I hate the beach.
Now, if you love the beach please bear with me. This article is for you too. Please allow me to elaborate.
I hate the beach. Let’s set to the side all the fear embedded in us about shark attacks or the urban legends about how to handle a jellyfish sting. (Thanks, Joey, but none of us will be needing your hilarious “cure”!) Let’s also move past the fact that there will be sand everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. In all the places you’d never want it. No matter how well you wash. No matter how long you stand in one of those outdoor showers. No matter how many cute little beach chairs you sit on or how much you avoid contact with it you will still somehow find a thin layer of sand coating every inch of every part of your body and falling off of you onto every surface you are around. Want to add exfoliating crystals to your body lotion? Well, if you came within 8 miles of a beach, congratulations! Extra body scrubbing goodness!
But I’m not bitter.
Anyway, apart from all of that and the ten thousand degree sun threatening to burn you and your family to a crisp despite the fact that you feel good because you are in water that tastes like you are endlessly licking a salt shaker there is the actual ocean to contend with. It is massive and wild and dangerous. The waves crash into shore with thundering ferocity leaving pummeled shells and bits of ocean behind showing you just the power it is capable of. There is a small area where you can find an illusion of control and safety before finding waves that require at least some semblance of a vessel to overcome as they seek to either throw you up on shore like Maui in Moana or crash you into the ocean floor like one of those UFC caged matches. Only a small percentage of the population ever find their way out into the deeper waters and even smaller group make their way out on anything smaller than a boat the size of a jumbo jet.
The ocean is a beast. It doesn’t matter who you are or how strong you are. It doesn’t matter how rich, poor, educated, powerful, healthy or beautiful you are. When it comes to the ocean, you are at its mercy. You yield to the ocean. It does not yield to you.
It is this very thing that I hate about it that makes me love it. As I watch with helplessness as the ones I love wade into it, I know whatever semblance of control I have of the situation is, at best, an illusion. The ocean is stronger than me and always will be. Even with all the safety measures and precautions it is still completely out of my hands.
Yet isn’t all our life?
It reminds me of that, as I walk along its shores with the dawn light cracking over the horizon in shattering beauty. The sound of the waves beating against the ground as tiny birds scurry in and out of the surf like beggars hoping to find tiny morsels of breakfast show me the contrast of the mighty and the meek. How is it that this giant colossus can overwhelm me but the teeniest of life flows freely amongst the waves like it is a warm mountain cottage in early autumn?
Its strength brings me to stillness. To sit calmly on the shore and allow my soul to heal. To be mindful of all that I have in this life to be grateful for and all that was never in my control to begin with. To weep openly before my God with the knowledge that I have only the tiniest modicum of understanding of life and how it all works and holds together.
It is there, on that shore, with the sky blazing with fiery oranges and blushing pinks and sand creeping into every nook and cranny on my body, I am reminded of the importance of rest. Not only to our minds but to our hearts, our souls, our emotions and our bodies.
Rest is among the pillars of health and in our busy world one of those most easily overlooked. We all know how important nutrition and exercise is to our overall health but in an effort to squeeze everything into our schedules and make all the ends meet, rest is often one of the first things sacrificed. Even proponents of health and wellness or people pushing chasing your dreams will often make little jabs at the idea of rest. The idea that you can just “sleep when you’re dead” might sound tough but if you know anything about rest it really is just an invitation to crash and burn.
Your body and everything in it need rest and the truth is that the concept is something that many of us have a hard time with. Sure, we might all know how to binge watch an entire season of our favorite series but that doesn’t mean we are good at rest. Laziness and rest are not equal. Good healthy rest is strategic and intentional. We don’t often think of it this way but seen in the right light, rest is just as productive to our lives as work is. Just like nutrition, it requires healthy content and portions to be effective.
What is good healthy rest? Well, think of it like the ocean. You can spend your days fighting against the current, exhausting yourself swimming against the waves, calling out from your board at how you’ve overcome it, diving below its surface, or simply wading in and out in the surf and you will likely find yourself worn out and too tired to face the rest of the world or you can yield to its supremacy and surrender yourself to its nature.
Work and rest are best seen as opposites. While work is a necessary and healthy aspect of life and fitness your body needs the restorative nature of rest in order to get stronger, heal and replenish the power to keep climbing higher. Sometimes we are sitting at plateaus and getting discouraged trying to find a way to push ourselves more to breakthrough and the thing that is actually needed the most is rest.
Without rest, the body begins to shut down, regardless of what sphere of the body we are talking about. Overwork your mind? Mental fatigue. Overwork your emotions? Depression. Overwork your spirit? Disconnection. Overwork your body? Injury.
Like it or not, you, my friend, are hopelessly human and until a radioactive spider bites you or you fall into some questionable unearthly goo, your body is not immortal. You cannot bully it around endlessly anymore than I can make the ocean stop crashing into the shore or get all the sand out of my swimsuit bottoms. (I swear, I’m not bitter. I’m grateful! This is gratitude you are hearing!) You must give yourself rest. You must give yourself time to heal. You must give yourself time for all the work you put in to grow.
Think of it like planting a seed. You can do everything in your power to give it the best soil, fertilize it the best way, water it like it’s your religion, and monitor the amount of sun levels it receives like a hall monitor with too much power but at the end of the day, if you want it to grow, you have to leave it in the ground and give it time. You’ve got to let the dirt do its work.
Otherwise, you become like the ocean crashing onto the shore and pulverizing the world around you. This goes for every aspect of your being. From your muscles to your mind to your emotions. They all need time to unplug, unwind, and unravel so that they can heal, restore and grow.
In the next article I will lay out the benefits of rest to the body as well as what healthy intentional rest looks like when it comes to a healthy lifestyle but for the purpose of this article I invite you to take a look at your day and your life. How much do you value rest? Our modern society tends to equate rest with play and therefore undervalues it as wasted time. First, I’d offer a heavy argument that play is quite valuable to learning and growing as well but play and rest are not equals. (Additionally, many discoveries have been made through play) Play can bring us just as much exhaustion as work can. Taking time to enjoy pastimes are not the same as resting. Though there may be some restorative properties to doing things that you love to do it is not quite the same as bringing your body, mind or spirit to a place of surrendered control and rest.
Look across your weekly schedule and ask yourself if you made rest a priority? If you did not, it may very well be that the part of your healthy lifestyle that is most in need of adjusting may be this. Everything from your attitude to your pant size is affected by getting the proper amount of rest into your diet. Is the scale going up this week? It may not be that you need more kale. It might be that you need more sleep.