“Sometimes the most urgent and vital thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest.” -Ashleigh Brilliant
I have always been restless and prone to being busy. I love my work and have, for so long, confused who I am with what I do that most days I find myself doing from dawn until late into the night. Consequently, it has taken me years to learn the true value of rest. In this way, I am a perfect product of a culture that encourages rushing, celebrates the frenzy of the chase and equates resting with laziness. It has taken me decades to understand that rest is not the opposite of effort, rather it is the source, the nourishment, the energetic food for all that we aspire to accomplish. Maybe one of the most compelling forms of wisdom that age offers is the realization that taking time away gives you the perspective and answers that elude you the more you try to force it. Leonardo Da Vinci, 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.”
Besides the obvious benefits of increased clarity that rest affords, committing to resting is sexy. Learning to relax offers multiple health benefits, not the least of which is 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. Of course, waning libido is only one of 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 qualitatively different from giving in grudgingly to our exhaustion will enhance your sexuality.
One reason that many of us never really learn to let go long enough to relax is that there are precious few opportunities to really get away. Smart phone technology keeps you connected to everything you were leaving behind on most vacations. And for most of us, 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 from the light of a screen has become the new norm. Too often we sleep just enough to get up and start all over again, but never allow ourselves to surrender to the empty, silent space that real rest takes up.
One place, which has taught me more about the deep renewing power of resting more than any other, is Hawaii. As I write this I am looking out on the same familiar coastline that I have been blessed to visit many times over the last twenty years. Each time I come here I remember on a cellular level that life is so much more than the sum of our accomplishments. As I unwind into island time, I remember that there is not really a there to get to and come to deeply appreciate the wonder of nowhere but here. Seeking this kind of present moment awareness is the key to finding rest that transforms.
So use this holiday break and give yourself the bold gift of rest. See how long you could sleep and feel 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 will not only feed and nourish our ability to move forward but will likely open us to a the joy and satisfaction that is the point of all the doing to begin with.