Dare to Rest: A Baccalaureate Address 2009

Graduates, I join the many who dare you to dream big and do even bigger. But, even more, in the moment that is this moment, I dare you to rest.

I dare you to manufacture your own shut-down systems.

I dare you to create your own ways of pausing.

I dare you to, in the wise words of the poet, Mary Oliver, find ways "to enter the place of not-
thinking, not-remembering, and not-wanting."

I dare you to give your body and brain the rests they deserve and need.

Here are "four Ps" for you to remember should you so dare:

1. PERMISSION. If you don't value your rest, no one else will. You have to become convinced of the meaning and value for rest in your own life. You have to become persuaded that you are a better person with rest than you are without rest. Convince yourself that rest leads to peace, peace leads to clarity, and clarity leads to creativity. Should you begin to feel guilty and selfish about making more time for nothing, dare to believe that the deeper selfishness is not giving yourself such time. As long as you remain "crazy busy" you insure that the world, including those nearest and dearest to you, will never behold you at your finest. That would be selfish. You have to rest to be your best.

2. PLANNING. Schedule daily and weekly times of rest and leisure, and be open to the unscheduled graces of free time to simply be. Planning them with the same intent that you plan your work signals to your consciousness, and just as importantly to your unconscious mind, that rest is as important to you as anything else in your life. You have to rest to be your best.

3. PRACTICE. Don't just plan your rest and leisure, but live it. Real change involves more than knowing you need to change, wanting to, and planning to. As valuable as they are, authentic change transcends awareness and desire. Real change is actually choosing to be different, to live different. And, sustaining true change involves trusting your transformation beyond all fear and suffering.

4. PERSONHOOD. Know that having regular periods of rest and relaxation helps you to remember that you are infinitely more than what you do. I hope you don't mind me saying to you from the window of my Christian faith tradition that you are God's "fabulous you" apart from any accomplishment or achievement. God cannot love you any more than God loves you right now, not because of anything you have done or will do. Such divine affirmation can relax you in amazing ways. Among other things, it will help you to avoid the mad rush of living for acceptance and embrace the sweet peace of living from acceptance.

There is a story told of the musk deer of north India. In the springtime, the roe is haunted by the odor of musk. He runs wildly over hill and ravine with his nostrils dilating and his little body throbbing with desire, sure that around the next clump of trees or bush he will find musk, the object of his quest. Then at last he falls, exhausted, with his little head resting on his tiny hoofs, only to discover that the odor of musk is in his own hide.

This Baccalaureate address was delivered at the University of Pennsylvania, May 2009.
Kirk Byron Jones teaches ethics and preaching at Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Centre, MA. His books include Rest in the Storm: Self-Care Strategies for Clergy and Other Caregivers, Addicted to Hurry: Spiritual Strategies for Slowing Down, and Holy Play: The Joyful Adventure of Unleashing Your Divine Purpose. His web site is www.kirkbjones.com.

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1/1/2000 5:00:00 AM