Why Rest Is a Form of Resistance


Why Rest Is a Form of Resistance

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Inspired by Tricia Hersey’s book Rest Is Resistance, Julie Peters shares her thoughts on the radical healing power of rest.

“A grieving person is a healed person. Can you guess why our culture does not want a healed person in it?”

I was stuck in a snowstorm in rush hour traffic when I heard this line from Tricia Hersey’s book Rest Is Resistance. As I listened to her powerful voice explaining in no uncertain terms that slowness is a powerful reclaiming of power in a world that disempowers us, I didn’t mind the traffic. I drifted with the snow, taking my sweet time to get home, letting Hersey’s words wash over me.

This line in particular has been haunting me: “A grieving person is a healed person.”

For Hersey, there is a strong connection between grief and rest. She explains that the world we live in today was built on the backs of Black and Indigenous people. We have all inherited grind culture, a constant need to push, work, do more, and never slow down. “We’ll sleep when we’re dead” is the slogan of the hardworking capitalist. When we work so hard we can't think, Hersey argues, we lose our ability to think creatively and critically. We are participating in an oppressive culture that has stolen our dreams, our grief, and our ability to slow down and allow our bodies to heal themselves.

I am no stranger to the concept of working so hard I can’t feel my feelings. For many of us, rest is a foreign concept—we sleep, maybe, but we wake up exhausted. We take baths or try to nap, but our minds won’t stop pushing us, punishing us, and making us feel guilty for not doing “enough.” Real rest means being in a state of ease and calm, allowing our minds to wander and our bodies to soften into the feelings we really feel.

There is plenty to grieve. Of course, we all have our individual experiences of grief, but we are also living in a time where the natural world is suffering and on fire, and the earth is breaking. People still fight each other for land and resources, and we still haven’t figured out peace after all this time. Trauma is contagious and hereditary. When we grind, our ancestors are grinding. When we rest, our ancestors are resting.

Grief takes time. Grief is difficult for many of us because there’s not much that can be done about it. Grief needs time, slowness, and sleep. When we’re in an active state of grief, we often feel physically tired and are less able to do the things we normally would. If we try to push through it, we’re likely to get sick. But if we slow down, other feelings may come up alongside the grief. Old traumas and fears may appear in the dark. And yet, the more we meet those parts of us with gentleness and compassion, the less scary they become, and the more we heal. To heal, we must rest. To rest, we must be able to grieve.

So much of the time, rest isn’t about going to a spa or sitting down to meditate every day. It’s not even necessarily about sleep, especially if we’re haunted by nightmares or lie awake thinking instead of falling into restorative sleep. In my experience, the issue is often that there’s a truth we feel deep inside of us, but another part of us resists it, telling us that we’re not allowed to feel that way, or if we were to feel that feeling, our lives might implode somehow.

But when we’re allowed to feel without owing anyone anything—when we reclaim our birthright to our own emotions, whatever they may be, without the pressure to do something about it—we can free ourselves from the bondage of action. Those deep, dark emotions may have some wisdom in them, but that doesn’t mean we have to do what they say. All we need to do is feel them. Then we can rest in truth, in space, in owing nothing, in the simple act of being who we are as human beings without having to earn or claim that right. We’ve forgotten that our bodies and hearts are deeply capable of healing themselves. We’ve forgotten how to let them. The work isn’t working. It’s enough to rest. It’s radical to rest. Let’s rest.

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Why Rest Is a Form of Resistance

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