Learning to Rest

A lot of people come to me, admitting that they are restless. They cannot sleep. They worry and are filled with anxieties. They are always on edge because life is so busy — one thing after another. I often hear words like: “I’m tired, Father,” or “I’ve too many things to do and not enough time to do all of them,” or “I have to do (this or that) like it was supposed to be done yesterday,” or “I haven’t had any time for a breather for a while,” or the likes. Many described their lives as always being on the move. Unfortunately, some have also come a little too late, almost to the point of being burnt out before seeking help. Some only want to look for a quick solution or the “magic pill” so they can resume whatever they had going before. Yet, it is important to know that perhaps what our soul and our body are telling us is that something has to change. We cannot simply go on as we had before if whatever we have been doing is destroying us and bringing us to where we are today.

Many atheistic scientists and thinkers try to deny the existence of our soul, which is created by the Creator God who loves us into being and continues to speak to us. However, the growing number of restless people affirmed this deep, undeniable existential problem and identity. The soul and the body are interconnected to one another holistically. The restlessness of our body points to the greater restlessness and desire for God in spirit. Therefore, it is important for us as human beings to listen to what our body and spirit are telling us deep from the heart of heart.

First, let us look naturally on the typical possible causes of our restlessness. I believe we can safely say that many people are constantly living with sensory overloads in our post-modern world. Everywhere we turn in our typical daily life, we see ourselves being filled with technological presence, from TV to the internet, from the radio to our smartphone. All of our senses are constantly being stimulated and overloaded with stuff. Many people are so scared of the silence that they constantly fill their surroundings with noises. There are actually machines that make white noise for people who cannot stand the silence. However, when we are constantly being filled with noises and sensory stimulating stuff, our natural and human senses will have to take a toll, hence becoming dull and numb over time. Those things then build up and lead us into a codependency as we learn to cope and adapt to what is surrounding us. In a way, we have learned to move from one noise to another. We then become scared and nonfunctional when we do not have the typical sensory overloads around us.

Yet, all these sensory appeals make us restless and not able to focus on what is truly going on. We cannot go deep into thoughts nor are able to reflect and meditate because those matters require silence, which we are not used to and are scared to try. We are restless because we have not allowed our body and its senses to rest. We leave our senses no breathing room or time to process, rest, or wind down. Insomnia and fidgety are but a few signs of constant, exhaustive brainwave usage and sensory codependency. There are many more examples but many will not recognize the deeper problems and desires to rest. Instead, we create new drugs and toys to appease and “solve” the problems. Yet, all of these are clear signs from our body and the psyche that we need to recognize, understand, and deal with. This is not how things are meant to be and how we are created by God.

If I ask a person to take some quiet time to pray or go on a silent retreat. The typical answers will be: “I don’t know how,” or “I don’t know what to do with myself,” or “I’m scared of the silence.” Some even make excuses like, “That’s not for me!” or “That’s not what I’m looking for.” Instead of looking at what one’s body and soul are telling him or her, many just want a short way out or a quick solution. It is like wasting time with someone as they beat around the bush without trying to understand the real problem in recognizing what one’s body and soul are trying to pervade. All these yet-too-real examples are exactly what I am trying to pervade. Our post-modern world with all its technological advances has created more noises, distractions, and confusions for post-modern inhabitants because they do not know who they are. They are too codependent on quick, immediate gratification and solutions to desire and truly understand who they are. They do not know themselves because they have not taken the time and effort to listen and recognize the signs that their bodies and spirits are telling them. They are lost because they do not know who they are holistically. It is so easy to fill one’s mind and surround one’s self with information and useless noises instead of silencing the surroundings to listen to what one’s soul is trying to pervade with its body and spirit. Nevertheless, for the sake of many’s holistic well being, it is very important that we listen to our true self in its wholeness of body and soul.

We are easily frustrated, anxious, and restless because we have never taken the time to let our body and soul rest in the Lord.

