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Resisting a Rest

Posted Apr 21 2011 7:00am

I’ve learned a lot about rest from my dog. This morning he got up, ate breakfast, and then took a nap.

Rest doesn’t usually get the credit it deserves. With our focus on achieving our goals, moving ever forward, and even exercising more/harder, it’s easy to overlook the power of rest. It’s easy to see how action takes us where we want to go. It’s hard to believe that rest can be just as powerful.

The body doesn’t do its healing in action mode. It requires rest to drop into healing. It’s logical to assume that a body in chronic pain probably needs more rest than it’s getting.  By this I mean real rest, where the nervous system releases the fight or flight response and “rest and digest” kicks in.

So why do we resist this rest? Why do we keep on pushing ourselves and ignoring this need?

I believe there are two main reasons.

First, resting the body requires us to connect with it more deeply than we do during an active, goal-oriented day. This means anything uncomfortable that is stored in there will most likely surface. By this I mean emotions we’ve been stuffing down, worries we’ve been trying to ignore, or intuitive hits we’ve been brushing aside. All the things, in other words, that might rock the boat.

Second, we think resting more means we’ll get less done, achieve less, or somehow fall behind in the race of life. We worry that we’ll be seen as lazy or less successful if we’re resting more. We have the misconception that action is where all the forward progress happens.

I’ve certainly resisted my share of resting, and still do. But now that I’m aware my first tendency is often to resist taking rest time, it’s easier to notice myself resisting and then gently ease into a little rest. When I find myself resisting rest, I ask myself if I could rest for a short amount of time, like thirty seconds. I make it so easy that there’s really nothing left to resist. Then I keep my promise to myself and don’t try to add on another thirty seconds, unless it feels absolutely easy and enjoyable.

I also keep a list of ways I enjoy resting with different levels of restful experiences. Some involve deep rest and the “rest and digest” response, while others are slightly more active. This means I can choose what type of rest feels do-able or right in that moment. My list includes everything from napping to listening to music or guided imagery to reading a book. (Want to check out one of my favorite deep rest techniques? Try Intentional Resting .

If I notice uncomfortable emotions rising into my awareness while I rest, I turn to my favorite mind-body tool: Basic Emotion Awareness . This allows me to feel what I need to feel instead of continuing to store it in my body.

Another thing I’ve done to help myself see the value of rest is listing the positive results I get from resting. (This doesn’t have to be fancy, but if you’re a journal addict like me, here’s an opportunity to buy a new one to add to your collection.) It’s as simple as writing down anything positive you notice from your resting sessions. For example, maybe you notice you feel more energized. Maybe you find it easier to think and focus, so you find yourself getting more done, more efficiently. Or maybe, like me, you find that rest takes on a magical quality and issues you thought would take much effort seem to solve themselves while you rest. After a few weeks of gathering evidence and writing it down, you’ll probably start to trust that rest truly is just as valuable as action.

Rest and action go in cycles. There’s a natural ebb and flow. Without rest, action is less potent. Without action, rest is less potent. We need both, equally. You’ll notice this natural cycle within each day and also in the bigger picture. You might need more rest for a month or two, then find yourself taking more action for a month or two. Let your body tell you what it needs, and develop your own awareness of your personal rest processes. I’d love to hear about your resting, so please share in the comments area below!

Need help resting? Get a dog. Watch how he does it.

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