Plants and animals rest when tired or to conserve energy. Educators advise us to take breaks in order to consolidate new information consumed. Fitness experts suggest that we incorporate the rest-pause technique in our exercising routines to increase strength and muscle tenacity. Introverts pause to recharge and refresh their internal clock. Orators pause to compose their thoughts, emphasize emotions, and arrest or gain the attention of their audience. Resting seen through any lens or field, is a natural element of life.
Interestingly in a culture that has become lost in busyness and obsessed with fast living, it is extremely difficult to appreciate the value of pausing in our personal lives.
When I relocated to a new country, I ensured that I was mentally prepared for the intense emotional experience that would ensue. I prepared myself to face the psychological matrix that come with new beginnings – the disappointments, loneliness, fear, excitement, the discoveries and learning curves. But no amount of preparation prepared me for the slowing down of my life’s rhythm to absorb the new dynamics of my new space. The change forced me to pause and it made me uneasy. I ventured outside of my own feelings and rubbed shoulders with a few millennials who shared that they too find it difficult to find peace in the pauses or slowness of life. From our shared accounts, pausing seemed to be a counterproductive action that goes against our cultural DNA. But our aversion to slow efforts comes with a cost and affects our mental health.
Dr. Herbert Freudenberger in Burn-Out: The High Cost of Achievement, noted that individuals who are constantly on the move eventually experience burnout and though these individuals look good on the outside, they slowly burn to death on the inside.
“If you have ever seen a building that has been burned out, you know it’s a devastating sight. What had once been a throbbing, vital structure is now deserted. Where there had once been activity, there are now only crumbling reminders of energy and life. Some bricks or concrete may be left; some outline of windows. Indeed, the outer shell may seem almost intact. Only if you venture inside will you be struck by the full force of the desolation.”
Freudenberger’s metaphor perfectly describes the end result of not making time to pause – our souls become darkened by the burn of demands and there is a devastating emptiness within that robs us of our beauty.
When we make a concerted effort to engage in productive idleness by slowing down and appreciating the mundane, simple experiences of life, we allow our minds to get rid of the distractions and recover and readjust for the next move. Essayist Tim Kreider penned in the New York Times in “The Busy Trap”, “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets….The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”
Giving our spirits a recess to reset, affords us the chance to nourish our emotions and thoughts and uncover deeper levels of our subconscious. We better position ourselves to access where we are and better plot what we are moving toward. And sometimes, pausing and taking a mental vacation is not always as easy as deciding to carve a few minutes within our schedules to readjust. Sometimes, life forces us to pause beyond our control – whether it results from a change in our lives, moving to a new place, suffering from an illness, or a setback, losing a job, or our minds and bodies shutting down to enjoy the rest that it deserves…we can find ourselves in an uncomfortable position, where we can do nothing but rest. Even these unsettling moments are perfectly composed gifts that are given to us to allow us to recollect ourselves or refocus our lives. They are a chance afforded to us to purposefully waste time and analyze the pieces of our lives that have become out of sync and redirect our attention to the larger vision for our lives.
“Whatever phase of life you are in, make time to pause and reflect where you are heading to. It is a good time to insert a comma now and realign yourself to your inner self before your life ends in a full stop.” ― Roopleen
This month, nourish the essence of who you are by incorporating 30 minutes of downtime daily to decompress and take a spiritual breath. Find a quiet place. Let your spirit confidently unwind and become satisfied by that which is around you. Breathe deeply. Absorb the sound and sights around you. Listen to your thoughts and body. Be still and be present.
Let us not be robbed of our beauty because we assumed authentic, purposeful living was the same as living a fast-paced life.