by Lisa J. Marshall
When I left Washington, DC, moving to the woods of central Pennsylvania, it was out of a deep sensing that life in DC was not good for me. What I came to realize, living in these ancient mountains, was that what I had believed to be my “energy levels” for decades was fundamentally pure will power. No wonder so many health care professionals had told me my adrenals had collapsed! Slowly, I began to learn how to rest.
It wasn’t easy. I too had been fed the myth of productivity, the myth that nothing else truly measured your worth. It’s only in my 70’s that when a friend proclaims, “Oh, I’ve had a really productive week” a voice in my head goes “and that’s good because…?” Only now do I wonder about the value of rating the “doing” higher than just “being.”
As David Whyte notes in Consolations,
“To rest is to give up on the already exhausted will
as the prime motivator of endeavor…To rest is to
give up on worrying and fretting and the sense that
there is something wrong with the world unless we
are there to put it right; to rest is to fall back … from
outer targets and shift the goal …to an inner state of
natural exchange.” (p. 181)
In other words, to breathe. In and out. In and out. In and out.
One step along the path of letting go of my exhausted will was focusing more on the desired result than the work to get there – and letting others do more. Not doing things I didn’t do well. I began feeling like a competent human being, not a desperately worn out, stressed one. I was learning to let go, to make my primary job be to appreciate, to notice, to inhale and exhale.
“Rested, we are ready for the world but not held
hostage by it, rested we care again for the right
things and the right people in the right way. In rest
we re-establish the goals that make us more
generous, more courageous, more of an invitation,
someone we want to remember and someone
others would want to remember too.”
(Consolations, p. 184)
Thus, rested, I finally completed an assignment from my teacher, Hyemyhosts Storm, to write a book about leadership for women (Yin, Completing the Leadership Journey.) Rested, I could see what I had been unable to see earlier, as Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo movements arose: that women have a different path, an interior path to finding their leadership voices. Understanding that, I began to write very differently than I’d ever written before, a spiraling of insight and observation that grew like a seed, unfurling, sprouting roots and leaves.
Talking about male/female, masculine/feminine didn’t serve: I began to think in terms of Yin and Yang, energetic qualities that, while informed by gender, are not bound by it. And the more I studied Yin, the more I realized how utterly absent it is in the life of the modern world, and how much that is costing us.
It’s informative that modern dictionary definitions of Yin include darkness, passivity, coldness and death. Closer study provides a very different picture. Yin is about receptivity, the ability to move with the flow of things as they are. It’s relationship to darkness is eloquently described by brilliant theologian Barbara Holmes:
“Darkness may be the blessed dimming of ego-
driven striving, a destination and condition of safety
and repose. In this state of trusting refuge, the light
of divine revelation, which pierces but does not
castigate the darkness, may finally be seen. This is a
mothering darkness that nurses its offspring.”
This notion of a “mothering darkness that nurses its offspring” fits well with spiritual teacher Jeannie Zandi’s notion that Yin is a form of composting – a falling to pieces, an egoic death that allows for a rebuilding, providing the nutrients for new life. This cannot be done when one is engaged with the world. Rest, then, is central to Yin. It is the path into the center of the maze, a path of releasing intention and willfulness, and relaxing into life’s circularity.
Tricia Hersey, founder of The Nap Ministry*, notes in her manifesto, Rest is Resistance, (which I wholeheartedly recommend) that “Rest is a healing portal to our deepest selves. Rest is care. Rest is radical.” She goes on to say;
Continued in next column.
“Rest is radical because it disrupts the lie that we are
not doing enough. It shouts: ‘No, that is a lie. I am
enough. I am worthy now and always because I am
here.’” (Rest is Resistance, A Manifesto, p.8.)
This is a profound move towards rebalancing Yin and Yang. There is no healing—of ourselves, our communities, our planet—without rest. Without the Yin of resting, the “ancient, slow and connected work” (Ibid, p.17.) of composting in the dark, healing does not happen. Sleep itself is absolutely Yin, a giving over and letting go, during which time our cells heal, and our mind sorts the day to make meaning of it. If we’re afraid of Yin—and culturally, we are—no wonder we, as a society, are so sleep deprived!
Of all the distinctions in Brene Brown’s Atlas of the Heart, the one that hit me the hardest was the difference between contentment and tranquility. While I have felt considerable contentment with my life, it hasn’t often felt restful.
“Tranquility is associated with ‘absence of demand’
and ‘no pressure to do any- thing.’ With
contentment, we often have the sense of having
completed something; with tranquility, we relish the
feeling of doing nothing.” (Atlas of the Heart, p. 217.)
