Rest is not something we talk about very much, is it? We just keep on keeping on, like the rabbit in the Duracell advertisement. Rest, after all, is for wimps, the aged and the infirm. Real men and women keep going. The secret of success, whatever that is, is to push yourself and then push some more. Or at least, that’s the message that often comes across for aspiring high-achievers. So we become a little conditioned to the idea that rest is for the idle. Feeling guilty if we are doing nothing is the usual result.
Even nature has a rest
The trouble is, we lose touch with our own natural cycles. From where I’m writing this, I can see trees. Lots of trees. The funny thing about the majority of these trees is that at this time of year, they take some time off. And they don’t seem to have any emotional hang-ups about stopping and having a break. The leaves change colour and fall to the ground. There is much beauty in this and nobody has a go at the trees for being lazy.
Less than an hour’s walk from here are oak trees that are hundreds of years old. Centuries of growth and rest have ensured these mighty trees continue to flourish. There is enormous power in knowing how to be still, and nature knows this very well.
Cycles of activity and rest
Because our minds are so busy and our emotional side so complex, it is easy to lose touch with our natural stillness. Natural patterns of life fade and lose priority. But everything in nature has a cycle of activity and rest.
Our bodies require rest as well as exercise, and our minds do, too. For sure, we can keep going when we are tired. Most of us have to. But we also need to listen to what our body (including the brain) is telling us. If we ignore fatigue, nothing works as well as it should. A motor car might run without servicing and maintenance for a long time. For reasons of economy, many car owners run their vehicles in this way. It can be done. But eventually, things wear out. The car breaks down.
Isn’t sleep enough? Meditation can supercharge you
If we enjoy good quality sleep at night, we get several hours of rest. But sleep isn’t always enough in this noisy and hectic world of ours.
We can also experience a better quality of profound rest consciously from a short but regular meditation. It may be a simple one, such as sitting quietly observing the flow of the breath. Or we may use a mantra or visualisation. Whatever meditation we do, it will give our minds and bodies the nourishment of very deep rest. This is not instead of sleep but a natural adjunct to living a full life. Many people find that meditation improves sleep as well as our waking hours.
Meditation changes the quality of life but for some people it seems too far a leap. The usual reason is being too busy. (Refer to the first paragraph!) For those who are too busy, there is an easy practice that anyone can do, whether they meditate or not. Stop. Stop what you are doing for a minute or less. Turn the computer screen off. Put your pen or book down. Whatever it is you are doing, take a break for a few conscious breaths. Notice the breath as you breathe in and as you breathe out. Do it once, then a second and third time. Maybe once more for luck. It’s important that you stop to do this and breathe. That’s all. And it works.
More like this in The Art of Not Doing – How to Achieve Inner Peace and a Clear Mind