In Praise of Rest
December 12th, 2022
Recently I’ve been considering the pace at which we live our lives, and reflecting on the importance of rest and taking it slow wherever possible.
As we approach the longest day of the year in our hemisphere, coming out of the colder months and into the light and (hopefully) heat of summer, all of the natural world signals its vitality. The gentle, internal time of winter is giving way to activity, the festive season, Christmas shopping and a rash of ‘end of year’ socialising. It’s a time when most of us must shift gears, perhaps, and the seduction of busyness grows greater.
I love to live a full life, but I have also learnt the hard way to respect tiredness and value restfulness. Did you notice how many people responded to lockdown with relief, to Covid with gratitude for the opportunity to rest, without guilt, without FOMO?
Our species live very different lives to those of our ancestors. With industrialisation, time saving technology and now devices, we are able to stuff our hours, days and years to the brim…and why not? All around us is the message of productivity, achievement, wealth and consumption. Our relationship to the planet is defined by extractivism and domination.
As a global society we treat the earth as infinite in its abundance. Sleeping, resting, being still or engrossed in quiet activity are deeply subversive acts in this context. To choose not to do is paramount to choosing not to ‘be’.
And yet there is so much goodness, I find, in rest. How delicious is an afternoon snooze? How deeply good is an early night to bed? Rest can take many forms; doing restful activities, meditative practices like knitting, gardening - things that slow down the mind's busyness and let it wander or quieten. Or it may be slowing down the activities you’re used to. I often notice how much I am rushing when I’m hanging out the washing! So that is a touchstone for me, to consciously slow right down and take luxurious, deep breathing time with it. Because why would I rush? I’m in the garden. I can hear the birds and feel the sun on my skin and be fully present with this humble homely task. Or of course there is conscious rest, meditation, snoozing and sitting in a state of gentle observation.
How does this relate to Breathwork? Breathwork is an opportunity for many things, one of which is slowing right down, and accessing stillness through the details of your physical sensations. My beautiful clients have a myriad of processes, one of which is to experience deep rest, to fully allow ones Self to stop and feel full permission to soak in the goodness of rest. Perhaps you already understand all this well, perhaps you jump at the opportunity to sit down with a cup of tea and stare into space, or stare out the window of the bus, or take an afternoon nap, or leave your phone behind for the day. I invite you to consider how you might slow down, relish rest, and allow your system the replenishment of stillness, the deeply restorative act of doing nothing.
Consider the natural world, to which we ultimately belong: all things rest. Its authority is in day and night, in seasons and their rhythms. Life knows that rest is crucial. As Michael Leunig reports in Mr Curly’s letter to Vasco Pyjama;
I gently urge you Vasco, do as we do in Curly Flat – learn to curl up and rest – feel your noble tiredness – learn about it and make a generous place for it in your life and enjoyment will surely follow. I repeat: it’s worth doing nothing and having a rest.
Warmest wishes, Ninna