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Doing Nothing Is Doing Something Really Important

In my life I struggle to rest. Keeping busy? That, I can do. Doing something? No problem. Resting? Staying still? Relaxing without doing something while relaxing, whether it’s crocheting or reading or listening to something? That does not come so easy to me. In fact, I would say it was so uncomfortable for me that it felt like there was something wrong: with me, with resting; I wasn’t sure. But it felt intolerable. 

That all began to change some years ago. The level of busyness and chaos in my life was feeling too much. Many areas in my life were simultaneously trying to teach me the one lesson: STOP! REST!

I say it all began to change because whilst I have improved in taking the time to rest, it still often feels more than a little disagreeable to me while I’m resting. However, the benefits I earn for the remainder of the day motivate me to keep returning to the practice.

Around the same time that chaos and constant busyness were launching me ever closer to breaking point, I had a transformative conversation with a dear friend: my one and only sister. I am blessed to have a sister I can lean on for support, encouragement, compassion and understanding. Having somebody to turn to when in need is a real blessing. One of the most fulfilling elements of our relationship is the balance we have of give and take; loving and being loved. It is truly beautiful and I am deeply grateful for our relationship. 

On this occasion I was the one in need and my sister said something that really caught my attention: “doing nothing is doing something really important”. Ooooh. Doing nothing is still doing something? Now that I could get on board with. 

Think for a moment about participating in a race, everybody journeying along as efficiently as possible in order to get to the finish line, to complete the race, to get it done. It might seem more than a little counter-productive to stop in the middle of your hasty journey to the finish line. Think for a moment, though, about a Formula 1 race. Drivers must make at least one pit stop in their race to the finish line. Although there is no limit to the number of pit stops a driver may take, typically they would make one to two. If, however, a particular race is visited with changing weather or lots of chaos in the track, drivers will avail of more pit-stops.

Taking momentary rest in our haste to get the job done benefits our progress and productivity overall. It might feel like we are doing nothing. It might feel like a waste of time. It might even feel like we’re risking our chance to win, to complete the race, to get the job done. But a little pause to re-fuel, recover and replenish can send us on our way with the energy, presence and attitude needed to be more efficient and better equipped to handle the next phase of the journey. Much like an unserviced Formula 1 tyre can blowout; we can burnout. We can become physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually exhausted. We need pit stops - moments of rest - in order to be able to continue our journey to the finish line. Each day we ought to take at least one. But similar to pit-stops in a Formula 1 race, there need not be a limit to the number we may take, should the conditions of our day require it.

It is in stillness, in rest, that we are able to be present with and connect to God and to ourselves. To replenish ourselves; body, mind and soul, to better tend to our duties. We see, throughout the public life of Jesus, that He often took Himself away to rest and also encouraged His disciples to do the same:

And He said to them: Come apart into a desert place, and rest a little. For there were many coming and going: and they had not so much time to eat” Mark 6:31 

And when He had dismissed them, He went up to the mountain to pray” Mark 6:46

And He retired into the desert, and prayed” Luke 5:16

When we bless our days with moments of rest, we invite God to dwell in our heart and we allow Him to direct our actions; to fuel and guide the next phase of our journey. We can be very hard on ourselves for doing ‘nothing’ and not feeling productive with our time. Rest is productive. Rest allows us to step out of the craziness of our day; to recharge by connecting to the Source of all that is good. To fill our heart with the fuel it needs to pour into others.
Where in your day can you install pit-stops? What do you feel would energise and recharge you for the next lap of your daily tasks? What would leave you ready, willing and able to tackle the next action of the day?

You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you” Saint Augustine

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