideas, long to make a difference. When there seems to be so much at stake, so much suffering, it’s easy for me to justify the overwork and overwhelm.
And yet, if I read through the five stages, David suggests that the only way to get to “absolute readiness and presence” is to rest, so to do what I wish to do, to ease suffering in the world and in myself, I have to rest, do the gentle work of it, prepare the ground. If I am tired, I have to rest, have to restore my mind, my heart, and my body. I need to be sure, in the case of a crash landing, to put on my own oxygen mask first before attempting to help someone else. I have to be still, listen deeply, relax, open my heart. I have to believe that I am enough, that I am worthy of rest, of love, of kindness, of joy, of life–not because of who I am or what I do or what I believe, but because I am.