i give you permission to hibernate

The Gifts of Hibernation is a gift in itself. A piece of writing offered by Andréana E. Lefton, a guest contributor on Krista Tippet’s On Being blog, the article was posted in December 29th, my birthday, the day I woke up with a stomach flu that I am still, six days later, fighting off. I only discovered Lefton’s piece last night, but the timing was perfect.

Lefton writes about the challenge of giving the Self permission to STOP. “I’ve never been good at resting, taking time out, or giving in to exhaustion. For years, I bought into the mantra that doing is better than being, that productivity is the measure of self-worth.”

While in my case I wasn’t given the opportunity of time off from work, but it was forced on me when my body shut down with a classic winter bug, I was still so resistant to let myself not be productive (yes, I am a Capricorn. Shocking, right?) I tried to keep plans and prior commitments. I waited to call out of work, hoping I would bounce back. When I finally did give myself permission to call out of work and stay in bed, my brain tortured me with lists of things I should be getting done while in bed–catching up on emails, working on my novel, and of course–writing more blog posts!

Lefton writes about letting herself sink into the opportunity of what I like to call time-spaciousness“The image I have of myself during these weeks is twofold. First, I see a sodden rag being wrung and wrung and wrung. All the tiredness, all the energy I gave and absorbed over the years is being released. The second image is of a bell — a bell being rung and rung and rung. Its sound is one of welcome. It is a signal to the worlds that the silence of my heart is transforming into a call to prayer.”

What a set of images! I feel like a rag being wrung. I also feel like a bell. I feel there is a potential, dormant inside me. A set of gifts and skills and they want to emerge but I am not healed enough yet; my body is not strong enough yet. I must rebuild my health before I can be of service to the world.

Yesterday I told my dear companion how this week I have been eager to visit sacred places. To visit a mosque and a church and Hindu and Jewish and Buddhist temples and just sit in them. My companion asked me why and I said I felt like being in a holy space. That was the only answer I could offer. An interfaith pilgrimage to heal body and soul.

Then I read Lefton’s piece and she writes, “One of my rituals during these weeks is to drive into the mountains, to visit a chapel on a university campus. The chapel is built from the stone of the mountain. Standing inside, I cradle my fatigue within the deep energy of rock, water, and plant life. I say a few prayers, or read a poem. Then I drive back down the mountain, and go to sleep.” 

So I am not the only one who craves being enclosed in a place of prayer.

And at the same time, I long for my strength back, in order to walk in the woods and listen to the birds, and be in that church, the church of the natural world.

There is something powerful in stopping. As Lefton says, we live “in a world that tears us apart, then shames us when we take time for healing.” 

And now I have been torn apart. I have been stopped to heal so many times in the past year and a half. I have determined myself ready to start again, only to have another ailment force rest upon me.

What would it mean to declare myself in a state of rest until my body craves otherwise–instead of allowing my mind to declare when I should be ready to overcome PTSD, a spinal injury, grief, and a weakened immune system, among other things. I don’t even think “overcome” is the right word. I don’t know what the right word is. I know my body and mind are asking for hibernation. “Hibernation, which is another word for healing, restores our nourishing, grounding source. In so doing, it frees us to become a force of reason, reflection, and kindness.” 

Andréana E. Lefton, thank you for supporting my rest. Thank you for supporting the rest of your readers, by sharing the story of your own rest. How powerful a thing, to share our stories and in doing so offer others permission to do the same.

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