Rest almost seems a bit of a luxury at times, even though we know deep down that it is the natural partner to activity. In spite of that, we are not very good at it. Somehow, perhaps stemming from the work ethic, it is common to attach a certain amount of guilt to resting. “I can’t just sit here doing nothing,” is so common, isn’t it? Oddly, we probably encourage others to rest but for us, well – we’re far too busy.
There is a choice – rest and live fully, or age faster
A really strong draw to getting the balance right is the thought that we are probably ageing faster than we need to. Life is often said to be a journey. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather enjoy the trip than end up at the terminus having missed the scenery. Unless we take time to do that, the body will tire needlessly and wear out more quickly. Of course we must meet our responsibilities, but we have a responsibility to ourselves, too. It is only the ego that thinks it is indispensable, after all.
Five essential things
- Stop. If you tell someone that you are really busy, you probably aren’t. More likely, your mind is very cluttered and disorganised. Asserting we are busy is a classic method of avoidance – avoidance of being who we really are. Try stopping for a few moments and see if the world falls apart. It won’t.
- Breathe more deeply and more slowly. When the mind is erratic, so is our breathing. If we slow our breathing down, the mind tends to follow. The emotions settle and so does our energy. Even if we are still moving around, we can begin to learn the power of rest.
- Do you make lists? Lists can be helpful and many people swear by them because writing things down often helps to clear the mind. Here’s a suggestion, though. If you have a list of seven or more items, make a second list which has just one item. It might sound daft but working through a list often means racing through it without enjoying any of the things we planned to do. So take one item only from the first list and turn your first list over. Work on that one task only and then stop and breathe. Activity and rest, that’s the plan.
- Walk and move slowly, taking time to feel the Earth beneath your feet and the space around you. There’s plenty of advice about taking vigorous and high-intensity exercise but precious little about the benefits of moving slowly. Don’t do it all the time, of course, otherwise you will miss your train or get fired from your job. However, a few moments of slow movement can do wonders. It’s another form of rest for the mind whilst working the muscles more deeply. (If you’re really interested in this, learn some tai chi.)
- Meditate for a few minutes every day. Meditation can give us a very deep experience of rest and just ten minutes can refresh mind and body, leaving us clearer and more relaxed. If you don’t know how, follow this link for an easy method. (It’s free.)
For much more on the importance of stopping and how to achieve a clear mind, take a look at my book The Art of Not Doing, available in print and as an ebook.