Rest (noun) 1. The refreshing quiet or repose of sleep. 2. Refreshing ease or inactivity after exertion or labor. 3. Relief or freedom, especially from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs. 4. A period or interval of inactivity, repose, solitude, or tranquility. 5. Mental or spiritual calm; tranquility.
Children understand the need for rest and play. When we observe children, we see that their natural inclination is to approach the world with a spirit of adventure and retreat. After tiring from a day of play, their eyes get sleepy, and they may get cranky, indicating their need to rest. We wouldn’t dare say that the child does not deserve time for a nap. We easily form empathy for the child, understanding that a long day of exertion requires a period of rejuvenation. In fact, to withhold rest from the child could be seen as abuse. Yet, we often engage in these forms of self-denial and abuse with ourselves because we are adults, with a different set of expectations and worries. Having put away childish things, we forget that rest is a vital aspect of sustaining our life force. As adults, we often don’t reflect on our own sleeping. Usually, we wake up, feeling refreshed. The benefits of our sleep are felt immediately. Our muscles relax, we experience increased concentration, and we have a general sense of well-being. Our spirit and soul must go through a similar process of rest. When we give ourselves a break from regular activity to take stock, and mend what has been frayed, we can renew our sense of a balanced approach toward life.
Even when we realize the benefits of a well-rested body, mind, and soul, achieving such a state of rest is not always easy. Fear keeps us from taking time to rest and retreat. Whether it’s fear that we’re wasting time, or fear of being alone with ourselves, there can be a need to trade in retreat for the chatter of sound bites, social media, and keeping ourselves busy. Yet our need to rest our spirit and soul cannot be taken lightly -- sooner or later our body begins to speak, through headaches, chest pains, back pain and low energy. When we don’t listen to the dis-ease welling in our bodies, our bodies may become fertile soil for life threatening disease to manifest. In a competitive and capitalist society, we are required to bypass our inherent need for stillness in order to be “successful.” Putting away “childish things” becomes a code word for us to switch on to autopilot, running the wheel of what society has come to expect from us. Rest is regarded as lazy and weak. On our quest to work, parent, and seize the day, we forget that we require a level of self- parenting. Sometimes, after a long period of exertion and struggle, rest is the only reasonable answer. When we have lost our sense of ease, and begin believing that what we do determines our inherent value, it is time to rest. Knowing our intrinsic worth is our divine birthright. Knowing that we deserve to be loved unconditionally is another birthright we cannot afford to forget. Our task is to let the process of uncovering ourselves begin with simply standing still and resting in ourselves. I would like to offer three ways I’ve been re-shifting my thinking of rest.
- Rest is Active -- Rest is an activity. It allows our scattered mind to take a backseat while our innate self-healing systems and knowledge do the work of restoring our bodies and spirits. In a state of rest, the blood keeps pumping, the brain relaxes, and there is no interference from the mind to dictate what natural intelligence already knows to do.
- Rest is Surrender -- When you rest in the quiet of yourself, it’s like raising your hands up to the sky and surrendering to a greater will than your own. The greater will or higher power can be the God of your understanding, or simply that quiet voice dwelling in us. Humans naturally want to control and create order in life. But when we surrender, we are allowing the deeply creative and mysterious aspects of ourselves to emerge. Surrender can be scary because it involves forfeiting control; it refuses to rely on human chatter and instant gratification to dictate its actions. Surrendering rewires our hearts and subconscious to follow the rhythm of our true selves, offering no answers until the answers are ready to reveal themselves. Surrender teaches us to be comfortable even when we’re not in control.
- Rest is Listening -- Society teaches us to look outside ourselves for the answer, never giving us the chance to listen to ourselves amidst the flurry. When we fail to listen, we dull our ability to trust our intuition. Rest allows us to retreat and regain a sense of self -- a sense of our true nature, as we gain confidence in our inner voice. Listening teaches us to seek solace in ourselves.
I once felt as if my mind was racing, while my heart was broken. This feeling came at a critical time, when all I could do was rest. Rushing to “fix” and “problem-solve” did not have a place in my life: I was burnt out, and my energy was low. It was a time when even “talking out the issue” felt like soul depletion. If you find yourself in such a position, it may be time to think of how integrating rest and a sense of ease into your life can improve its quality. It may be time to seek refuge in the quiet of yourself, so one day you can resurface ready to play and believe life is on your side again.