It has taken me a long time to understand that rest is not the opposite of effort. Rather, it is its source – the literal energetic nourishment necessary for all that we aspire to accomplish. As a life-long doer, resting has never come easily to me. Those who know me would rightly accuse me of being a perfect reflection of a culture that celebrates the rushed frenzy of the chase and confuses resting with laziness.
That said, time and age has a way of making clear that all my pride in years of multitasking accomplished far less than I imagined. Slowing down and creating the space for rest proves that patience is indeed a form of action. And the holiday season is a great time to start this reset. Even if you only choose one of the we share to enhance your rest, you will likely reap the benefits of them all.
Why You Should Create Space for Rest in Your Life
You’ll Gain Perspective
The most compelling form of wisdom that aging offers is the realization that taking time “away” gives you the perspective and answers that often elude you the more you try to force things to happen.
Leonardo Da Vinci, one of the world’s most prolific artists once wrote: “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.” This holiday season, resolve that you will take that trip to a distant place and really see your life and work for what it is.
You’ll Improve Your Sex Life
Besides the obvious benefits of increased clarity that rest affords, committing to resting is profoundly sexy. While learning to rest offers multiple health benefits, the most compelling might be that a healthy sexual response is incompatible with perpetual stress.
The limbic brain cannot simultaneously process libido and anxiety, which goes a long way in explaining why fatigue is one of the top-cited reasons for not wanting to be sexual. And waning libido is only one of the many consequences of our refusal to rest; in truth, it impacts everything from weight loss, to emotional stability and mental acuity. So even if this is the only reason to be motivated for this change, know that as your mind and body relax, your access to your libido increases.
Making a commitment to learn to savor the sweet release of rest – which is a qualitatively different response from giving in grudgingly to our exhaustion – will enhance your sexuality.
You’ll Be More Present
Embracing the deeply renewable power of resting is how I have come to understand on a cellular level that life is so much more than the sum of our accomplishments. It is easy to forget the truth that there is not really a “there” to get to and truly appreciate the wonder of nowhere but here. Discovering this kind of present moment awareness is the key to finding the rest that transforms us.
How to Slow Down This Holiday Season
Disengage from Technology
One of the primary blocks to resting is that there are precious few opportunities to really get away. Disengaging from our smart devices has become increasingly challenging, keeping us more addicted and less connected to everything we were trying to leave behind on most vacations, or even just stopping for the night. It turns out that our wired connectivity doesn’t actually slow down our lives, giving us more freedom and time as promised, but rather keeps our attention constantly occupied. Going to bed with a light of a screen has become the new norm.
When we portion our sleep with just enough hours to get up and start all over again, we never allow ourselves to surrender to the empty, silent space that real rest requires to rejuvenate.
In this new decade, take the bold leap of putting your need for rest before your engagement with your devices and turn them off for at least a few hours a day.
Listen More Deeply
Listening is the most powerful form of patience and kindness we can show to someone we love and to ourselves.
I know how easily I can take a small bit of what my friend might say and jump to a conclusion. Maybe I know something, but my knowing is not worth nearly as much as my patience to listen and let her know it for herself. This has taken me a long time to understand: that telling someone something that you know, never really works.
On the rare occasion that someone asks you why or how and is genuinely interested in your answer, you can tell them. But the most powerful learning always comes from within, when someone holds a space open for us to find the learning in ourselves. This kind of deep listening can only happen in a rested mind, that is slowed to the pace of real time without the pressures of whatever you think you need to get done. This is where resting generates miracles of love.
As you plan for this new decade, take the courageous step to taking more moments of rest. See how long you can sleep without an alarm and pay attention to what it feels like to wake up rested. Get some distance from the day-to-day and then looking back over your shoulder, see if the weight of your responsibilities looks different.
Learning how to rest is the source of true mastery and the foundation of everything that is sustainable. Learning to savor stillness and witness ourselves independently from our endless activity not only nourishes our ability to move forward but will likely open us to the joy and satisfaction that is the point of all the doing to begin with.