The Revolution of Rest: Balancing Divine Masculine and Feminine in the World

Matthew S. Goodman, Ph.D.
5 min readOct 18, 2022

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COVID AS A SYMPTOM OF THE WORLD

The world is exhausted.

How have you been feeling the past couple of years? The fatigue of COVID has manifested in multiple ways. We have seen higher levels of burn out at work, leading to a mass exodus and/or the desire to work from home (and now the phenomenon of “quiet quitting”); people report struggling more with sleep, anxiety, depression, and addiction; many people feel “hopeless” and “fed up” about the state of our politics; we’re suffering the effects of climate change; we’re feeling the pain of the war in Ukraine and the fear of worldwide calamity. We have good reason to feel fatigued.

It’s not just people that are exhausted and in need of care; our systems are ailing.

The economy, previously requiring life-saving injections (i.e., money) to keep its heart (i.e., people) and life blood (i.e., spending) flowing, is now suffering from a sort of runaway tachycardia or inflammation, requiring an opposing intervention to slow it down. A body bouncing between extremes is not at ease. Nor is our political system in any sort of homeostasis: polarities here, too, are causing whiplash and nausea, making the system vulnerable to collapse. Nature itself is dysregulated as it vacillates between increasingly more extreme heat and cold.

The world has good reason to be exhausted.

Photo by Alec Favale on Unsplash

We might say that this fatigue, individual and collective, is a symptom of the pandemic.

But maybe that is backwards. What if, the pandemic is a symptom of our collective fatigue?

Symptoms highlight what is already broken and in need of attention; symptoms point to problems that already exist. What if our world was already fatigued, prior to COVID? What if the world already desperately needed rest and recovery? What should we expect to happen if we ignore this need?

The more we ignore and suppress symptoms, the louder they become. Perhaps the world has been crying out for rest for far too long. Ignoring her pleas, she is forced to hand us something that will grab our attention.

What better way to elicit this than a pandemic? COVID literally forced us to lock down and retreat. It forced us into our homes. It forced us to reconnect with family and friends — to reconsider what is important and meaningful. It forced a shutdown of supply chains, and institutions, and systems that were running on the adrenaline “keep doing!… keep going!” COVID was an opportunity to rest, reconsider, and restart a new way of being.

What is this new way of being that is being called for?

Our modern society is one built on doing, controlling, and knowing. These qualities are helpful in helping societies progress and evolve. But societies — indeed, all systems from the micro the macro — must have balance. The Taoist yin-yang symbol is instructive here: balanced with doing, controlling, and knowing (yang) is non-doing, allowing, and non-knowing (yin). A society that does not balance these opposing qualities — that cannot harmonize yin and yang — is bound to develop symptoms.

WHAT DOES A REVOLUTION OF REST LOOK LIKE?

The qualities of doing, controlling, and knowing are masculine energies, while non-doing, allowing, and non-knowing are feminine energies. When referring to “masculine” and “feminine” here, I am not talking about gender; masculine and feminine have little to do with being male or female, as we each contain elements of both inside. Masculine and feminine energies are divine qualities, or archetypes, that underly our psyche and dictate ways of being. When out of balance — both individually and collectively — they produce symptoms.

We live in a masculine society (again, because this elicits certain connotations, I am not talking about problems with men in society. That’s a different topic). For centuries we have been on a path of expanding productivity, growth, and achievement. More work, less play! Grow at all costs! Always be producing! These are the mantras humming along in the background of our modern day system.

This is especially true today: being “busy” and having little time for rest, or even sleep, is almost something to brag about. The increasing speed of life, combined with the growing demands placed on our time and attention, narrows space for rest, recovery, and retreat. There is nothing wrong with “doing” in and of itself; however, when not balanced with “non-doing,” this is a recipe for burnout and fatigue.

We must balance the masculine with the feminine. We need a revolution of rest. The symptoms of the world are begging for it.

Photo by Ahtziri Lagarde on Unsplash

WHAT IS REST?

The revolution of rest does not just include the literal rest that we so desperately need. Yes, everyone could benefit from more sleep, self-care, and other ways of getting TLC. Indeed, we could all benefit from more breaks, time off, and work-life balance in our jobs (which, arguably, would lead to more productivity). But the revolution of rest cannot just be focused on the physical: we will never arrive at what we truly need (and instead will be under the illusion that “doing less” at work, or not working at all, will solve our problems). We need a psychological and spiritual revolution of rest.

What does this mean?

The psychological revolution of rest consists of bringing in the archetypal feminine into individual and collective consciousness. What would it look like to have less control and more allowance; less doing and more non-doing; less knowing and more non-knowing?

On the individual level, it might look like being more receptive (and less controlling) of what’s happening in our lives. It might mean “trusting the universe.” It might involve shifting from an attitude of judgment to self-compassion. It might mean opening ourselves to ideas and beliefs that contradict firmly held identities and ideologies.

In government, this might look like loosening the grips of control. Trusting people to make their own decisions. In business and economics, the divine feminine might soften our addiction to greed and growth, finding a sweet spot that placates our thirst for competition and success as well as cooperation and contentment. In academia, this might involve more integration between the arts and sciences. In science, this would involve less “knowing” and more “not-knowing.” For nations, the feminine might invite more compromise and less imperialistic ambitions.

Spiritually, the divine feminine encourages us to bring in love, acceptance, and nurturing into our experience — no matter what it is. Perhaps before changing at all, we simply need to love what currently is, both individually and collectively.

The current moment is calling for rest. Let’s bring in the physical, psychological, and spiritual energies that can help us meet the moment.

Photo by Daniel Mingook Kim on Unsplash

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Matthew S. Goodman, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist. Clinical Assistant Professor @ USC. Founder/CEO of The Middle Way. Writing at the intersection of psychology, spirituality, and society.