Learning to Rest

At the end of last year, I very nearly burnt out. As a GP with a bunch of other responsibilities, I was finding it really hard to switch off and allowed my work to encroach on other parts of my life. I got really tired and felt stretched beyond my capacity. I knew this because my body told me so, but I was also becoming less caring, less compassionate, less patient and less focussed.


Then I read a couple of books about rest and I remembered some things I had forgotten. When I was a boy, I never worked on a Sunday. I’m the son of a preacher-man and we never worked on a Sunday. We would spend time with our community, eat lunch together, go for a walk, play some games, maybe catch a movie, but there was no work – none. Rest, it turns out, is not only vital for the human body, but it is seriously good for the soul. It is also the greatest piece of resistance against the ‘system’ and the ‘ego’ that I know of.


I have remembered to rest and put some things in place to help me do so, and I have honestly never felt so well. I actively look forward to stopping and out of this place of rest, I have found I can flow into the rest of my week with so much more kindness and grace, without feeling overwhelmed. It has given me a new perspective on the rest of life and enabled me to function without much stress or deal with stress more holistically.


On a Saturday evening (just because this is the time that works best for us as a family), we turn off all screens and all emails. We don’t do any work – no homework, no work, no nothing. We try and keep any household chores to an absolute minimum and take time to be. No shopping (because we resist the narrative that says we don’t have enough), nothing strenuous – just what makes our souls happy – not in a hedonistic way, but in a restorative way, so that we can live from a place of life-giving, others-empowering love the rest of the week. We have developed patterns that make sense of who we are – lazy breakfasts, time with community, gentle walks, good food, board games, time – wasting time – together.


I know it’s really counter-cultural these days – we wear busyness like a badge of honour. But busyness is isolating us, stressing us out and killing us. I once heard a preacher-man say that only the devil is always busy, but God knows how to rest. Rest takes humility. It means recognising that life goes on without me. But it also recognises that who I am and what I do is important and so I need to be replenished in order to be healthy and well. I can’t tell you how many people have told me how well I look!


So, if you’ve forgotten how to stop, reflect, connect and be renewed, then I offer this to you as a gift. Take a day off – I mean a real good rest, once a week – it’s harder than you think…..but there is little else I know of that will bring fresh hope and life to every part of you.

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A Fallow Year

This coming year of 2019, I am letting my garden have a rest – letting the ground be fallow. It gives space for the soil to replenish and to have its nutrients restored.


I am personally trying to allow much more space this year for contemplation, silence, reflection and the deeper work of stillness. I’ve sown a lot of seed over the last few years and now I need to take stock and see what is emerging, what is growing, what has life. There will probably be fewer blogs, though not necessarily, as I may use it to journal. There will definitely be less social media (starting with a complete 6 week hike from it form January 1st). I am so aware how often we focus on the activity, but do not do the deeper work needed in our lives.


As a Type 7 on the Enneagram, I know I can easily run away from pain – I am learning much more to sit with it. I know I can easily return to gluttony – not just for food, but for anything – new ideas, an idealised future, dreams, experiences……. I know that my natural defence mechanism is to rationalise everything, so that I don’t have to deal with the complexity of ‘feeling’ it! I know that I can so easily fill my time with so many fun and exciting adventures, always looking to the next possibility rather than sitting in the present and just being. Although, in many ways I feel more healed and more whole than ever, I am painfully aware how easily, I trap myself back in my ‘7 prison of escapist behaviours’ rather than living out my life more fully and freely, in the deep knowledge of being unconditionally loved.


I have personally found the enneagram such a useful tool, not to box me in, but to help me understand the box I am already living in and how to be free of it to become the best version of Andrew James Knox that I can be. I would say, in my clinics and in my leadership work in the NHS, that my greatest sadness is seeing people who never really do their ‘deep work’. They never really get to grips with their root issues, never really face up to their deep needs and resultant behaviours which leads to all kinds dis-ease. In fact, the world is run by such people and the effects for all of us and the planet, are devastating. If we are to embrace a kinder future, in which empathy, love and compassion can really come to the fore, then we have to be willing to do our deep work ourselves (from which no one is exempt), letting go of our anger, pride, deceit, envy, greed, fear, gluttony, lust or sloth in the process.


So.……what’s the deep work you need to do in 2019?


This year, my deep work is to embrace contemplation, to pause and reflect, to listen and to be present. I hope I learn more the secret of doing nothing. The Christopher Robbin Movie has given me much cause for thought (not least about inverted pyramids!).


After all, as one of my all time favourites, Winnie-the Pooh, reminds us:

“Doing Nothing Often Leads to The Very Best Something.”

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