When exhaustion has finally found its way into our bones, our spirits worn, and minds muddled by the slow, entropic toll of time itself, sometimes the very best thing to do is simply stop and rest. Fatigue seeps into the very nooks and crannies of our being, eventually, there in the lines of the face, pooling in the eyes, observable in the ever so gradual slumping and sagging of the body, the natural cost of existence, which all must pay, and none can escape, save for the release afforded by the dark respite of death. It only takes a moment to lift the chin, casting our glance skyward, to be reminded that perhaps, all our striving and chasing and planning and building and weighing and calculating is, in the end, not worth as much as we first imagined. It is amazing how something as simple and beautiful as the blue expanse above, or starlit night, can coax us out of our heads, and into our hearts, even momentarily, if for nothing other than to impress upon us once more the fact that we are small, and always have been. In the sky we find ourselves, our very origins, nameless, and breathtaking. Starstruck by the heavens, if we do not abandon this exodus from the mind to the heart too quickly, we may discover a profound invitation only to be. This is the essence of rest, just being, and not only with feelings of calm and inner peace.
Wonderfully ornery aspects of our hidden interiority begin to surface in periods of prolonged rest; anxiety, doubt, disillusionment with what has become the status quo of an overcommitment to living a single narrative that could not possibly encompass the full complexity of our lives. It is more than okay for these inward realities to unsettle us with their presence. All of our emotions, not only the pleasant ones, have a place, not accidental but earned through thousands of years of evolution, each one part and parcel of the human experience. Anxiety is not the enemy, and doubt is not dismissible, both touchstones, reminding us of the fragility of everything, including our always tentative ways of framing existence. Disillusionment, too, can lead us into wide open spaces where we finally see ourselves, and others, afresh, though this comes at the price of some discomfort, as we deconstruct a former scaffolding of identity no longer sufficient to support the new emergence burgeoning in our lives.
A true hiatus from our regular affairs, beyond brief stargazing, may feel like dipping into chaos at first, the irresponsible abandonment, or at least temporary forsaking, of our essential daily duties, including the people who count on us. But without rest, not only for the body but the spirit, we may wake up one day and look in the mirror only to see a stranger staring back at us. Exhaustion is more than the sum of its individual appearances, quietly collecting inside us, often unbeknownst to us, and then, once manifest, debilitating to the body and one’s sense of identity, a shrouded source of estrangement from self. Yet healing and homecoming can begin with little more than openness, the original meaning of hiatus, from Proto-Indo-European ghieh, “to be wide open.” Openness to accepting our long overdue need for rest, to our newfound strangeness, and to an honest self-assessment of what we need now in our wearied state, are all vital aspects of welcoming real rest. Such openness requires time, space, and nurture in order to bear the full fruit of its inherent possibility. Fortunately, one does not have to travel to exotic places to find rest. We only need the humble willingness to pause, wherever we are, whenever we feel out of sorts, to follow the call of self-compassion beckoning from within.