"Be excessively gentle with yourself." -- John O'Donohue
I wrote in the first of this three-part musing on Transitions that I felt carried over the threshold of the completion of this past year. Sometimes I have cartwheeled over thresholds, but more often, I’ve crawled over them, or crashed right through them.
It’s always been a bit of a struggle for me to take rest. It’s a combination of personality and of living in a society that seems to balance excessive striving not with rest, but with a buffet of numbing activities that encourage us to be less, not more, awake to our lives. Rest is a deeper state of being, a means of touching down and touching in, and of recovering what was laid aside during the busy. Rest paradoxically wakes us up to life.
During this time, three fruits of rest keep surfacing for me.
Digestion. Integration. Gestation.
Rest is required for Digestion.
I had a huge meal of a year. One that I so often had to bite off in big chunks and swallow while I kept moving. My preferred pace is to sip and savour, to go slowly in order to better experience and enjoy what’s happening. But that’s not always possible in life, and so now is the time to let it all settle, to mix down, and to draw out the nutrients. Memory allows us to take out, reexamine, and extract the substance of past experiences. During rest, we are able to learn from what was. It’s not good to sprint while doing this. Your energy is needed in your centre. Stillness or slow movement is best.
Rest is required for Integration.
To integrate is to learn from what was and to merge it with what is.
I am grateful that the activities of this past year were both an expression of who I am and an extension of what I’ve done. The final project for my Master’s was an integration of my primary interests of spirituality and end-of-life issues. I was able to bring them together in an unexpected way by examining Medical Assistance In Dying. The audiobook was a surprise, and brought a new manifestation of Seven Year Summer into the world. There were other things that pulled my attention this year, but having these main projects be deeply meaningful allowed me to remain engaged when I felt way too busy. I don’t think I would have stuck it out otherwise.
But now complete, the learnings of this year must be integrated into my life. I learned a lot about myself. Namely, I gained confidence that despite still living with some leftover limitations of having cancer for so long, I do have an inner reserve of stamina. I will integrate this new confidence so that when I’m faced with self-doubt in the future, I can better remember this time of strength and draw on it again.
There were also things I learned that I would not repeat going forward. Mainly, I was reminded about the value of simplicity in schedules, of paring down commitments in order to do less, better. This is a repetitive lesson in my life and every time I can recognize and integrate it, I have a better chance at actually implementing it.
Absorbed and assimilated into my previous ways of knowing and doing, these learnings can better inform me going forward. Each experience can be set down as a new lamppost on the path, lighting the way to the next step.
Rest is required for Gestation.
Gestation is listening for what wants to become. Gestation is when digesting and integration come together to create the fertile ground for gestation. The inception of newness begins in the secret darkness of deep rest. Hidden away, it sprouts in silence to be incubated in an abundance of rest. Rest allows this new thing to implant, to be, and to move in me beyond my control. It cannot be rushed into existence. It can only be rested into existence.
Rest is the forgotten element in the cycle of transitions. There is not just the beginning, the middle, and the end. Rest is the pause at the end of each outbreath before the next inhale is taken. Learn from what was. Merge with what is. Listen for what is to come.
Rest, and wake up.