Wednesday, 15 June 2011

a fierce, gentle life

When I thought about my desire to live well with fewer regrets, it struck me that all of the verbs I used were very active: dare, drill, dive, drum, dance

But what about inactivity? What about stillness?

I think that to live a meaningful life I need to engage - and fiercely. Like a lion.

But I also have a need for quiet, for stillness, for solitude, for gentleness. This sometimes requires that I disengage. From the computer, from the car, even from people. Like a (very quiet and content) lamb.

I love and need both - the rigorous and lively, and the stillness of my own soul.

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28, KJV

I think that there is so much value in the biblical notion of Sabbath rest - that once a week, we disengage from our regular work to rest and recharge. I'd like to get better at really having a day of rest each week where I can fiercely, gently disengage and connect with others and myself in meaningful ways.

Other cultures/faiths seem to recognize this need for rest. There is Uposatha - a Buddhist observance that occurs about once a week to cleanse the "polluted mind," to bring inner calm, tranquility, and joy.

Holy, expansive rest and stillness. Cultivating gentleness alongside my fierce desire to live well. To push myself, but go easy. To come to a full stop altogether.

Some of my most restful times have been while spending time in creation: digging in the dirt, sitting in a canoe in the middle of a lake, watching a sunset, floating on my back with ears underwater, sleeping under a million stars

But I want to/need to cultivate that still presence not just out in nature, but in my own everyday messy life, even amidst daily chores and family schedules and work. Rest is often at the bottom of my list. When I get all of these things done, THEN I'll rest. But the list never gets done. There's always more to do.

What would my days be like if I started with rest? And not the sleeping in variety. Or what if I took just 10 minutes of rest in the middle or end of the day - walking (with nothing on my ears except earrings), sitting still (with no computer or electronic device in sight), or lying down (with no book in my hands). To stop my thoughts, clear my polluted brain, rest my body, and still my soul.


  1. Resting is often scary to me and so I don't do it. My life shows it - I am anxious at times and often wonder "what more is there in life because this life feels so meaningless."

    If I rest, what am I going to hear? What is God going to say to me? If I remain busy and active, I can't hear God's voice and it becomes foreign to me. Sometimes that is easier - or at least that is what it seems like at the moment.

    The reality is that this is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:

    “In repentance and rest is your salvation,
    in quietness and trust is your strength" (Isaiah 30:15)

    Lord remove my fear and quiet my heart so that I can hear your words and begin to understand what you are saying to me.

  2. I'm scared of inactivity too, Lisa. And it's hard to rest - even though it seems like it should be the most easy thing in the world to do.

    I agree - it's in periods of rest that we can listen well - to God, to others, to ourselves. Why do we fear rest?

  3. When I lie down, I fall asleep.

    I do find the restful postures in yoga sometimes challenging, and sometimes just exactly what I need, either sitting quietly before a class, or lying afterward. Time for thoughts to flow.

    But I'm not joking about falling asleep when I lie down. It happens almost instantly. I've trained myself to be able to take quick naps during the day, and it doesn't seem to be something I can turn off.

  4. you have a gift, Carrie! I wish I could do that. I find walking restful - my body is moving, but I can empty or recharge or open my mind. But maybe sleep is the rest we need sometimes too!

  5. When I was pregnant with my third child, things were, as you can imagine, pretty hectic. Two older girls, working full time, busy life, you know the drill. Even though it was right smack in the middle of the morning and thus not very "practical" for my tightly packed schedule, I signed up for a pregnancy yoga class (also known as yoga for cetaceans ;-). Sadly, it was the only hour of the whole week when I truly stopped and focused on nothing but my body and the life growing inside me. But I am so happy I seized that moment, as short as it was. The baby seemed so much more active the more I relaxed, letting me know she did indeed exist, shouting out at me with her cartwheels and acrobatics. And the 20 minutes of relaxation (through which I happily and unabashedly snored) at the end of the session were undoubtedly the best sleep I got each week!!! :-)

  6. Yoga - seems to be a great tool for rest, stillness, and rejuvenation. I loved a prenatal class that I took when I was pregnant with #1. I love that you fell asleep during the relaxation time, Mara! I love this as a metaphor too - that as we still ourselves (no matter if we're pregnant or not) we will notice the life within.

  7. floating on your back with your ears under water....i love that too. so peaceful.

  8. Kristen - I could have added: at Fraser Lake.