January 3, 2012

Rest is not the opposite of action.

Photo by shikeroku (used under Creative Commons license)

Sometimes my fallow periods are filled with resistance: I want something specific to happen and it's just not happening (yet), leading me to recognize that things are still germinating. At other times, lying fallow is a deliberate choice that I make.

Six months ago I received two devastating pieces of news within a few days of each other, and the nature of my circumstances led me to choose rest as the best course of action. It's as if I were lucky enough to walk away intact from a train wreck, and rather than immediately searching for another train heading toward my original destination, I decided to just walk for a while and take in the landscape. To slow down, serve in a smaller way for a while, and discern the shape of things.

Though I've been at peace with my decision, reading this post by Alana Sheeren on practicing self-care led me to an epiphany: Rest is not the opposite of action.

Alana writes: "The revelation that has come this past week is that inspired action and slowing down aren’t mutually exclusive if I let go of the thought that I need to be there now. I can get more sleep and spread the word about the pregnancy loss support group I’m starting. I can meditate and journal and answer my emails. But I can only do this if I truly let go and trust that there is time."

These words sparked an insight for me: If "inspired action and slowing down aren't mutually exclusive," then rest contains elements of action, and action CAN include elements of rest.

I've always seen it as rest versus action, as if the two can only be at odds. But if there is action that happens within a state of rest, then rest isn't just restorative (taking you back to where you were before) but also transformative (bringing you into a new landscape entirely). And if there can be places of rest within a state of action, then that changes the game entirely, doesn't it? What if restorative transformation can happen all along the way? What if there's a deep breath available with every step?


  1. I am thrilled my words were the spark for this new vision around rest and action. Wishing you many deep breaths along the way.

  2. Very timely message for me. Sometimes, it seems like you and my therapist are on the exact same wavelength. Is there a "message of the week" email group out there telling ya'll what to say to us? LOL