The Virtues of Rest

How many of us regularly experience such exhaustion that by day’s end we don’t know which way is up? And why then do we make excuses for taking extra time to rest when we are so overextended?

In the United States, especially here in New York, we too often think something’s wrong if anyone around us needs rest. We act like choosing to rest in our everyday lives, when not reserved for a destination spa or vacation, connotes a problem, feebleness, or an illness demanding special explanation.

This doesn’t make any sense. It is seriously time to reshape how we approach rest.

A brilliant nutritionist I know likens our energy supplies to barrels of apples. Some of us, if we’re lucky, run around with our barrels half full. But the majority of us keep our barrels dangerously close to empty. We are so used to being in deficit, the notion of surplus energy is reserved for the one or two bubbly super humans we know.

Think of rest as actually putting apples back into our barrels, think of it as energetic food. Rest is after all the most natural thing in the world. Animals do it. Babies do it, A LOT. Kids do it too. Even our blackberries, phones, and computers require it. Why, as adults, can’t we?

This past winter, during the last trimester of my pregnancy, I was put on part-time bed rest. After the initial shock and fear of not being able to run all over the place wore off, what I realized was this: Rest is not a punishment. It is a practice, a gift, and a huge opportunity. In rest, there is no weakness or resignation, but insight, fortitude, resilience, mental tranquility and deep ease. Rest also does a lot more than we give it credit for. In my case, it literally grew my baby.

Still, last week I drove myself into the ground. I was drained to the core, so tired and worn out that I just wanted to cry. I simply had to stop. I put myself on minor league bed rest for the weekend, and reminded myself yet again of everything I’m writing about right now.

In yoga, savasana, or corpse pose, is by far the hardest of the asanas. The real practice, in my limited understanding, is to imbue every pose with this sense of tranquil awareness. To stretch further, imagine applying this to your life by making rest a rhythmic part of your every day. Imagine filling every action with flowing repose, every movement with the quietude and floating peace inherent to it.

You can call resting anything you like: recharging, refueling, refreshing, resetting, restoring, recalibrating, replenishing, resuscitating, restocking, restoring, rebooting. No matter the name, shine with wonderful radiant repose.

Especially now, in high hot summer, why not practice rest? This season of long drawn out siestas is the perfect time to prepare for the inevitable and exciting tumult of the fall. I’ll do it with you. Let’s make ourselves, dare I say, legitimate candidates for abundant overflowing barrels. Let’s find out together what a difference this sensibility makes in how we give of ourselves to the world, and in how we are of use to everyone we touch.

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