Rest – What is it Good for?

USA: California: Marin County: Point Reyes National Seashore: Elephant Seal pups rest together along the beaches of Drakes Bay (near Chimney Rock)
Elephant Seal pups rest together along the beaches of Drakes Bay

Rest. The body needs it to repair and replenish, the mind needs it to access creativity, and the soul needs it to cultivate peace. When seals pull themselves out onto rocks or the shore, they are not being lazy or sunbathing. They haul out to reoxygenate their blood by sleeping much of the day. This and a thick blubber layer enables them to take deep dives, staying under an average of 23 minutes as they forage mostly at night in the cold ocean waters off the coast.  It is essential for them to carry on at the top of their game. It can save their lives. We too need to reoxygenate.

As a self-employed coach, entrepreneur and writer, much of my time is spent alone, the clock my guide or my punisher.  One might think that is the perfect set up for resting, but it turns out not to be true for me and many others in all kinds of different situations.

I can minimize lunch breaks and breaks in general. My idea of a break can be house chores or a yoga class. Necessary parts of my life, but not fully restful. While my pace is rarely rushed, my “doing” can often not stop until I lay down at night.

I am much more mindful these days of rest as a result of two events a few years ago that helped me wake up to my unrestful habits. The first was a visit by my buddhist teacher. She made it clear I was not sitting on my meditation cushion enough for someone with my practice history. Much of my resistance dissolved and I meditate more regularly now, watching my mind’s frenetic activity with compassion.

The second event was a training I attended with John Gray, the Mars/Venus guru. Listening to him speak about female brain chemistry was like hearing him tell my story.  I was serotonin deprived from months of slowly accumulating insidious habits of unrest. Serotonin is the feel good, “everything is alright” endorphin produced in our brains, and women are often challenged to keep it at a high level.

I am the queen of boundaries and accountability around action and results. I now apply that more regularly around rest and rejuvenation. Buoyed by understanding the issue, I now create more inaction and true rest times in my day. My sister visited this weekend and we had amazing massages and manicures, which I know now are serotonin raising activities. I still use TV strategically to stop for a full lunch break and the Golden State Warriors basketball team are often my evening entertainment and inspiration to play hard and rest with just as much intention. I place boundaries on my work over the weekend. By creating restful evenings and weekends, I naturally organized my work more efficiently.

When I start flailing, I pull out a daily checklist I created 30 years ago as a recalibration tool to pay more tender attention to myself. It now includes more habits of inaction – computer off earlier, 45 minute lunch break, in bed earlier.

Eleanor Brownn says: “Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”

I moved to Marin County 5+ years ago because I wanted to live where I would go to replenish and rest. I am grateful I can more often practice rest as dutifully as I practice action, because rest is good for everyone and everything that matters to us.

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