by Andrew Nemr
In the fall of 2019 I experienced severe burnout. It was like nothing I had ever encountered before. As a performing artist I had surely experienced emotional and energetic highs and lows. I had been met with overwhelm and mild depression before, too. However, this was something else entirely. The areas of personal relationship, family, and work all shifted for the worse as I came to the end of my own rope.
Nuach was born out of my journey to understand what had happened. What lead to such a dramatic encounter? I talked with others who shared their own experiences. I journeyed through mental health and counseling. I recognized patterns of behavior that had been built up over years. I saw why these patterns had developed, and I made concerted efforts to change. As I dug even deeper I began to recognize the unhelpful nature of the context I had found myself in: an achievement-oriented culture. I also began to see the difference between different kinds of rest: mental, physical, emotional, spiritual.
I emerged initially with a few guiding ideas. First, if I were to survive my journey toward rest I would have to protect it from my own past patterns of behavior and contextual pressures. Second, if I wanted true renewal I had to aim for the deepest kind of rest – rest of the soul. Any other kind wouldn’t solve my issue, that of a restless soul. Notably, I didn’t consider myself someone who had a restless soul. I continue to have my eyes opened.
In January of 2020 I discovered the word Nuach. While it is not literally related to another Hebrew word I had been familiar with – Ruach (translated often as the breath or spirit of God) – the word play captured my imagination. Nuach is translated as “to rest,” with the original idea lying in respiring, drawing breath (Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon). I began to think of the kind of rest of was searching for. That which is causes my entire being to be at ease. The word helped me cultivate a vision for what I was hoping to experience.
I mentioned earlier that part of this journey was talking about it openly with trusted friends. In many of those conversations my friends shared their own experiences with burnout. I was in shock at the stories I heard. Not only was I not alone, I was hearing stories from friends who I thought were beyond the reach of the pain I was experiencing. I seemed to me that no one was beyond its reach. The vision I found myself cultivating grew beyond my own personal experience, to something that could be shared.
In the fall of 2020, now a year since my initial experience, I was presented with the opportunity to share my experience and make a project out of Nuach. The Dream Forum, a program of Goldenwood, accepted Nuach as one of eight projects in its inaugural cohort of dreamers. This is what I was coming into the journey with…
Over the next six months the cohort of dreamers engaged in a series of exercises in which we practiced listening to God. Notably, our practice was primarily to listen for each other, and not only for ourselves. This regular experience of wonder continued to unveil the journey toward rest of the soul that I was on. My experience in the cohort pulled me even further from any sort of achievement-orientation I had coming into the forum. You can read more about this part of the journey here.
As the Dream Forum came to a close, my approach to Nuach as a project had shifted. While escapes from the burdens of life, and shifts in our environment and social relationships can stave off burnout the journey toward rest of the soul is an inward one. It requires investigation, inquiry, and a willingness to be transformed into the kind of person for whom rest is a natural outcome of their personality. This kind of work doesn’t necessarily happen overnight. However, knowing where the work is and how to focus on it, is an important start.
Does the idea of Rest Of The Soul resonate with you? Do you want to journey towards Nuach? Start by taking this survey (20min).