Personal Writing

Why is it so hard to pause, rest and just be?

I got Octavia F. Raheem’s Pause Rest Be from the library recently, and I’ve read it three times since bringing it home. I was drawn to it initially because I don’t really know how to pause, rest or be. It’s not in my nature to stop, spend time refilling and stay idle.

Newton’s first law of motion states:

An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. All objects resist changes in their state of motion—they tend to “keep on doing what they’re doing.”

That’s me to a T. My director of operations in my day job often accuses me of not even being willing to stop to celebrate wins in the organization—a successful fundraising campaign, a new important relationship, being awarded a grant. I acknowledge them all, yes, but only as I am already moving on to the next task or goal at hand.

I’m unwilling to let unbalanced forces, even good ones, knock me off my trajectory, which is always in the direction of more.

It’s absolutely true in my personal life, too. I’m sure it’s why I didn’t just leave Dr Marry during the years that things were so bad at our house. I was moving in the direction of having married him, and I was determined, for many reasons, to stay the course and to “fix” what was wrong (what a fool I was!).

There are some admirable qualities to this dogged determination. In my own life, nearly every direction I’ve moved toward has worked out (minus that whole movie star thing), but in many ways, I’m exhausted.

I’m left wondering, what am I running so hard, all the time, in one direction for? What am I afraid will happen if I stop? What if I just let go?

The book is broken into three sections: Endings, Liminal Space and Beginnings. Ms Raheem is a yoga instructor, so the book is centered around that practice. Those sections are just a tiny part of the book, which is good, because I’m not much into yoga anymore—probably because there’s a whole lot of pausing, resting and being involved. No time for any of that!

The subtitle is Stillness Practices for Courage in Times of Change.

Stillness practices.

There have been precious few times in my life when I have chosen or had a stillness practice thrust upon me: the night Quinn was born, watching Dr Marry sleep in a medically-induced coma, my two-week writing retreat and the early months of COVID.

I grew to love the slowed-way-down rhythm of my COVID time. I appreciated taking the time to watch my prairie garden come to life and see the little insects, bees and butterflies flitting all around it throughout those many months of isolation. I loved taking walks throughout the day. I loved baking new kinds of bread and reading recipes. Minus the horror of the pandemic happening all around the globe, in my little world, it was a magical gift of time and stillness.

But even though I made vows to myself that I would honor the time I gained and the lessons I learned during COVID, I find myself moving back into the frenzied rhythm of the “before times” much faster than I hoped I would. My schedule is packed with back to back meetings, and my time for reflection, strategic thinking and just being is nearly as limited as it was leading up to March 2020.

I know it’s happening because I can feel a new little bit of weight settling onto me from too much inactivity and too much mindless snacking in the seconds between zoom calls or as I’m rushing out the door to my next appointment (not at all what Madame Chic would endorse!). My mind feels the same addition of a new heaviness. And I’m not interested in either because I know what they mean and why they are suddenly making their presence known.

I like the whole book, but the Liminal section is by far my favorite. It’s different from the other two in that it’s primarily a series of short mantras meant to help guide the reader through the sticky section between the past and the future. Exactly where I am in many ways right now. I’m betting I’m not alone and that you’re straddling some end-of-COVID-moving-into-what-is-next feelings, too.

Let me just share a few of them, and then I encourage you to get the book and read it all for yourself:

  • You are not lost. You are here to reorient your way to the path that is truly yours to walk.
  • Forget your name and what they call you. You are here to remember your heart and soul.
  • You are in an unfamiliar place. You meticulously packed your bags for the journey. You thought you had a map, compass, or guide. It turns out that you only have your senses. If that is all you have, trust. It is enough.
  • This is preparing you for what you asked for. Walking the road to your dream prepares you to arrive at it. To live it. To love it. To know how to greet it. To thrive within it.
  • Hold on to your faith and courage. Let everything else go. A change is coming.

Pause Rest Be is spiritual but not religious; metaphysical but not “too out there;” about yoga but not really at all.

I know I keep re-reading it because each time, my breath slows down, my body relaxes and my mind settles into a much calmer place. It’s like getting the benefits of yoga without doing a single downward dog.

We have a small window of time to hold on to how we lived during COVID*, to how we felt and to the pace that many of us experienced. I’m working hard to keep that window cracked open enough that I can remember how all of that felt and keep some of the best parts going forward. Pause Rest Be gently reminded me of the most beautiful aspects of the past two years as well as gave me the permission I need to take the deep breaths, center back inside myself and just be present. I’m left feeling so grateful for this book. I think you will be, too.

Remember, the first law of motion says “All objects resist changes in their state of motion—they tend to ‘keep on doing what they’re doing.'” When I think of stopping something’s trajectory, I imagine it’s something seismic—a medical diagnosis, an accident, a natural disaster. But, in actuality, most of my most extraordinary shifts have been still, small, quiet moments that could have been easily missed. Often a change in our state of motion is as simple as taking a breath, stopping for a moment and just being present. That’s more than enough.

*Again, as always, I write about the slow, beautiful pace of COVID recognizing that for millions of people around the globe, there was nothing slow or beautiful about the past two years. I was blessed in the extreme to weather that storm with extraordinary privilege, safety and time.

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.

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