Permission to Rest

I recently watched a segment on CBS Sunday Morning that told the story of actress, Meg Ryan. Best known for her 1990s romantic comedy films, Ryan has returned to the big screen after a long hiatus.  Not only is she acting again, this year Ryan is making her directorial debut. 

In an interview with Jane Pauley, Ryan spoke about how she began to turn down film roles after her numerous box office successes. Instead of working, she traveled, adopted a little girl from China and spent the last ten years enjoying motherhood.

As she continued to talk about her time away from Hollywood she said, “And I think sometimes as an artist, for me anyway, I felt a real desire to do nothing, to lay sort of fallow, like a field, you know? And do other things and meet other people and have the terms of life be different than the terms of Hollywood life.

Ryan’s words struck a chord.  Listening to her, I realized that for some time I, too, have been lying fallow. I haven’t stopped working, but I curtailed the volunteer activities that I had been engaged in for many years.  I was burnt out, needed rest and wanted time to write a book. With less demands on my time and energy, I have shifted into a gentler, kinder way of life. I call it, “living in the rhythm of easy elegance.”

I discovered this expression years ago when I was creating a vision board.  In the process of gathering images and words for the board, the phrase jumped off the magazine page.  The words beautifully captured the feeling I wanted to embody. It’s taken me a while, along with some aches and pains caused by too much labor, but I have finally give birth to a life of  greater ease and flow.

For years I felt driven by an invisible taskmaster always pushing me to do more. The tension in my back and jaw is memorable. By listening to my body and doing less the tension has fallen away. I'm no longer rushing from one place to the next.  I am at peace, and content. 

The phrase "lying fallow" is a farming term.  It is the process of leaving a plowed field unseeded, so that it can regain fertility for the next crop.  In the Book of Exodus God commands, “For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused.” Also in Exodus is the commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.”

The word “sabbath” means to rest.  In our 24/7 culture, which emphasizes doing, producing and achieving, rest is not always valued and given its due.  We are overworked.  We pump our bodies with sugar and caffeine to keep going and are left wired and weary.

We are not designed to move under constant pressure at breakneck speeds. When we do our bodies ache. Our muscles tense.  These sensations are the body's way of signaling us to take care. These signals  tell us we need to restore; body, mind and soul. We know that to build a muscle we must alternate between working and resting it.  Meg Ryan took a break from acting and grew into a director. This is how growth occurs.

A few days before I heard Meg Ryan tell her story, Karen Parker, a teacher of Human Design, offered me some wise words that I want to share with you.  She said, “Trust that you are supported even when you are resting.”  Her words and Ryan’s have helped me appreciate the need for rest.

In the short time since I acknowledged that I’ve been lying fallow, I felt a surge of energy.  I was inspired to write this blog post. And I finally wrote the outline for my book. I realized that not only has it been okay to lie fallow, it's necessary for the creative process.

Sometimes we just need permission to rest.  So give yourself permission, if you can't, I will.  I invite you to check in with your body. Notice if  you are running on empty?  If so, ask your body what it needs to refuel?

Consider some quiet moments alone, take a load off your feet, breathe and reap the benefits.  In the spirit of Nike, be victorious and “Just do nothing!”