Ask A Kabbalist

What is the best way to rest and rejuvenate without losing sight of our spiritual path?

Question:

It is said that if we are not moving forward then we are falling back, i.e. spiritual work is continuous work. What is the best way to rest, rejuvenate, and restore without losing sight of our spiritual path?

Answer:

First, let’s look at what we define as rest, and why it seems this urge for rest is ever-present in our lives.

Via Merriam Webster, rest is defined as:

  • a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities
  • freedom from activity or labor
  • a place for resting or lodging
  • peace of mind or spirit
  • a rhythmic silence in music, a character representing such a silence, a brief pause in reading
  • something used for support

As you can see, our understanding of rest fundamentally depends on time, space, and motion – three things that only exist in the 1% physical reality. When we speak about continuous spiritual work, we are not talking about physical labor, effort, or activity; even though oftentimes spiritual transformation does require physical effort.

Kabbalah teaches that we must be constantly moving forward on the spiritual path, which is not a physical one. The work is one of introspection, internal confrontation, honesty, discomfort, personal stretch, risk, and vulnerability. It requires regular study, spiritual connection, asking for help from our spiritual teacher and community, and consistent reinvention of the self.

This is not work that will get you out of breath – unless your heart is beating fast or you have butterflies in your stomach. But it will give you greater freedom, peace of mind and spirit, and support in ways you cannot begin to imagine when you’re in that place of seeking physical rest.

Paradoxically, those of us who will ourselves into that place of constant spiritual growth with joy and desire, find that there is no lack of rest and relaxation. That is because there is no greater fulfillment in this world than actively pursuing our purpose, which is spiritual transformation. Those of us who anxiously await the chance for a break, will find inner peace much more elusive.

Karen Berg often refers to the Thoreau quote, “Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” Kabbalah explains that fulfillment is the product of spiritual work, not the goal of spiritual work.

If we focus our efforts – physical and spiritual – on accomplishing what we came to this world to do, we’ll be energized, excited, and inspired. And in those times when we’re not energized, excited, and inspired, we know that’s definitely not the time to rest!

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