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Resting Through Our Work

Today’s post is by Tilden Edwards

At one point in a workshop, I asked people to be in touch with their desires. Afterward, two pastors came up and said the first desire that spontaneously came to each of them was for rest. You don’t have to be a pastor for that desire to show up very fast! Many of us are hardworking people; we need separate rest time just to recuperate our energy. But we also need a quality of resting as the very ground of our true work. Meister Eckhart says: “People must be so empty of all things and all works, whether inward or outward, that they can become a proper home for God, wherein God may operate.”

Truly resting from our work can leave us empty of striving. In that emptiness there is space to let in the divine whispers that are always moving through our souls. The Spirit-breath can move us to realize our sometimes awesome, sometimes playful communion with what is and the One who radiantly lives through what is. The Spirit-breath can also shape images in us that inspire our work. These may be very simple inner movements, such as wanting to write someone a letter, bring some things to the clothing drive for the poor, do something for a family member, or tend the garden. The whispered images may also plant seeds of larger things: a new direction in our lives, a creative idea for the workplace, a vision for a spiritual community, an organized challenge to some social injustice.

When we are moved by these whispers into outward work, the temptation is to stop listening and take over the activity. That leads to other temptations, such as becoming attached to the work having a particular predetermined result or worrying about how others may be judging what we’re doing. Then the work becomes more “self” work than it needs to be, more our work than God’s work. It can lose touch with the ongoing whispers that come from continually “resting” into the divine Source of our inspired work.

By the latter I mean the value of opening what we are deciding, feeling and doing again and again during the day to the great Whisperer. In that space of opening, I have found that my consciousness realizes its connectedness and availability to the divine Consciousness. In my relative emptiness, I breathe in the qualities of a larger confidence, energy, and loving wisdom that I want to breathe out into my work and thus join the Great Work of God in ongoing creation.

My own anxieties can impede the fullness of my empty presence for God. And even when I am widely open to the Spirit’s presence, I often am not given anything clear in that opening. Sometimes it feels more like a windless presence through which I am being guided imperceptibly. But, in my very desire to lean close to the Spirit’s breath, I think I am freed from my own separating narrowness a little, freed for something closer to what’s called for to live through me.

I’m sure all of us could give our own witness to the fruit of such “resting” into work, however small it may seem at times. I think the Spirit’s invisible breath wants to waft invisible goodness/God-ness through us in countless little ways all through the day. The most important thing it needs from us is our willingness to restfully open into its ever-active presence.

The 14th-century mystic Hafiz speaks to this need for resting into God when he says:

Just sit there right now.

Don’t do a thing,

Just rest.

For your separation from God

Is the hardest work in this world.

I believe our best work flows from our spacious resting in God. The often yawning gap between our opening rest and striving, separated-from-God work needs to be closed. We need longer periods of such rest at times, in our prayer and meditation. Such periods accustom us to the Spirit’s presence. And we need an undercurrent of such resting right through our working. Then I think our work will be more restful (in the deepest sense of that word) and on-target. We will see how good it is to live directly out of the divine Wind ever-seeding the soil of our lives.

This reflection first appeared in the Shalem News,Winter 1998.

May 05, 2019 by Tilden Edwards
Categories: Contemplative Living and Prayer. Tags: rest and work. Formats: Article, Article by Shalem Staff, and Friday Blog. Interest Areas: Friday Blog.

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