A month into my mini-sabbatical and the idea of rest is percolating across my field of view. It started with a meditation from poet David Whyte:
REST is the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be. Rest is not stasis but the essence of giving and receiving.
I have spent the last 30 days sleeping in, reading, walking, exploring and simply being. I had a general idea of things I wanted to do or explore — internally and externally — during this time off. But generally, I have allowed myself to simply let my natural inclination drive how my days go. Some days I go for long meandering explorations of this city. Other days I don’t leave the cottage, opting to read or dabble in some creative endeavor. Some days I clock over 20,000 steps. Others, I barely move.
I have wrestled with the tyranny of to-do lists that have long-dominated my days. I have stared down the guilt of sleeping late, of not getting the “right” exercise or eating the “right” thing or being the “right” kind of productive.
The essay by David Whyte was a gentle reminder of the value of rest. As he said, I am learning to “put aside the will, and the false self, supported by endless endeavour: not to give up on the will but to invite it back again as a good servant to the soul’s desires instead of the heartless and exhausting task master it becomes…”
A few minutes after reading this, I came across another essay on ignoring the productivity gurus who insist I get up before the sunrise so I can accomplish a dozen tasks before finally getting to work. In this essay, writer Aytekin Tank reminds us to protect our downtime, and to dismiss the high-handedness of morning people who suggest virtuosity or “productiveness” in the early hours. He suggests we each have our own “prime time” and it’s not always before sunrise.
Relaxation promotes creative thinking, which is why we often have brain waves while showering…
Letting your mind wander freely can inspire daydreams and non-linear thinking. It’s another kind of prime time.
You want to make sure that you make time and room for solitude.
I appreciate the quiet and stillness of early mornings, of a glorious sunrise, of the cool air before the midday sun beats down. But I resent the morning gurus who suggest it’s the only good time of day. I feel the pressure to get up with the roosters, write my morning pages, squeeze in my yoga routine and meditation session, perform my required squats and push-ups, all before breakfast.
Rest allows me to follow my natural rhythm, and to take note of the points of resistance or guilt. It’s different than relaxing, which is an external, physical endeavor. Rest is internal, mental. They go together, but they are distinct.
Mental health experts stress the importance of rest, particularly in the age of “always on.” Unfortunately, too many articles and essays on rest consider it simply a means to an end — rest as a way to be more creative and, thus, more productive. How about rest as its own goal, for its own sake? (And don’t even talk to me about how “rest” is some kind of “life hack.”)
Even Arianna Huffington, a woman who passionately proselytizes the importance of both physical and mental rest, wrote an open letter to Elon Musk for him to “build in time to refuel, recharge and reconnect with your exceptional reserves of creativity and your power to innovate.”
I’m not sure how my daily routine will evolve once I start working again. For now, however, I am focusing on rest and setting an intention to create time and space in my life for more regular bouts of rest. For its own sake, and for mine.