“It is in vain that you get up early and go to bed late, eating the bread of anxious toil. For God gives restful sleep to the beloved.” (Psalm 127:2)
I used to go on retreat with a congregation of Roman Catholic religious sisters. One retreat in particular stands out in my mind. At the very beginning of this retreat, in the first meeting with my director—the sister with whom I would meet periodically throughout the week—she sent me to bed.
It was 2:00 in the afternoon.
“Go to bed,” she said. “Go to bed. Get up to eat and go to the bathroom. Don’t come out of the lodging floor until you’re good and rested. Read. Rest. Sleep. Do nothing else until you feel well and truly rested. Then we’ll talk.”
Well and truly rested.
There’s an idea!
Well and truly rested and then we’ll talk. And when I was rested, we did talk. I did make art and sing. I did labyrinth. I spent hour after hour in silence, slept when I felt like it, took Communion, and wrote lyrically in my journal. I read Isaiah, and then I slept some more. There was so much in me to peel back and discover within! But I never felt rushed. I could always go back to bed.
There was so much to discover because I was rested, because my mind could dare to slow down and discover itself.
How rarely do most of us get the luxury of rest! The luxury of the mind that is slow and free. The luxury of less and less and less.
One of the things it is hard to miss about contemporary life is that most of us are not getting enough rest. And in the Judeo-Christian tradition, at least, one reads over and over again about “entering into God’s rest,” the rest of Sabbath (that holiest day of the week), and the rest that allows intimacy with the Beloved.
In “The Accidental Buddhist,” we read “But there is no addition in Buddhist meditative practice, only subtraction.” That is to say, we needn’t add to ourselves for our spirituality to be rich. In fact, it is in resting, in setting down, in releasing thoughts, opinions, theories, and stories about ourselves that we can be one with the Beloved.
At-one-ness, that dissolving, that communion-into-union can come when we let it all rest, lay it all down, and release.
The releasing, though, the peeling back happens most naturally when we are rested. When we can let ourselves relax into the embrace of the Divine. When our minds are not chewing on the bread of anxious toil, the work of our days, the stress of our nights.
Might there be more loving rest for you today? Might there be something to subtract, to release, to lay down?
Blessings of rest and peace to you and to your house.