Pause, Rest, BeFeb 17, 2022
by Octavia Raheem
This post is an excerpt from Pause, Rest, Be: Stillness Practices for Courage in Times of Change by Octavia F. Raheem. © 2022 Octavia F. Raheem. Reprinted in arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. Buy Your Copy Now >>
The selected excerpt includes the first four chapters of the book, which all appear in Part One: Endings. Chapter titles are included below as bolded subheadings. This content can be found on pages 11-20 in the printed work.
Chapter One: Ain’t No Turning ’Round
Six months is not long unless the world is turned upside down. Then, six months is a lifetime.
And in that lifetime, you walk over hot coals of rage while stumbling through despair and falling over the edge of fear. You land beyond that edge and pray at the altar of uncertainty. You put down some of what you’ve been carrying. You put down things like the need to control, “what it looks like” and attachment to “there must be one answer” because you realize how long the road you must walk is. Within that realization, you sense that over the course of walking, any answers you think you have will transform into more questions along the way.
You kneel down until beautiful scars replace your knees.
When you get up, you walk differently. Because, well . . . after all of that, you can never be the same.
You do not look behind you. You do not look ahead of you.
The only thing to see is this place where you have fallen down, bowed, and finally stood up from.
And in the lifetime of six months, you become the kind of wise that your elders said comes with living. And you realize that what they were really talking about is “living through” so many endings that you have no choice but to let go and grow. Maya Angelou’s final message on Twitter said,
Listen to yourself, and in that quietude, you might hear the voice of God.
Even now, may the wisdom of these words echo in our hearts and guide our decisions, choices, affirmations, and boundaries.
The road you are walking is not linear. It is long, has some ruts, and is unpaved. It may feel like an obstacle, and it is also a way.
It is a way home.
What obstacle are you facing on your personal road? One that may look like an end? Are you willing to consider that it may be the way or a beginning? It’s okay if the answer is no today. One day, it may be yes.
Chapter Two: In Destruction, Create Refuge
I source wisdom from many places. Early in the pandemic of 2020 and one day while talking to my mama about all that was shifting, being revealed, ending, disappearing, and showing she got really quiet.
Then she said, “As I continue to stay close to home, be still, and look at what’s all going on in the world, I’ve been thinking how everybody thought Noah was crazy, gathering up things and building that ark. They thought he was out of his mind ’til it started to rain. Daughter, the ark is a place of inner refuge and shelter. Stay close to the ark ’cause the rain ain’t even started yet. You stay close to the ark all the way through and ’til the end.”
For me, the story of Noah’s ark is one of creation, existence, and destruction.
That holy cycle is one that we are always in and one that is more pronounced and accelerated over the last few months and years.
For me, building the ark means I fortify myself daily through rest, writing, meaningfully connecting to the community, and tending to my resources and time with intention.
Staying close to the ark means I acknowledge when something big is shifting either in the collective that affects my personal life or in my personal life that impacts how I see, experience, and engage with the collective.
Collective change is upon us all, and it is deeply personal.
The illusion that we will make it through the flooding without getting wet—I see that ending too, and the dawning reality is not pretty. It is so real, and in that way, it contains its own beauty.
There are more rains ahead. Yesterday has ended. Beloved, you will need refuge. Build your ark.
Take a moment to sit and breathe into the moment you are in. Feel your breath take refuge in your body while also providing your body refuge. Bring to mind someone or something that brings you a sense of refuge or being held. For a few breaths, hold the image of that person or thing in your mind. Then let the image go and allow yourself to be within the essence they provide. Refuge.
Chapter Three: Why Rush the End?
Let’s say today is the last day of the world as you know it. Are you going to multitask your way through it? Giving nothing and no one full, devoted attention—not even yourself?
Are you going to allow “doing the most” to steal your joy and intimacy?
You know that feeling. Talking to someone on the phone, online, or even in person, you sense a kind of vacancy. Like they are “there” and gone at the same time. The connection has ended before it even starts because they aren’t paying attention. We might want to take it personally and internalize their lack of attention to us as evidence that we don’t deserve undivided presence. Yet, it’s not personal. It’s a pattern. One that so many of us act out over and over even with ourselves.
If we don’t know how to be with ourselves without distractions and multitasking, how can we be with anyone else?
