Developing a resting practice


A resting practice?? What's that?? 

In modern, western life, the idea of daily & weekly practices isn't new. We might have a yoga practice, a meditation practice, a mindfulness or contemplative practice. Whether we call it one, we also have daily sleeping practices, bathing & self hygiene practices (like cleaning our teeth), and of course, eating practices. 

But a resting practice? I doubt you've come across that one before. 

I'm increasingly convinced it's not only a good idea, it's an essential idea for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, as well as the ticket to deeper meaning & purpose in life, greater connection to others and a deeper connection to your true self.

What is a resting practice?

To develop a resting practice, we first need to understand what one is. And it's a fascinating answer, because the more I develop my own resting practice, the more it means.

But let's get back to basics first.

What is rest?

At a very superficial level, rest is simply being still. There is activity, and there is resting

Stopping activity (physical, mental, emotional or spiritual) means the parts of us that do that activity can recover, re-energise, replenish. The need for this rejuvenatory stopping is, in essence, why we sleep. Of course, during sleep, the body still functions - in fact, it carries out many vital activities for health and happiness. But these require the body to be still and using as little energy as possible. 

But rest is more than just stillness...though, I want to be clear, stillness is central.

Resting our mind isn't just about quieting down the chatter and whir. That's what we aim for, whether we achieve it or not. But rest also involves respite from the pushing of problem solving, of worrying, of remembering all we have to do. To this end, sometimes just thinking about something entirely different can be restful - I think this is why TV feels restful, because a good show can take us out of our own thinking for a while. 

(By the way, TV isn't really rest, on the whole. But that's another blog post for another day).

So rest involves changing a pattern we are chronically in. For example, it can involve some movement - if you've been hunched over the desk for hours, resting your body can means stretching or walking or doing some gentle yoga. 

Rest for our emotions might mean finally stopping our self-distraction and feeling what's there inside us. This could mean expressing anger, sadness, grief, excitement, depression...there's a rest in finally releasing those emotions from being held inside.

Spiritual rest may mean giving ourselves a break from feeling duty-bound to group activities, or a daily practice, and just being able to enjoy the present moment. It may mean questioning beliefs. It can also mean accepting that our role in the spiritual reality of our belief system is not to have all the answers & get everything is to be a human, with limited knowledge and capacity. We can sit in a simple, trusting, open innocence in the presence of an all-knowing higher power. 

So what is a resting practice?

I'm discovering, a resting practice involves several layers of restful choosing, every day.

Firstly, I put aside specific time to rest...much like a meditation practice. But a resting practice involves a calm, dedicated spot in my home, to sit, and to let my body, and my mind, simply be present. And still. I look out the window, or around the room, and I notice without the need to think, analyse, understand. This is a very mindfulness-type rest.

Secondly, it involves asking my body what rest it needs today. Sometimes that may be movement such as a walk. Sometimes it means a very early night. Sometimes it means no tv. Sometimes it impacts what I eat or drink. Sometimes it's a nap. Sometimes I need to be in the sunshine a while. My body knows how it needs to rest. 

Lastly, I'm learning that a resting practice is about building a rest-based lifestyle. This means my whole approach to life will be about ensuring I'm rested well. And when I'm rested well, I have the energy, focus and drive to really give myself to the activity that I want to undertake at other times. 

How to begin a resting practice

Here's a few tips I've learned from my journey:
  • Have a dedicated resting space in your home, that feels calm and isn't too hot or cold.
  • Be willing to ask your body, and your deep, true self, what would really rest it today...and do that thing.
  • Find a rest-based meditation or mantra practice. I have a and here.
  • Expect to be surprised at how much resistance you may feel to resting. This is normal and let it pique your curiosity - why is something that feels so good, so unappealing to you? Start to journal about that.

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