I have always struggled to rest. It is like I am programmed to keep doing. And I have the stamina to keep doing which is great, and I sleep like a baby every night, so I never really thought rest was important. In fact, to be honest, I have always thought it was people just being lazy!
But here is what I realised.
I was avoiding resting.
Because when we rest, there is space. And in that space, everything you have been avoiding can appear. Truth dawns. And it requires you to trust, be gentle, be still, be selfish, relax, give to yourself. And none of that is easy!
Rest isn’t switching off and watching TV, it isn’t distraction where you read a book, paint, cook, eat, or listen to music. There is a relationship to meditation, but it isn’t that either, because meditating is focusing, and still counts as doing something.
No, real rest is the absence of everything.
When I first started taking rest seriously, I used to always fall asleep. Years of running my nervous system on full alert had me stressed and payback was required. I have gone through periods (years) where I operated effectively on 4-5 hours sleep a night, so long as I was doing daily dynamic yoga practice, it was possible to live a frantic London life on full speed, all the time.
Having moved to the mountains in Spain, life runs at a different pace, manana manana is a real phenomenon! But believe me when you are addicted to achieving and doing, when you feel like you are wasting your life if you aren’t doing something, a new culture and location isn’t enough to hit the brakes for you. Rest has to be a conscious choice and practice. Especially in the times that we live in now.
So, what is real rest?
I looked up a few definitions of rest to understand what I was working towards:
- Ceasing work or movement in order to relax, sleep, or recover strength.
- To be placed or supported so as to stay in a specified position.
- An interval of silence of a specified duration.
- A bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities.
- A state of motionlessness or inactivity.
- Relief or freedom, especially from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs.
- A period or interval of inactivity, repose, solitude, or tranquillity
- Mental or spiritual calm
- And finally…the repose of death: eternal rest.
And in those definitions, I realised why I have spent a lifetime avoiding rest.
It is because when we really rest, we must embrace a void. And it is in that space that your nervous system, if it has been running in fight or flight mode, does not compute what is happening so shuts down (sleep). But with some practice, what rests gives your body and mind is this…
- A clear undeniable message that you are safe and loved for simply being. Your nervous system actually EXPERIENCES this and KNOWS you are completely safe, perhaps for the first time in your life.
- In the silence, in the void, after all is said and done, the world keeps turning, and you can be at peace, if you choose it.
- All of your turbulence, activities thoughts and distractions will in the end mean nothing and you will have yourself, who you are, in whatever state you have chosen for yourself.
These are big concepts to allow to settle within your body. If you have been avoiding emotions or thoughts they can come rushing in, and I often found myself leaping up because I remembered something I had to do. Then realised it was just me avoiding again! But as I have practiced resting more often, sometimes taking naps when needed, I have learned to simply stop and rest. And it is a beautiful, soul filling, refreshing experience.
So, I encourage you to start taking some rest. Real rest, without guilt. Knowing that it is the tonic your nervous system needs (most of us have fried our circuits).
Give yourself full permission to rest.
And not because you deserve it for anything you have done. It is not a treat or a reward.
It is a valid state of being.
From its stillness great strength, energy, focus, clarity, health, positivity, appreciation, joy, love, and creativity flows.
Let me know how you get on. I would love to hear.