How to Rest When You Feel Like You Should be Busy

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Confession: I'm a recovering workaholic. I currently work every day, even on my "day off" every week. (Can you relate?) But I know that I do this, and every day I try to schedule time to do nothing, to rest. Thankfully, my schedule allows me space to do just that. 

But every time a rare day off rolls around (meaning, an extra day off during the week), my brain starts spinning with possibilities of things to do: "I should make cookies. Or write. No, read! Or maybe do yoga. Or go for a walk. A nap would be good. What about going out somewhere? Maybe a garden. Or a park." It's like I have to fill up the day with all the good things I can't seem to get enough of during the rest of the week. I can't waste today; tomorrow will be here all too soon. Maybe you feel the same?

If you look at my standard list of free day possibilities, to most they would actually seem like a waste of the day. These activities don't necessarily do others much good, unless you'd like a cookie fresh out of the oven. They don't necessarily achieve anything on the everlasting "To Do" list. But they all do one thing that is super important: they rest my soul. And isn't that what a day off, a Sabbath, is about? Resting one's soul?

Sabbath is traditionally associated with Jewish tradition; it's the day of rest observed from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. One might toss the notion of a Sabbath aside as a religious observance, or a complete waste of time, but let's look at the benefits of rest. Rest, taking a break from work, rejuvenates us. It reminds us of who we are at our heart, not of who we are in relation to what we do. Rest re-wires our brains, decreasing cortisol, the stress hormone; and increasing serotonin, the hormone that increases happiness. It reminds us that we are part of a greater whole, adding wonder and mystery to our lives as we explore the world around us. It gives us strength to start work afresh, increasing our stamina. Rest heals the body and helps us reconnect to those around us.

In yoga, Savasana, or literally, "corpse pose," is the Sabbath of the asanas (postures). A lot of people fall asleep in Savasana, and while that's ok (it points to the fact that we aren't intentionally resting throughout our days as we should!), it's actually meant to be an active resting pose. What does that mean? It means that you are fully conscious, yet completely relaxed, simply there in space: resting. And yes, that's as hard as it sounds! Yet the benefits of Savasana are the same as those of rest: more happiness, less tension, a better sense of self.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
- Mary Oliver 

We're not meant to do it all, to be constantly on the go, never re-charging our mental, physical, and spiritual batteries. The spinning of this planet does not depend on us; if we were not here, it would spin on. This is an uncomfortable truth. We all like the assurance that we are irreplaceable, that we are important. But our importance does not lie in what we do, but in who we are.  I cannot stress that enough! We grow up with the implied belief that our value as a human being lies in how much we contribute, how hard we work, how much "success" we gain, how little we impose on others. NOT TRUE! Our value lies in our very existence, not in our contribution. Our contribution, in the long run, may be small, insignificant, even, but that does not diminish our personal value. We may not keep the planet spinning, but we are important.

And that's where the waste of a day comes in. Saturday, or your choice of a day for a Sabbath, reveals our frailty. It reminds us gently that we are broken, unable. It invites us to waste time by slowing down, looking around, enjoying the pleasures of the world around us -- those things we have no control over whatsoever. Sabbath embraces us and shows us that we are beloved. It heals us, body and soul. Sabbath -- rest -- is a gift. Cherish this gift, friends! May your Sabbath, whatever day that may be, be a glorious waste of time! 

Here are some guidelines and whimsical ideas for resting when you feel like you need to do All. The. Things. How do you invite rest into a world and a life that expects you to be busy all the time?

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