To be idle and blessed

What do we do when we are exhausted with life? Here are some thoughts and stories.


Sometimes we feel we have nothing left. We are empty. Dry. Earth that is caked and cracked and aching for water.

weary 1We have done too much in our lives, driven too many miles to work, attended too many meetings, cooked too many meals, had too many sleep-deprived nights, and worried too much about children or spent too many hours caring for aging parents.

We’d like to pull the covers over our heads and sleep. Preferably for months.

This, I believe, is the human condition today.  We are exhausted, physically. On a deeper level, we are soul weary. Our spirits yearn to be refreshed.

But how do we do that? How do we restore our being, especially when so much is demanded of us?

A friend of mine has been grappling with these questions for some years. She wakes up at 5 a.m. each day and travels into Manhattan where she works for a large corporation. Her pay is excellent but in exchange, she puts in long hours, manages mind-numbing projects and puts up with wearisome meetings. If she loved her work, perhaps all that would be bearable. But she doesn’t. After work hours, she is exhausted, with little energy to do the things that might replenish her.

My own story is one of caregiving. I was pushed into the “graduate course” of self-nurturing after my father had a stroke two years ago. I eventually came to realize at deepest levels that I had to make time for myself, even if it was for an hour. Otherwise, I had nothing left for him, myself or anyone else.

quiet and restToday, I am still learning to let go and simply be — to allow a sunset to soak into my soul, to curl up with a book or daydream — and not feel guilty about it. I know that if I don’t make time, it won’t happen. So I schedule a date with my spirit, to nourish it, and with my body, to relax and heal it.

Only we can decide what will refresh us down deep. It may be gardening. Prayer. A walk. A nap with a dog curled at our feet. Or, it may be allowing the moment to unfold in its fullness while we “do” nothing. I love Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Summer Day” and her words:

“… I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed …”

Sadly, we have forgotten how to pay attention. We don’t know how “to be idle.” So, for many of us, “falling down into the grass” won’t be easy. Being human, we will make excuses and allow the pressures of life to drain us.

But the truth is, some task or person will always be pulling at us. To find rest for ourselves, we may need to ask for help. We may need to say “no” more often. Or, we may need to let go of what no longer serves us. My friend did this. She eventually left her corporate job and although her income is meager, her soul is flourishing.

What I continue to learn is this: Much may be demanded of us but we have a choice as to how we respond. We can choose to be gentle with our precious being. We can simplify our lives and make the time to reboot, even if it’s for five or 10 minutes.

daisyIn the silence of our hearts, we can allow ourselves to fall into the arms of the Divine Beloved who wants nothing more than our restoration. We can be idle. And blessed.

Only then, will the hard earth soften. Life-giving waters flow into our hearts. And our souls bloom.