We also know the feeling. Talking to someone—whether in person, on the phone, or online—and they are completely there. Fully present. Something in us wakes up. We feel seen. Heard. Our breath deepens and becomes fuller. We fall in love with the moment and person in front of us.
If this day, hour, and minute were the end of the world as I know it, I would:
Drink a cup of tea with my love and silently watch his eyes.
I’d play cars and trucks with my son and laugh at the top of my lungs about nothing in particular.
I’d wear my cutest dress. Listen to a song until I could trace the rhythm to my heartbeat, and slow dance
I’d read one single paragraph in a whole book, word by word by word. Just one paragraph though, out loud to my family so that we could commit the words to memory together.
Or perhaps, I’d sit alone and feel the weight of my body against the ground and allow myself to be completely touched by the earth.
I’d do all of the things that look like I am doing nothing in our fast-paced culture, like simply doing one thing at a time. I’d remember just how rich and full nothing or one thing at a time can be.
Release yourself from the jaws of multitasking and divided attention.
Savor. Don’t wait. Savor now.
Eat your next meal slow, steady, with devotion. Like it’s your last meal in that particular place and time. The simple truth is . . . well, it always actually is.
Chapter Four: Feeling Our Way Through
Joy is an act of rebellion. And so is allowing ourselves to feel our grief.
We can only access as much joy as we have the capacity to feel our sorrow, our pain, our losses, and what hurts our hearts.
Feeling is a profound act of rebellion when you’ve been conditioned to stuff everything in. Overwork and grind it away. Pretend it away. Bypass it away. Joke it away. Pray it away. Fuss and fight it away.
Do anything, just Get. It. Away. Those feelings!
As I feel my way through the grief of the last few years and unacknowledged sorrows of days gone by, I see clearly. Joy is, in fact, what we all come from. Living and feeling my way through it all expands my ability to return to it—joy. To enter the place where joy resides. To embrace it and be held by it once I get there. To allow the door to the sanctuary of joy to oscillate—as it naturally does—versus cling to the knob of it because I fear the feelings that exist outside of the door of joy.
Can you fully experience the depth of joy if you can’t face your suffering and pain in a real way?
If you are going to make it through, this now, you have to feel. Acknowledge your feelings. Dance with them. Shake with them. Create with them. Sit with them. Rock with them. Cry with them. Shout with them. Moan with them. Tell ourselves, friends, therapists, pastors, and lovers the truth about them.
Feeling is a profound act of rebellion.
Feel as an act of reclamation of your wholeness. Feel as an act of faith. Feel as a way to honor your heart.
No matter your spiritual or religious background, may you find solace in these words: “Weeping may endure for the night. Joy will come in the morning” (Psalms 30:5).
Even when that morning feels far away.
Even when that morning feels far away.
Say this to yourself and mean it: Today, I allow myself to feel my feelings: messy, loud, curled up in a ball, hands extended in delight, lips curled in sweetness, fires of rage, rivers of tears––the range of feeling. Today, I allow myself to feel. Then, allow yourself a pause, some space, and time to do just that.
Octavia Raheem is a mother, author, yoga teacher and practitioner, and activist. She has received national attention for her work training yoga teachers and diversifying the yoga and wellness industry. Her work as a yoga professional focuses on practical tools to teach individuals how to manage stress, anxiety, and fatigue through yoga and meditation in a way that is accessible to all levels/abilities, and restorative to the nervous system. Her work has been featured in Yoga Journal, Mantra magazine, Well + Good, CNN, WXIA, and Atlanta Magazine. Octavia’s first book, Gather, was published in 2020. For more information, please visit octaviaraheem.com.
Want more from Octavia Raheem?
Check out Octavia's conversation with Jivana Heyman on his Yoga Revolution podcast. In the episode, Octavia teaches us to slow down, prioritize rest, and honor our varied human experiences and guides us toward resonance and connection even when the truths we witness, hear, and encounter vary from our own. The conversation also touches on how these truths arise in today’s world, as well as what it means to practice activism as a form of yoga, the importance of mindful space holding and compassionate language, and how simply being is perhaps the most important practice of all.
Octavia also founded Starshine & Clay, a one-of-a-kind online yoga and meditation community dedicated to the rest, restoration, well-being, and care of Black Women and Women of Color.
Stay connected with news and updates!
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.