Rest is Required

Summer is typically a time of expansion, movement, and vacation. Of course, this year is anything but typical. 

On top of the usual summer provocations, we are surrounded by a global pandemic, widespread economic insecurity, massive protests against racial and economic inequality, and a lurking apprehension about possible threats to our civil freedoms. 

This is an incredible moment, filled with incredible challenge. This summer, more than ever, it’s important to find a way to take a break. To stop doing it all, and just breathe for a second. 

Rest is necessary.

In my classes, we focus a lot on digestion – not only gut digestion, but MENTAL digestion too. Right now, most minds are overwhelmed by the task of digesting gobs of information, our own emotional responses, and interpersonal demands.

It’s the mental equivalent of 3 Thanksgiving feasts, and it is likely our sweet brain-hearts are experiencing mental indigestion under the tremendous pressure to process it all, all at once.

We simply must take a break. We must.

The challenge, I am observing, is figuring out HOW to take a break. I have literally been writing lists to help my clients – AND myself – figure out the mechanics of taking the foot off the gas pedal. 

Rest is the medicine we all need right now. Tricia Hersey of The Nap Ministry reminds us “Rest is resistance” – keeping ourselves strong is critical in the fight against racial inequities, social injustice, police brutality – AND against infection. Rest is simply not optional if we want to come through this moment healthy and empowered.

The body is a tremendous self-healing miracle – and it needs only a few ingredients to do it: healthy food, pure water, deep breath, and REST.

Here are some ways to rest today:

1. Apply a cool compress. Wet a washcloth and squeeze it out, then fold it into a strip. Lie down and put the compress on your forehead. Be still for ten minutes.

2. Lie down on the floor. Simply put your body in a horizontal position, right here and now, wherever you are. This sends signals to your nervous system that it is time to disengage the sympathetic nervous response. Take 10 slow deep breaths.

3. Give yourself a face massage. Take the tips of your fingers and start at the point between the eyebrows, gently spreading the eyebrows apart. Move up the forehead, one finger width at a time, pressing gently from the midline out to the temples. Then move to the cheek bones and give similar gentle pressure from the edge of the nose out to the temple. Finally open the mouth slightly and massage the jaw joint, and around to the backside of the ears.

4. Put your back on the earth. Find a shady spot, and put your spine on the ground by lying down. Scan through the body in your mind’s eye, and take a few minutes to invite each body part to release into the support of the ground. Usually one or two parts keep holding up away from the earth – wait for the whole body to accept the ground beneath it. Stay there, breathing in the natural aromas around you.

5. Palm the eyes. Place the palms of the hands over the eyes, fingertips pointing up, with no pressure on the eyeballs. Rest the elbows on a table top and rest forward. Adjust the hands so no light enters the space around the eyes. Be still and wait, as it takes several minutes for the small muscles around the eyes to relax and let go. Encourage the eyes to become still in their sockets, but do not resist their spontaneous movements. Breathe slowly. After at least 5 minutes, allow light to enter the hands very gradually so as not to shock the eyes.

6. Belly breathing. Lie down and place your hands on the belly just below the navel. Breathe naturally and feel the hands rise on the inhale. Invite all the muscles of the belly, pelvis and buttocks to relax as the breath lifts the hands. On the exhale, stay relaxed and observe the hands drop. Focus on softening more with each inhale, and relaxing into the exhale. Encourage the breath to be smooth and continuous.

Choose one of these methods and make a point of resting every day this week, for at least a few minutes. Your body and mind will thank you.

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