mai 16, 2014

9 paradoxical truths for taking your rest without guilt


Maybe you’re one of the people who struggles with guilt at the prospect of taking a moment to rest.


If so, I’m sorry for you. It’s no fun living with an anxious roomate, especially when he appoints himself commander of your inner world. This happens to me sometimes too (though much less often now, fortunately).

Here are nine paradoxical thoughts I want to offer you, not knowing whether they will change anything. Most people will nod along, say “it’s true,” but then continue the same way, business as usual — while blaming themselves for doing it.

Well, if you’re always at full tilt for the sole reason that you’re oh-so-enormously passionate about all you do, that’s great. After all, as Ezra Pound said, why not be completely consumed and “used up” at the end of your life?

All the same, it seems to me that avoiding being prematurely consumed would permit one to indulge his passion, to enjoy it (and be useful) even longer…

So here’s my list of paradoxes.

1. The more I rest, the stronger I am.

It’s during the rest after effort that my physical capacity increases, that my muscles gain strength. It’s during rest that new neural connections appear, that I gain perspective about what I’ve just been concentrating on.

Inescapable truth of our physiology: adquate rest is more important for our health than nutrition or exercise. Rest comes first, nutrition second, exercise third.

(No, exercise does not reduce the need for rest, it increases it. Only after a full recovery can exercise make the body stronger and the mind more resistant.)

2. The slower I go, the faster I reach my mark.

Jean de la Fontaine was perhaps the first to say it, but certainly won’t be the last.

Here, to go slower means to allow my attention to rest on what is directly before me, and resist the temptation to move ahead. If the tortoise wins the race, it’s not because of its slowness but because its slowness allows it not to be distracted from the task at hand: putting one foot in front of the other.

It’s when I slow down that I can see the opportunities right there under my nose, that I can ignore the fears of running out of money, running out of time, or missing the boat that’s urging me to hurry up.

3. I am not “someone” (much less something); I am a movement that oscillates at the discretion of a very precise rhythm.

Even if I think I can forget; although I’ve never known it; even if I think I can get around it… I am first and foremost a process transforming according to a rhythm and a pulse that is as precise as the beating of my own heart.

Better to fully accept this fact and enjoy the current and tides than to pretend they do not exist and exhaust myself until death ensues.

4. Rest does not mean doing nothing.

I rest whenever I allow some variety, when I listen to the balance and where it wants to take me. It’s a lovely day for the first time in ages: I left my office to take a walk outdoors, and now I’m typing this from a cafe terrace, eyes squinting in the sun.

A change of scenery, a change of pace, a change of posture, a change of modality (now in the body, earlier in the head, tonight in the heart)… Like the dolphin leaves half its brain asleep all of the time, one can sometimes rest while remaining active.

5. The more relaxed I am, the more I am capable of using my strength.

« No wasted energy »: such is the mantra of every master, in every discipline. And that is the secret of a master’s ability to explode just at that moment when extra energy is required.

In the traditional jiu-jitsu that I practice, free ground fighting, or « rolling », is the most physically demanding (fortunately we are more often standing, compared with brazilian jiu-jitsu, which takes place on the ground). I know of nothing more exhausting and draining than this furious brawl, a combination of Greco-Roman wrestling and chess.


Two minutes on the ground is a long time! Especially as my partner is almost always younger, heavier, and more experienced than I.

Of these three factors, experience makes the biggest difference–technical knowledge, of course, but above all the ability to remain relaxed. To breathe calmly. To save one’s strength for the crucial moment.

Now that I have some experience, I see how much I tend to force things, breathing like a horse…and exhausting myself quickly.

6. If I leave undone that which does not belong to me, others can handle it.

… But if I remain convinced that I must take care of it myself, however, they will not.

What is really mine?

7. The less I do, the better I do.

There is this terroristic thought: « If I don’t keep moving, I’ll sink ». A terrible thought, because it leads me to confuse quantity and quality. Like a non-swimmer, drowning, beats his hands and feet in all directions, not realizing that he’s exhausting himself and that his furious activity will be his undoing.

While he who knows how to swim knows that floating requires almost no movement, and that precision and flexibility will allow one to move much more easily than extra effort.

Eliminate unecessary movement so as to more easily accomplish the movements that matter.

8. Fullness emerges out of emptiness.

The land must be left fallow. We need sleep. Our heart, that organ that seems such a perfect example of constant activity, is in reality at rest two-thirds of the time.

Music is essentially composed of the space between notes. 96% of the universe is not made of matter (but of “dark matter” and “dark energy,” in other words, of we know not what).

9. My principal « work » is to be fully relaxed.

If I’m tense, constantly busy, preoccupied, overwhelmed, running left and right to do what I think I should do, the Muse will whisper plenty of things in my ear, but I will hear nothing.

I will hear nothing but my fatique, and the hoarse breath of the fear that seems to nip at my heels. Fear of emptiness; fear of failure; fear of being left behind; fear of missing out; fear of being incompetent; fear of being found incompetent…

What I’m supposed to do, ultimately, is perhaps simply to remind myself that, if I make sure to exhale completely, inspiration will happen by itself.

Because it is in my nature to inspire.


photos: premasagar, San Diego Shooter

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