How often do we hear that our “modern day culture” moves too fast? It is a common theme that comes up in discussions of wellness, and just as quickly tossed aside as an uncontrollable assumption. I’d like to uncharacteristically pause for a moment and consider the importance of rest in our lives. Sadly, there are many euphemisms for rest that are pejorative, like lazy, boring, slow, useless. I’d like to separate those connotations from the concept of rest for a second, and consider that perhaps that afternoon nap was not due to laziness, but out of necessity. Perhaps that nap was quite the opposite of useless, but extremely useful, and if you want to take it a step further and really appreciate it, luxurious. To be fair, some rest really is useless, and that is not really rest. If “resting” includes checking email, starting an internet video, playing Words With Friends and making a sandwich, it is not really rest- it is actually all those other things.
As observers and participants in our own culture, we are not necessarily at the mercy of these wide general perceptions that “going is better, stopping is death.” In fact, it is the stopping that makes the going far more productive and more visceral. Rest is not only in the 8 hours of sleep that no American gets every night, but in the in-between seconds of our lives. It is in the pause before a meal, or a quiet moment alone. Quality rest takes practice. Really, to be good at anything takes practice. But truth be told, it may be surprising at how much rest you actually get when you pause, focus, take a deep breath. If you can’t stop moving for the duration of the inhale and the exhale, you have not rested.
For practice- take one breath. Inhale for four counts, exhale for eight. Absorb yourself. Let it feel good. As you exhale, soften your shoulders down, un-furrow your brow, let your jaw loosen. Notice where you constantly hold tension, and allow your body to actually feel heavier (heaven forbid!). If you can do this for the time it takes to breathe, the whole world will change – if just for that one moment. Once you get good at doing this once, try it again.