The Gift of Rest

From nature we learn about balance.  Each of the seasons come every year bringing heat in the summer and cold in the winter and each support the world in their own way.  If it were winter all year long the planet would not flourish.  So it is with us.  There is a season and appropriate time for everything.  Just as there is an appropriate time for movement, work, and production, it is also essential to find time for stillness and rest; a time to be unproductive and do nothing.

This photo was taken by Sarah Sphar after leaving work early to do nothing.

It is important to ask yourself if you are doing too much.  When we don’t listen to our bodies, it is easy to lose touch with your own natural cycles of activity and rest.  Consider tying the following experiment to help you begin to rediscover your natural rest-activity rhythm.

Use your daily schedule and calendar not just to plan activity, but to remind yourself to do nothing.  Why not schedule “do nothing” just like you’d schedule a doctor’s appointment?  It’s very healing to sometimes do nothing, go nowhere, and not have to be “on” for other people.  Doing nothing can take many forms:  You can take a nap, go to bed earlier or get up later, sit in a chair, look out a window, be quiet, or lie down and put your feet up.  Try turning off your phone, computer, and all other electronic devices and just enjoy some time in solitude and non-doing.  You may find yourself noticing the starlit sky or truly enjoying a hot or cold beverage that you typically chug as you rush out the door.  Many find it enjoyable to do nothing out in nature.  Consider planning to spend an afternoon outdoors, hanging out by the ocean, a lake, or a stream, the mountains, a forest, or any quiet, natural environment.  Notice what happens when you just take time to be in these settings.  If you have children, see if you can get a babysitter so you or you and your partner, can take some time to do nothing or experiment with doing nothing with your children.  You may be amazed, but the world won’t fall apart if you take a break. 

Do you find yourself  becoming anxious or tense just thinking about planning to do nothing?  Take a moment to reflect on the obstacles that get in the way of rest for you.  Conversely are there times or situations in which you find it easier to rest?  Perhaps there are simple changes you could make to make it easier for you to rest such as canceling extra activities, asking others to help out around the house, or encouraging others to relax so you can feel more comfortable taking some down time.

Now take a moment to explore any tension in your body, thoughts, or emotions that come up when you think about doing nothing for one afternoon.  Do have worried thoughts, feel guilt, or find this uncomfortable?  Pay attention to these sensations, thoughts, and emotions.  Do you have any idea where they come from?

reference:  A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook by Bob Stahl PH.D. and Elisha Goldstein PH.D

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