Monday Motivation: Rest
“The most valuable thing we can do for the psyche, occasionally,
is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of room,
not try to be or do anything whatever.”
~ May Sarton
A bit of a belated Monday Motivation this week, as I had to take some time to rest. I’d pushed myself too hard last week and over the weekend, and yesterday my body and mind both said: Rest.
Ironically enough, it was precisely this subject that I was going to write about for this week’s Monday Motivation. I’d like to invite you to get curious about your relationship with rest — do you give yourself permission to rest on a regular basis, or is it something for which you’re constantly scrounging and trying to find?
Creativity, spiritual practice, intuition, emotional healing — none of it can truly be felt or experienced without rest. We need time out from any task in order to let our brains process and store new information; we also need time out for our bodies to integrate experiences and insights. If we’re undergoing any kind of healing work, we absolutely need rest in which we can allow the healing to have the most effect. And if we’re learning — regardless of our age — we need time to rest to cement ideas and embed techniques.
Easier said than done, though, right?
I know this place very well — the place where we push the need for rest to one side in order to “get everything done” or “be more productive”. This may seem like the best thing for us, but really, it’s not. It’s actually an internalisation of capitalism — equating your worth with your productivity. If you’re reading this and shaking your head in disagreement, ask yourself this: When you do rest, do you feel guilty? I’m not talking about the rest that comes at the end of the day when you fall into bed; I’m talking about curling up on the sofa for an afternoon of doing nothing, or easing your sore body into a warm salt bath for an hour or two, or coming home and getting straight into bed and sleeping for an hour before your evening commitments.
See, the Western world is built upon the idea that productivity equals worth and status. When we are not productive, we are considered “less than”, and this can do a whole heap of damage to our mental and emotional states — even more to our physical states, if we push ourselves too hard for too long… Just like I did, last week.
I don’t get it right all the time. I’m a work-in-progress, like everyone else; I forget to pace myself and rest when I need to, and I’m trying to liberate my inner capitalist just as much as I’m working to empower my inner creative. Some of that involves approaching my work life differently, and with a different mindset; some of it involves allowing myself time to rest without guilt or shame or beating myself up (this is the harder bit).
What helps is remembering that creativity doesn’t run on empty. Neither does my intuition, or what I call my compassion filter. When I’m trying to write and my brain is more like a barren wasteland — tumbleweeds and all — than a fertile forest, I know I need rest. This is usually one of the latter stages of signs that I need rest, mind — I’ll be happily on the ignore train whizzing past the stations Physically Tired, Mentally Tired, Emotionally Done… All in order to “get everything done” — until, actually, I can’t get anything done at all.
One of the best things we can do to help support our creativity, our spiritual practices, emotional healing, intuition, and physical health is rest. Staying well-nourished and well-hydrated are also important, but softening our steely grip and allowing rest to happen is even more so. We need to be careful, of course, that healthy resting doesn’t become an escape tactic, an excuse for ignoring a deadline or our responsibilities; of course, if rest is on the cards in a major way, then absolutely rest. But take a little time beforehand to own your responsibilities and commitments and move them if you can. Be honest about it, both with others and yourself. If you’re in the daily grind and have less control over your schedule than you would like, then look outside your timed commitments to find where you can build rest into your day. Lean on others for help if you need to, even if it’s just for an hour.
If, like me, you struggle with a chronic illness that has an element of constant fatigue in it, then yes — rest can help you too. You may not feel replenished and refreshed 100% like a person who doesn’t live with chronic illness, but I’d wager that resting can help the day feel a little more manageable than it was before.
So how would you benefit from rest this week? How can you soften into rest as you give your creative and spiritual muscles some time out? What would your creative projects look like if you came to them well-rested instead of riding the edge of exhaustion? How could your meditation practice improve if you came to the cushion without tiredness dogging your steps? How ease-filled would your breathing be if you slowed down and let yourself rest when you needed? Doesn’t the idea of all of that feel good?