“Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgement will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.” – Leonardo da Vinci
Do you think that you get enough rest in your life? I don’t just mean sleep either, although that’s part of it. I simply mean downtime, time to relax and rejuvenate, time to think and just meander along.
We like schedules. We like color-coded schedules. We are great doers, but not so great resters. But, activity is most productive when followed by rest. Activity and rest go together like Night and Day – you can’t have one without the other. Constantly doing from 6am to Midnight is actually the same thing as laying around from 6am to Midnight. How would you feel if the Sun never went down? Or if it was dark all the time?
The Art of Resting
The following activities are essential for mastering the art of resting. How many of these do you excel at? Actually, don’t worry about it – it’s rest, right?
- Eating– Technically, shoving a sandwich in your face at your desk while you answer emails is eating, as is snacking from a bag of chips while lounging on your sofa watching TV. However, truly enjoyable eating involves actually tasting your food as well as fueling your body. Not every meal has to be 5 courses and last for hours, but following a few steps will make your meals much more pleasant. Sit down (or stand, depending) at a table. Eat slower. Notice what you are tasting. Preferably, eat with other people.
- Playing – Get a hobby or two, and when you spend time on your hobby, do so in a playful way. Don’t make any goals – just see where the activity takes you. Or, if you have to make a goal, make it to simply explore. You’ll find yourself being more creative and enjoying yourself more. Playing is not just for kids.
- Napping – Find a couch or a bed or a sunny spot on the floor. Lie down. Fall asleep.
- Strolling – Walking is a great way to rest. But not brisk walking, just strolling. When you stroll you notice things that you don’t normally pay attention to, and the methodical movement is helpful for putting your mind at rest. Also, strolling outside brings you in contact with nature, where you can get some perspective.
- Conversing – Conversation doesn’t have to be about the meaning of life or any other deep philosophical topics to be pleasant and restful, just an enjoyable exchange of information and thoughts. Also, a conversation requires skillful listening as well as skillful talking. See if you can listen to what the other person is saying without thinking of what you are going to say next.
- Meandering – Take some time to simply let yourself flit from one activity to another. Water the plants in your house, rearrange the book shelf a bit, play with the dog or cat for a few minutes. Move from one activity to the next without thinking much about it. Just see what catches your attention.
- Sitting – Sitting is really the epitome of resting. You could sit near a window and watch whatever is outside, you could focus on your breathing (not necessarily in meditation, but that works too), but the idea of sitting is not to do anything and not even to necessarily think anything. Sometimes we can put our bodies to rest, but our minds tend to keep spinning their wheels.
What other activities do you think are essential for quality rest? What do you find yourself wanting to do when you need to rest?