Sunday, August 22, 2021

A Sacred Pause

I recently came across something author and teacher Jeff Foster wrote which was exactly what I needed to hear. It’s from his book The Way of Rest: Finding Courage to Hold Everything in Love. Actually, just the title of this book resonates with me!

I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve been struggling to “hold everything in love” as I’m acutely aware of what a time of stress and uncertainty, loss and grief we’re living through . . . and have been living through for over a year now.

I mentioned in a previous post that I recently helped plan a day-long retreat for my colleagues in the field of palliative care. I facilitated the retreat’s opening ritual, one which invited particpants to “set aside” for the day whatever it was that was weighing most on their hearts and minds. I had a beautiful river stone for everyone present, which we all placed in a wooden bowl to symbolize this “setting aside.” At the end of the day, folks were free to come and gather up their stone, perhaps aware that they were able to “carry” what it represented in a new way, now that they had experienced a day of rest and renewal.

When they had placed their stone in the bowl at the start of the day, people had been invited to say out loud what it symbolized for them. For me, it was what I’ve come to call “soul exhaustion.” It’s an exhaustion that runs deep, and has a lot to do with the coronavirus pandemic which, due to the Delta variant and people’s poor choices in responding to this variant, has flared up again across the globe, especially here in the U.S. where simple things like wearing a mask and getting vaccinated have been mind-bogglingly politicized. This has contributed to an increase in infections, to hospitals being overwhelmed, and to unnecessary deaths. Working in a hospital setting, I witness these things every day.

The ongoing suffering and strife in Yemen, Afghanistan, and Haiti can also leave me feeling overhelmed and at a loss of how best to respond.

And in my personal life, I find myself struggling to understand and follow-through with how best to be a true friend to someone I care deeply for but whose issues and decisions more often than not require me to walk away so as to protect and maintain the level of emotional health and stamina I need for my work in the field of palliative care chaplaincy. And yet he remains my friend and, as many of the images of this post (and others) attest, something of a muse for my creative outlet of photography.

Given all of this, you might understand why I experience the following from Jeff Foster’s The Way of Rest as a timely and beautiful gift. Perhaps you will too! . . . Accompanying Foster’s words are some of my photographs of beauty that I’m drawn to, including the summer blooms in my garden and the Mississippi River shoreline close to my home in south Minneapolis.


You are so overwhelmed by life sometimes, by the enormity of it all, by the vastness of possibilities, by the myriad perspectives available to you. You feel so pressed down sometimes, by all the unresolved questions, by all the information you are supposed to process and hold, by the urgency of things. You are overcome by powerful emotions, trying to control, or at least influence, everything and everyone around you, trying to hold yourself together, trying to make it all “work out” somehow, trying to get everything done “on time.” Trying to resolve things so fast, even trying not to try at all.

You are exhausted, sweet one, exhausted from all the trying and the not trying, and you are struggling to trust life again. It’s all too much. . . . You are exhausted; you long to rest. And that is not a failing of yours, not a horrible mistake, but something wonderful to embrace! For the exhaustion is pure Intelligence, and it says, “Let go, let go! Stop trying so hard! Be present!”

Stop pushing for answers right now. Allow everything to rest right now. Take a sacred pause. Allow questions to remain unanswered, for now. Allow space for yourself to breathe today. Allow yourself to not be able to hold it all up today. Allow yourself to not know how, to not know at all. Allow the heart to break, if it needs to, and the body to ache, and the soul to wake. Everything is so okay, when you get down to it. So okay, here.

And know you are loved. . . . Know you have always been loved, long before you were named, long before you were even born, long before overwhelm came to show you the way.

Jeff Foster
Excerpted from The Way of Rest:
Finding Courage to Hold Everything in Love

Sounds True, 2016
pp. 34-35

NEXT: Aligning With the Living Light

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Day of Renewal
Respite By the River
Cultivating Stillness
Child of the Universe
The Source Is Within You
Time By the River
Blue Yonder
November Musings
God Rest Us
Just One Wish
Adnan . . . with Sunset Reflections and Jet Trail
Adnan . . . Amidst Mississippi Reflections
In This In-Between Time
What We Crave

Images: Michael J. Bayly

1 comment:

Percy said...

A seeming friendship is not a real friendship if one believes one cannot give oneself permission to let it go fallow. A relationship where such a belief obtains is actually a unilateral commitment that is likely serving as grist for a false ego need rather than a genuine friendship.