Tuesday, February 27, 2024
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Learning to rest … the hard way

It’s ironic that it took a broken ankle for me to finally log in to do a three-part online workshop about Rest.

The workshop was a gift from a friend I received months ago for my birthday. Could she see how tired I was back then, when I couldn’t see it myself?

Perhaps it is symptomatic of a world perpetually operating in overdrive that it took me so long to stop running here and there in pursuit of stories and being glued to the computer for work to have the time to watch the recorded sessions.

With a broken ankle it’s simple: I can’t run from pillar to post.

I can stay glued to my screen if I wish – but my body and my brain are not up to the task. All I really want to do is rest. In fact, it’s as if rest wants me. The crushing tiredness takes over and I wake in shock from long sleeps I had no inkling were about to engulf me.

It takes more than a week for the pain to loosen its grip enough for me to log on to the first recorded workshop. David Whyte, who presents the series, is an Anglo-Irish poet and philosopher who practises Zen.

He recites his own and other people’s poetry and also quotes from a small essay called “Rest” in his book Consolations. “When we give and take in an easy, foundational way, we are closest to the authentic self, and closest to that authentic self when we are most rested,” he says. “To rest is not self-indulgent; to rest is to prepare to give the best of ourselves, and perhaps, most importantly, arrive at a place where we are able to understand what we have already been given.”

Whyte’s ways of expressing his ideas were sometimes too esoteric for my pain-fogged brain to grasp so I had no choice but to let them wash over me. However, I do keep thinking of his image of a river – carrying, holding and supporting life in its flowing waters: “It’s doing work, but it’s rested.”

So, did I need a break to take a break?

Being so badly injured was probably the only way I was going to feel okay about resting so much, which is sad in a way.

I really hope the workshop talks have given me the confidence to lean in to rest and to find a route to living and working less frenetically. Stronger arm muscles have me back on my feet – and the crutches are helping me learn not to rush, which is great – especially given that rushing for the bus was how I broke my ankle in the first place.

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The Necessary Art of Rest: Making a Friend of the Timeless in Troubled Times was a three-part online workshop by David Whyte.

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