Updated: Jan 15, 2021
A month ago I wrote and published a blog entitled ‘Embracing Rest’.
Since that time I’ve been noticing and tracking my experience with resting, which truthfully could better be described as ‘wrestling rest’ than embracing it!
‘Old habits die hard’, as the saying goes and I’ve been discovering how deeply ingrained my habits of busy-ness, distraction and addiction to checking electronic media really are. I wonder if it may be similar for you?
What’s so difficult about rest?
Stillness, silence, and simply being aren’t valued much in modern human society and are unlikely to have been encouraged in your family upbringing, education or workplace.
As I suggested in my previous post on this subject, productivity, with its focus on grades, aims, targets, outputs and outcomes is what many of us have been trained for. It’s all about doing, achieving and succeeding. And it’s rarely about doing so in a joyful, playful, relaxed or restful way
Something else I’ve noticed is the intense discomfort that too much nothingness, spaciousness, or emptiness can bring up in my nervous system. I really struggle to sit still and just be, not only because of the endless chatter of my monkey mind but also due to a palpable physical restlessness.
It wasn’t always like this though.
I used to be able to lie on the sofa reading all day, with immense focus. I could also spend a whole day in my garden without interruption- in the days before the internet, that is. Going even further back into childhood, I would happily idle away long stretches of time day-dreaming, looking for insects or wildflowers, or simply watching the patterns of clouds floating by.
It’s perfectly natural just to be.
And I wonder how many small children in the global north experience such simple pleasures these days?
There’s a growing body of evidence about the highly addictive nature of social media and the high-jacking of our attention spans. You may have heard of the recent ‘docudrama’ The Social Dilemma which explores many of the societal and personal harms caused by social media. I recommend watching it if you possibly can, it’s quite an eye-opener and not entirely doom-laden.
So, what can help us overcome these cultural and digital high-jackers, that we might benefit from more balanced, restful and relaxed ways of living and working?
Here are five ways I’m currently exploring:
1 Switch your phone off!
This is simple, but may not be at all easy. If it’s not easy for you, I recommend exploring what stops you. Is it a feeling of insecurity? Could it be an addiction to checking your notifications? Or something else?
Rather than going ‘cold turkey’ and keeping your phone off from say 8pm till 8am, you could try breaking it down into small steps. For example, start by switching off an hour before bed-time and switching on again an hour after you wake up. You might also keep a journal of how that goes for you. What do you do instead? How do you feel? Can you use this time more restfully (or more creatively) perhaps?
2 Go outside and be in nature
Going to your sit-spot and listening, observing, and dropping into a receptive state calms and soothes the nervous system and mind, bringing forth a more natural sense of beingness.
My 30 Days of Loving Nature programme is a deep-dive into developing a regular nature-connection and sit-spot practice. I’m also launching a five-day winter challenge at the end of November, especially for those of us in northern climes who want to continue to be outside, connecting with nature, in the months to come. Please get in touch if you’d like to hear more about this short complimentary programme.
3 Get support from a trauma-informed somatic practitioner.
There’s a wonderful world of trauma-informed practices that help us bring our attention back into our body, listening to its need for rest. This includes: somatic education, some schools of yoga, some body-based mindfulness approaches and many other embodied approaches.
This comes with a word of warning for some of us, especially those in black or brown bodies, female bodies, transgender bodies and others who may have experienced a lot of unsafety and threat in childhood, or indeed throughout life. I recommend looking for practitioners who offer gentle, nurturing somatic or embodied approaches and who can empathise with your lived experience.
I also suggest avoiding intense ‘personal growth’ experiences that can painfully trigger old trauma and wounding.
If you’re reading this at the time of publication, there’s a fantastic free opportunity to dive into probably the largest online collection of embodiment resources, coming up on November 7th and 8th here. It will mostly be behind a paywall after that, but will still be a useful starting point for sign-posting to trauma-informed practitioners across the globe.
4 Yoga Nidra
I’d like to give a special mention to yoga nidra, a gentle approach to embodiment and rest, that I’ve found wonderfully relaxing and helpful for insomnia too.
There are countless yoga nidra teachers offering free sessions online and here’s a lovely example from Jennifer Piercy.
5 Letting go
In my nature-based coaching practice, we often spend the first 20 minutes or so of each session with a focus on letting go. Inspired by the natural process of plant growth, which begins with the quality of the soil, we look at what needs to be dropped, what is ready to die and be composted. This could be: habits, patterns of thinking, relationships, roles, places, or memories, for example. This letting go and composting of what no longer serves us clears the way for new seeds of growth to be planted.
Applying this to rest, I might begin by letting go of my resistance to resting, letting go of the habit of pushing myself to keep busy or distracted, and letting go of my impatience to fix it. Only then can I really allow a new habit of restfulness to grow and work its magic.
I hope some of these suggestions might be helpful to you in your own explorations with embracing rest. And, as always, I'd love to hear from you if you have any reflections or questions to share.
Until next time,