Tranquility is rest at its finest. It is how we know we are truly resting/rested. With tranquility we resist what needs resisting, we accept and/or decline what comes at us, we move into our wholest, healthiest selves.
So, dear reader, when was the last time (if ever) you felt truly tranquil? Where? How will you get there again? If you’ve never been there, what questions might help you move in that direction? What steps are you taking to bring more rest into your life? I’d love to hear about them.
* I must observe that, as in so many areas of Western culture, it is Black women that are leading the way, introducing new approaches, ideas and ways of being.
Lisa Marshall is a fierce elder and grandmother with a long career as an executive/
leadership coach. Her books include Speak the Truth and Point to Hope, the Leader’s Journey to Maturity and Yin, Completing the Leadership Journey. (yinjourney.com)
How to Balance and Prioritize
Your Energy for What Really
by Arlene Arnold
Do you ever feel completely spent with nothing left for family and friends or even yourself? This is not unusual in this world. It comes from a culture whose ideal is to “work hard and get ahead”. Even though you and I may reject that way of thinking and behaving, we, nonetheless, may be contaminated by it.
Recently, I facilitated a class called “Manifest Your Deepest Desires.” In that class I offer ideas that take us into a different type of flow. When we are in that flow, we use our energy for what really matters to us. At the same time, we conserve energy by not allowing our masculine active energy to take over to force an outcome that we have decided to champion.
During my life I have lived both ways: pushing an outcome/allowing the highest outcome. You are more likely to be affirmed and rewarded by the outside world for pushing, yet allowing supports vibrant health, flowing with the tide not against it, and ultimately allowing the receptive feminine energy to remind you to breathe and stay consciously present for yourself and those you cherish.
Continued in next column.
Pushing an agenda can bring accolades from those in the outside world, while allowing can conserve your human energy and foster internal satisfaction. Both can seem to be in alignment with your purpose in life. That’s what makes this difficult to consciously assess.
Let’s simplify this. You're moving forward with a pet project. You feel the excitement. Now, take a moment to feel your energy and your body. Is your energy racing or flowing? Is your body lithe and relaxed or tight and sensitive in some areas?
Your body always telegraphs the truth. Yet, even when we feel the tightness and the shallow breathing, we forge ahead. We override the intelligence of the body.
Have you experienced this? I certainly have. The outcome of overriding what the body is telling us inevitably leads to what I call a “Stopped in your tracks moment.” For me that was back spasms that landed me in the hospital. When I was released to head home, I spent several weeks in bed, moving as little as possible. I had lots of time to reflect on what had happened and why.
Recently, I married my childhood friend, Peter. Both Peter and I are assessing our lives in terms of how we spend our energy. We are honestly reviewing the activities we have been involved in. Which still need our presence, and do they bring us great satisfaction in spending our energy there?
For me, this means rearranging my work that has been my passion since 1995. I ask, what do I feel called to continue and what am I more than willing to turn over to someone else. There is nothing that remains a “should.” There is only, “What do I love to do? Where is my greatest ongoing contribution to this world and to others?”
It’s a little like what happens when you combine two households. The question is what do I love and want to bring to this new situation? What am I ready to pass on to someone else? How can I simplify my “stuff” so it feels like a light load that blesses both our lives?
In the midst of this, Peter and I are listening to the audio version of Mike Dooley’s book, Infinite Possibilities. What he says has resonated with me over many years. I am applying those principles now to attract those who are uniquely qualified and internally positioned to join the Transformational Tools Team. I am not making it happen. I am seeing it done and then taking the next step.
Is your body and internal knowing speaking to you at this time? Are you using your energy in a way that honors your body, your internal calling, and what brings you satisfaction in life? If not, I encourage you to take a timeout. Reassess. Consciously choose to attract what is highest and best in your life. Then, take time to congratulate yourself for listening. Sometimes that is the hard part. Then, you can move on to what is next; not what you “should do,” but what lights up your knowing. That is what guides us to the infinite possibilities that are already here, waiting for us to acknowledge and receive them!
May you be energized in your life as you move intentionally and lightly into what is next for you!
Blessings, Arlene Arnold
Arlene Arnold is a Certified Spiritual Guide and Healing Facilitator. She is the founder of Complementary Color Therapy and Inner Reality Therapy. She offers easy, effective tools to help release what keeps you stuck in old patterns. Then you can move forward as the brilliant light of your inner truth.