“What is without periods of rest will not endure.” -Ovid
Rest is not the opposite of effort; it is the source, the nourishment, the energetic food for all that we aspire to accomplish. Most of us never really learn to savor the sweet release of rest… instead we give in grudgingly to our exhaustion, sleeping just enough to get up and start all over again, but never really surrendering to the empty, silent space that real rest takes up. I am not alone, not being one who rests. Our culture loves the rush, the frenzy of the chase; for most of us, resting is akin to laziness.
While resting can manifest in many forms, there is no more powerful restorative for the mind, body and soul than sleep. Even though our brain is never fully turned off, sleeping is the rest time for the brain, which allows it to recharge, repair neurons, archive memories, and reorganize. Likewise, our heart, another organ which never stops working, also relies on sleeping periods to gain strength, maintain its flexibility and ease its daily workload by slowing down dramatically.
In fact, during sleep, the body is flooded with hormones that promote relaxation and slows down all the organ systems. Sleep time is when our immune system has a chance to fortify us and when children grow. Normal sleep cycles also provide the brain an opportunity to process information at different vibratory levels. Dreaming is the inborn and most primary mechanism for dealing with daily stress. Many studies demonstrate that a significant proportion of our physical and mental ills start with our unhealthy relationship to sleep and rest.
I have long been guilty of thinking about who I am in terms of what I accomplish in my days. Resting and being still is not a place that calls to me because I am always so caught up in all that I have to do. And yet it is often this hyperdrive to accomplish that can often mislead me. Time after time, I find after the fact that the things I am compelled to complete would have been better left. Leonardo Da Vinci remarked about the need for rest when he said, “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work, your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.”
I fell asleep while writing tonight’s positivity quest, only to realize that my need for rest, the times when my brain will not process another thought is a clear sign for the most positive thing I can engage in- sleep. I love all the pieces of my life, but taken together they sometimes feel like a runaway train. I must learn to respect the need to rest.