In my work as an Ayurvedic practitioner, I almost always begin the session with a sort of interview to get a sense of the life and preferences of the person I’m working with. What kinds of foods do they eat and when are they eaten? What sort of physical activity is the person doing? How is the quality of their sleep? I’ll ask them to describe their digestion as well as their menstrual cycle if they are a woman before menopause. Then comes the question that stops nearly everyone in their tracks: how much rest are you getting? Um…….rest? Like, sitting? Hmmmm, I’m not really sure……
On the Ayurvedic wheel of the year, each season brings an opportunity to tap into a certain quality of energy. When engaged consciously and continuously tapping into this energy provides the base for overall healthy. The summer is a time for play, the autumn for celebration, harvest and reorganization. What winter asks us is to rest.
Most people are generally aware of their sleep: I go to bed at this hour, I wake at this hour, my sleep is sound and heavy or my sleep is light and not restorative…….We even have sleep centers that can help us get a sense of what exactly is happening while we sleep. And while the importance sleep in the proper quantity and of the best quality cannot be underestimated, somehow rest has gone completely off the map!
In our culture we are taught from a young age that to be productive, talented and busy all the time is what really matters. If you can look put-together but still hint, perhaps with a wink, that you are on the edge of a nervous break down because you are so busy, then by our society’s standards you have really made it. Especially in the Midwest where I live, hard work is its own reward. We pride ourselves on our work ethic, not our rest ethic! And while good hard work is as necessary to a happy life as good deep sleep, we have yet to fully recognize, on the cultural level at least, how important rest is to a sense of wholeness. Instead we look at it as a luxury, something to be indulged in once the kitchen has been cleaned, the laundry folded, oh yeah and there was that e-mail I hadn’t returned yet……..
I read an article once about a man, a westerner, who had been traveling in the Amazon and had found a species of wild cacao (chocolate!) and wanted to cultivate it so that he could produce and sell this rare and beautiful chocolate back home. He knew he needed the help of the local people to start and maintain the cultivation of the cacao farm. What he quickly realized about these people however is that no amount of money could entice them to pick up their shovels and hoes to get to work. These people, devoid of home mortgages and school loans, valued leisure above all else and spent as much time as possible making art, singing, telling stories and just generally having a good time. Baffled, the Westerner left in search of more hardworking folk.
I suggest we take a lesson from the people of the Amazon and use the remainder of the winter season (at least!) to focus on resting as well as possible. The starting point is to get a sense of how much rest we are actually getting. How much time do you spend sitting drinking tea and reading a book just for fun? When was the last time you took a long, luxurious bath without giving yourself a set time to be there? How much time are you logging watching the shape that clouds make?
Once you have a sense of how much time you are resting consider how it relates to your general feeling and outlook on life. Do you feel balanced, fulfilled and like you have plenty of time? Or do you feel unappreciated, haggard and depleted? If you have found yourself in the latter category more often than not, you may be a good candidate for more rest. Even if you have been feeling great, feel free to indulge in more resting time!
After taking these things into consideration, see how and where you can make rest a priority. Especially if it seems that there is no time in your schedule for rest, consider if there’s any time that you spend watching television, surfing the web or doing things around the house that could (and perhaps should) be delegated to others. Many of us are so entrenched in the habit of keeping busy that we don’t realize how much time each day is given to activities that are not really nourishing us!
Another way to approach rest is to practice the art of doing one thing at a time. If you are in your car, drive in silence with the radio off. Find at least one meal a day to eat in silence, just focusing on your food and the process of eating. You could even consider going on a media fast, choosing to not take in any media for a specified amount of time.
Each one of us needs rest as much as we need the sweet air we breathe and nourishing wholesome food. Know that even small steps to incorporate more rest into your life can yield great benefits. So put your feet up, drink some tea and enjoy!
- Self-Honesty: The Courage to Be Me by Fertility Goddess, Sue Dumais
- Finding Nurturing Within: How Self-Care Can Revolutionize Your Life, A Telegathering with Dr Christiane Northrup
- The Brighter Side of Envy by Passion Goddess, Kate Northrup
- Fiesta Time! By Culinary Goddess Sara Watson
- Never Giving Up ~ Goddess Shahin Urias