This is the fifth post in a series called Resilient Resistance, happening in conjunction with a workshop series I'm co-leading with herbalist Jen Stovall of Maypop Herb Shop here in New Orleans on March 18 + 19. We're sharing strategies for doing justice work without burning out or giving up, using mindful movement, meditation, breathwork, nutrition and herbal medicine to nurture the resistance. Learn more and sign up at bearteachesyoga.org/resilientresistance.
Because of capitalism, we tend to think of our bodies as machines on an assembly line: they should endlessly produce, zipping along at a swift and consistent pace, no need for rest. We treat some bodies more this this way than others: think of the enslaved people who labored on plantations in south Louisiana. Or now, the migrant farmers who pick tomatoes in Florida for pennies a day.
But even for those of us privileged enough to not work under such extreme conditions, this mindset pervades. How many of you have gone to work anyway when you’re sick? Or when you’ve got your period and all you really want to do is curl up with your hot water bottle? Count me in that number as well.
I’m not blaming us for this--I’m blaming our culture and our society that makes it damn near impossible to give ourselves a break. Many people simply don’t get sick days, others who get them can’t afford to take a sick day, and some simply won’t let themselves be “off” even when it’s what the body is calling for most.
But our bodies are not machines.
They cannot work endlessly until they die. They're part of nature, and nature takes breaks. Nature has cycles. Machines do not.*
Certainly for some of us it is easier to take a vacation or even just take a day off of work, and I don’t mean to minimize those distinctions. And it can feel like if we step away from the work even momentarily, it will all fall apart. In the social justice world, we think that if we take breaks that we're selling out.
But if we don't take breaks, you’ll be burning out. My most seasoned teachers and mentors in this work, many of whom live and work in frontline communities, all espouse this wisdom. It is from them that I have learned this lesson.
Taking breaks doesn't mean taking breaks from caring. But it does mean taking breaks from the things that wear you down: the 24-hour news cycle. Social media. Being deeply engaged with every single terrible thing happening in the world.
Take a day (or forty!) off social media. Decolonize the part of your mind that insists that if you stop working, you’re worthless. Do something sweet that replenishes yourself.
Let yourself truly rest.
(*This metaphor’s not perfect because apparently machines actually do take breaks! As a student more experienced than me with factory work explained in class on Sunday, once a year all the machines in a factory are stopped for the type of maintenance that can’t be done while they’re running. Everything broken gets fixed; things get disassembled and cleaned; all the rusty parts get oiled. So EVEN MACHINES TAKE BREAKS!!)
P.S. I’m co-teaching a new workshop on using yoga and herbs as tools for resistance. Click here for more info: bearteachesyoga.org/resilientresistance.
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