Five years ago, I got out of bed in the middle of the night to turn off the heat. The next thing I knew, I was on the floor.
I didn’t feel it coming. I don’t remember what happened in between getting out of bed and opening my eyes, realizing I was on the floor.
Somehow, I got myself up and back into bed. And I do remember what happened once I was in bed.
Fear. Grief. Anger. Anxiety. Worry.
A runaway mind, first telling me not to sleep because I could have a concussion. Then wondering if I would make it thought the night. If not, who would find me? How long would it take?
Spoiler: I made it through the night.
That night was easy compared to the weeks and months that followed. In those weeks and months, I faced some of the most difficult moments of my life.
This is what disruptions do. They derail our plans, our routines, our known way of life. They create difficulty.
And they also create opportunity.
A saving grace for me at that time was that I had already done enough work to cultivate the belief that this disruption came with a message — maybe even multiple messages. It was up to me to listen for them.
One of those messages was about rest.
In that time, I started to learn how to rest.
Rest without also doing something else. I learned that my version of “rest” — resting while reading or watching TV or scrolling social media or listening to podcasts — was not rest.
In that time, I started to learn how to be.
I started to learn how to go within.
These are things I’m still learning. They seem so simple in theory, easy to understand cognitively, but they are difficult in practice.
A Culture of Doing
For this reason, our culture doesn’t endorse these practices. We live in a world that is always on, always doing, always moving.
We are always connected, in more ways than we realize. Standing shoulder to shoulder on the subways, within arms reach in a yoga class, or back to back in line at the grocery store.
Now, this way of life we have known is suddenly coming to a screeching halt. Crashing to a stop the way my body and head fell to the floor five years ago.
With that disruption comes a familiar slate of emotions.
Fear. Grief. Anger. Worry. Anxiety.
All belong here.
Beneath them is the wisdom.
It’s not random or coincidence. There’s a message here for us; a message about the way we’ve been living and working.
For a world accustomed to 24/7 work, to constant busyness, perhaps this is what it takes to learn how to rest:
An easily spread virus that forces us inside. Eliminating easy distractions like March Madness and other sports events. Closing yoga studios, theaters and other cultural institutions. Restricting travel.
One by one, removing our escape hatches until we have no choice but to come to stillness, to be with ourselves. To rest.
The universe gives us what we need most. It seems clear that what we need most right now is rest.