Daring to Rest

I’ve written a lot about rest this week. So far, I’ve stuck with my plan to take some rest time in the afternoons. Yesterday I was reminded of kindergarten, with my little red mat, and the milk and cookies that came after quiet time. I never slept — I wasn’t a napper, even then — but I remember fondly curling up on that mat. Maybe it’s why I’ve come to love my yoga mat so much!

There’s a hidden danger in all this resting, however. Dare to rest, and I cannot be responsible for what might happen!

When we find ourselves in a quiet, peaceful space, allowing our minds to unclutter, something happens. We start to notice the thoughts and feelings rattling around inside, and hearing our inner truth. It’s not always pretty, and it can definitely be inconvenient!

Case in point: since we returned from Switzerland, we’re still in a restful mode. We’re working, but we’re unwilling to put pressure on ourselves to achieve. In the quiet of our return, a message has emerged loud and clear. Well, it’s more like a question. “If you like the mountains so much, why do you still live in Houston?”

Indeed. Why are we here?

For years, the answer was easy. I had work and friends. Henry was raising a family, and his parents were here as well. I even used to like the heat! Then his children grew up and left home, and his parents died. While all of this was going on, we were traveling more, and taking trekking poles with us wherever we went. Our travel decisions started to center on where we could hike. We fell in love with two places in particular: the Pacific Northwest and Switzerland.

Still, we didn’t stop to think about living elsewhere until we came home. Henry called me from a bike ride, complaining about the heat and the lack of places to bike in the city.  I, meantime, was doing my daily meditations and starting to rest. “Why not move?” the inner voice asked. “Why not live in the environment that you love the best?”

Why not? Because we humans love inertia and habit. Sometimes the prospect of change just looks like too darn much work. Still, there comes a time when the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same, and I think we’re just about there.

We are taking the next step by planning a trip to explore an area in Washington State that meets the criteria we have set. I try not to think about the work involved, of selling our house, finding another, and moving all our stuff a few thousand miles. This is the problem with resting. When you start getting ideas, they involve a certain amount of work.

Resting stops our complacency. Resting asks questions. Resting holds a mirror up to us and suggests, gently, that we see things a little differently. It may not cause us to want to relocate, but it may show us something in life that wants to change. Resting reveals who we are under all that busy-ness. There, we may feel emotions we don’t want to feel — but we will also learn the truth of ourselves. We will find our yearnings, our hopes, our dreams. We find surprises. I didn’t know until age 51 that I had a passion, and a certain amount of skill, for gardening. Resting showed me the way and suggested that I give it a go.

Rest if you dare! Take a little time each day, even if it’s five minutes, and let yourself unplug from the world. What does your rest tell you?

Good Morning, Monday! The Art of Rest

Sunrise Over the Dead Sea, Israel

Lying on my mat, I have pillows under my knees and another, smaller pillow under my back. A bag of lavender encircles my neck. Breathing in and out, I pay attention as minutes pass. I feel my back starting to sink into the floor, then my arms, then my legs. Fifteen minutes or so in (I have set a timer for 25), I feel my being start to shift and let go. I have moved from relaxation into something deeper, the mystery of savasana, or “corpse pose.” I stay there until the timer dings, then slowly move back into my day with a calmer, quieter mind.

Modern lives are filled with tension. Some of it is obvious: the demands of work and home, lack of adequate sleep, and a 24/7 news cycle reminding us that we’re all going to hell in a handbasket. Perhaps there are health issues, financial problems, marital difficulties, challenges with elderly parents or struggling children. No wonder we women have a tough time just hanging out and resting. Something always needs to be done!

This past week I listened to Shiva Rea talk about Yoga Energy Activism, and she crystallized many of my own thoughts about the need to relax and recharge our batteries. She suggests that we conserve energy of all kinds, from unplugging unused appliances to taking time to rest our bodies. As I listened to her ideas, letting her thoughts swirl and blend with mine, I made some commitments to myself. Specifically, I decided to make time on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis for what I call active rest.

On Saturday I took a morning sabbath and spent it in various relaxation practices, including yoga nidra and restorative yoga, both practices designed to take the body to deep levels of nourishing rest. When I had finished my practices, I picked up a pleasurable book that has sat in a stack for too long. The computer stayed off for the entire morning!

For the rest of the week, I plan to take time in restorative poses for about a half hour in the late afternoon. I also plan to build some sort of resting ritual around the new moon, though I haven’t quite worked out those details just yet.

We may feel as though we can’t afford to take the time, but can we afford not to? The cost of stress on our health is enormous, making us look and feel older than we are. Taking even a few quiet minutes per day can add years to our lives and greater pleasure to those years.

I also know that when I take the time I need, I get more done with less effort. So, if you’re into productivity, efficiency, and accomplishment, you’ll see the benefits of taking time to rest.

This week we’ll delve further into the concepts of “active rest.” We’ll discuss ways we can not just slow down, but put the brakes on so we can refresh ourselves. On Tuesday I’ll recommend a CD series that I find helpful, and on Wednesday I’ll write more about “il dolce far niente” – an Italian phrase meaning “the sweetness of doing nothing.” Sound radical? Trust me. If you’re a busy woman, you’ll love this — and don’t worry, you’ll still get it all done! Or, if you don’t, you won’t worry so much!

I hope you’ll come back and visit tomorrow! May you have a restful day!

Forest Hike
Enjoy This Restful Image From San Juan Island, WA