All these signs of restlessness are invitations and signs of something deeper. It is important to know that perhaps what our soul and our body are telling us is that something has to change. We cannot simply go on as we have before if whatever we have been doing is destroying us and negatively bringing us to where we are today. In his writing, Saint Theophilus of Antioch wrote:

It is like this. Those who can see with the eyes of their bodies are aware of what is happening in this life on earth. They get to know things that are different from each other. They distinguish light and darkness, black and white, ugliness and beauty, elegance and inelegance, proportion and lack of proportion, excess and defect. The same is true of the sounds we hear: high or low or pleasant. So it is with the ears of our heart and the eyes of our mind in their capacity to hear or see God.

God is seen by those who have the capacity to see him, provided that they keep the eyes of their mind open. All have eyes, but some have eyes that are shrouded in darkness, unable to see the light of the sun. Because the blind cannot see it, it does not follow that the sun does not shine. The blind must trace the cause back to themselves and their eyes. In the same way, you have eyes in your mind that are shrouded in darkness because of your sins and evil deeds. A person’s soul should be clean, like a mirror reflecting light. If there is rust on the mirror his face cannot be seen in it. In the same way, no one who has sin within him can see God.

He is calling us to be attentive to both of our physical and spiritual senses. We have to learn what our spiritual senses are telling us as they are signs of what our souls are yearning for. Even though we normally have signs of physical or human sensual desires, they are often signs of a deeper thirst and hunger for the Lord. Also, just as our body needs its rest from all the sensory overloads that are around us, our soul and its spiritual senses also need the space and time to slow down, relax, process, and reflect on deeper realities — to see the working of grace as it is. Our spirit needs the space and time to open up and transcend the constant flux and bombardment of things around us.

I think here is the key to understand many of our post-modern problems… We have lost the ability to rest and rest well. Our body and spirit are in a constant state of flux and overload of sentiments. Relationships break down because we have lost the needed communication and personal touch that comes from the heart. Many people also break down psychologically and physically because they have forgotten to care themselves and be attentive to what their psyche and body are telling them. We cannot pray and hear what God has to say if we never have enough time to open up and to use our spiritual senses to listen, see, feel, and touch God and the working of His grace in our life. We often time are too tired when we come to relationship and prayer; therefore, both sides of the human and spiritual relationships suffer greatly. Just like sins rupture our relationship with God by distracting us from what is life-giving and nourishing, physical and spiritual burnouts and overloads deter us from being totally focused and have the energy to desire God and His transcendental truths.

Therefore, I have some questions that I would like to ask you today:

  • What is occupying your time and energy most of the time?
  • When was the last time that you are able to rest well?
  • When was the last time you were able to be attentive to what your body and spirit are saying?
  • When was the last time that you were able to pray or simply to enjoy and soak in God’s goodness by “wasting time” with Him?

While these things might seem unrealistic and impossible for some, and I understand that not everyone has the luxury of free time, we all have to will and desire to make time for what is important. In a busy world with so many things on our agenda and many things that are bombarding and trying to get our attention, we need to do what seems-to-be unnatural by seeking the supernatural. We have to be in touch with our spiritual and transcendental side in order to truly have the energy to move forward and understand the human and natural perspective of who we are and what life really is.

Let us, therefore, learn to take time for ourselves as we learn to wind down and rest. I am not asking you to move mountains and valleys, but I am inviting you to begin to look beyond the hills and lowlands as to see greater things of yet to come when we right our relationship with God and our true selves. Let us try to begin small and constantly grow in faithfulness. Learn to slow down as you get home or as it gets darker in the evening. It is perfectly fine to turn off the TV, phone, radio, computer, or whatever is filling our lives with noises and distracting us a little bit early before we go to sleep as to give us some quiet time to unwind, relax, and reflect on what is really going on. Perhaps look into how we can begin the good habit of doing an examination of conscience or night prayer. It might feel uncomfortable at first as we are doing something new. However, with anything that requires the learning of a new skill set, prayer and the attentiveness of our body and soul require time and space to grow. Therefore, be patient and persistent for you and I both know that we really need this. Count your breathing, recollect your thoughts, slow down your senses, open up your heart, and simply allow yourself to rest. Try it! Do not be afraid…stick with it. Grow in it! Just as the body needs its rest and the psyche needs time to reflect, our spirit needs time to be nourished in prayer. Do not be afraid! God is waiting for you and your heart is yearning for Him. He is just a prayer away.