Have you noticed how many people talk or even boast about being busy? Work and productivity, it seems, are our new status symbols. If you’re not constantly working, you’re lazy or, worse, failing in life. We no longer know how to slow down and rest. I’d go further and say that we’ve lost the meaningful rhythm of work and rest that defines a healthy spiritual life.
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, a Silicon Valley strategist, suggests that it’s time to rethink rest. He comes at rest from a productivity angle, but what he says applies to creatives and people of faith, too. As summarized in a recent article, Pang says that rest can, paradoxically, help us get more done. It is not simply the negation of work:
[O]ur cultural view of rest influences our relationship to rest, creating an aversion—the mistaken belief that rest is for the weak. Because we mistake rest as the opposite of work, we avoid it. This view, however, is flawed.
The critical thing to recognize is that when we are letting our minds wander, when our minds don’t have any particular thing they have to focus on, our brains are pretty darn active. When you do things like go for a long walk, your subconscious mind keeps working on problems. The experience of having the mind slightly relaxed allows it to explore different combinations of ideas, to test out different solutions. And then once it has arrived at one that looks promising—that is what pops into your head as an aha! moment. The people I looked at are able to construct daily schedules that allow them to draw on that process in little increments.
Our society’s cult of busyness means that we must fight for rest, Pang says:
Rest is not something given to you to fill in the cracks between work . . . You have to resist the lure of busyness, make time for rest, take it seriously, and protect it from a world that is intent on stealing it.
Pang even suggests that a (gasp) shorter work day would help us to be more productive.
I’ve always thought that from a faith perspective, rest is not just a productivity issue but also a trust issue. Adele Calhoun, who defines rest as a spiritual discipline, writes, “Rest can be a spiritual act—a truly human act of submission to and dependence on God who watches over all things as we rest.”
Have you made rest an intentional part of your spiritual and creative life?