“Activity and rest are two vital aspects of life. To find a balance in them is a skill in itself. Wisdom is knowing when to have rest, when to have activity, and how much of each to have. Finding them in each other – activity in rest and rest in activity – is the ultimate freedom.” – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
The clocks went back recently and I am amazed at how the mood changes with the time change. I love how soft the light has become and how much more inwardly drawn I am now. This time of year seems to invite a more reflective and internal focus.
From this place, it seemed nature to make this week’s newsletter about the subject of rest. At this time of year, the squirrels are gathering their food to store for the winter, and other animals are preparing for a long winter hibernation. Once upon a time, humans also made the most of this time by nestling up around a fire, telling stories to keep themselves entertained and sewing clothes to keep themselves warm. In this modern world, we hardly notice the changing rhythms of each season because we’re so caught up in the perpetual motion of our busy lives.
I invite you to consider for a moment the possibility of real rest. Although it seems to have become a four letter word in this culture, it is actually essential for our health and well being. Regular and sufficient sleep is a necessity for our brains to reboot, our organs to function fully and our cells to rejuvenate. Without enough sleep, many physical and psychological problems result, from chronic fatigue to poor memory. We do not function at our best without proper rest.
And when we do not function at our best, our nervous system becomes dis-regulated. We go into chronic stress mode, unable to relax and unwind, suffering from insomnia and overactive mental activity. It is a vicious cycle – one that is hard to break. Society tells us we should “work harder, do more, be more successful.” As a result, we end up in an exhaustive pattern of overriding ourselves as we constantly push to earn more money and keep up with the endless to-do list. If you are one of the rare people who doesn’t relate in any way to this, then you can stop reading this now. However, if you do, then read on.
Rest is vital to our well being on every level. It is not a luxury; it is a necessity. To be able to relax and unwind without constantly thinking of the million things that still need doing is essential. It is important to get off the computer at night as the unnatural light from the screen disrupts the body’s circadian rhythms. This makes it harder for the body to know when it is night and time to switch off and recharge.
If we wake up tired, we are less likely to give ourselves time to exercise and meditate, two practices that are vital to our physical and mental well being. I invite you to join me in a practice I’ve been doing. Take an inventory of all the things you do which affect your ability to relax and rest. Fall is such a wonderful time to do this. Go outside into the natural world. You can see that all of Nature is preparing to let go, be still, go inside and allow the cycle of life to take its course. In the Chinese five elements system, fall is a time of letting go. So why not take a look at what you can let go of in your life that can give you the wonderful possibility of resting, relaxing and recharging your brain, body and nervous system.
• Make a list of all the ways you have of NOT giving yourself rest when you need it. (i.e staying on the computer way past when you are tired. This often gives us a second wind which prevents us from sleeping well.)
• Make a list of all the ways you CAN add rest into your schedule. (i.e go to bed earlier so that you get your beneficial hours of rest before midnight. This also enables you to get up earlier and put in some healthy practices before work.)
• Take a walk in the natural world and see how Nature does it. Mama knows best!!