The Art of Rest

How few of us take time to just rest, sit quietly and reflect upon our gratefulness and allow peace to enter our lives.  We try to cram as much as we can into each day. The modern word is all about multitasking, and people take great pride in this skill.  I once drove next to a man in our crowded early morning rush hour traffic. His cell phone headset was on his head and he talked the entire time he was driving. This in itself is not that unusual. It was unusual that he also shaved, put on shaving lotion, brushed his hair, put on his tie (while the traffic was momentarily stopped) and also ate his breakfast, drank his coffee and was studying a map the whole time.  It seems the more we can get done in the quickest amount of time the better.

Ancient spiritual writings talk a lot about the importance of rest, feeling grateful and allowing for peace to flow through your body and mind. Yet where is the rest and peace in this multitasking world.  Most people work during the day, rush home to take care of their children, start making dinner, help with homework, put in a load of wash, feed the pets, have dinner, do the dishes, catch up on email and phone calls, perhaps read the paper, maybe watch some TV, and fall into sleep exhausted and later than they know they should be going to sleep. The next day the cycle begins all over again.

Reading non-inspiring material, watching TV or videos, emailing, playing computer games, talking to friends on the phone is not the kind of rest and peace that is needed. Perhaps in those activities the body is resting, but the mind is not. Sleep is also not the kind of rest that the ancient writers were talking about. Sleep is important and helps the body, mind and spirit, but unless we are at peace when we fall asleep our challenges and issues just keep working themselves out in our dreams and we can wake up more tired than we were when we went to sleep. Sitting and drinking alcohol is also not the kind of rest that is needed, for that alters the brain and takes away from the healing qualities of rest.

Rest and feeling peaceful is for the body, mind and spirit. Though this may seem unproductive, it is really the most productive thing that we can be doing. For with peaceful rest we feel renewed and clear. It may be that we need to discipline ourselves in the beginning to simply take time each day just to be peaceful. Perhaps the most powerful way to transform a busy, stressful day is to simply sit still and focus your mind on things that you are grateful for, breath deeply and feel peaceful thoughts. Even ten minutes could do miracles in your day. A couple doing this together each day would greatly strengthen and enrich their bond of love.

One late afternoon after a particularly busy day of errands and assorted stressful work situations, I went to check up on my 88 year old mother who lives right next door to us. As I climbed the steps to her apartment I felt weary all over. At that point all I wanted to do was go to sleep for the night. I walked in and my mother was sitting on her couch just doing nothing at all. At first I felt guilty seeing her sitting there with nothing to do. I wished I had had time to have lunch with her. But then I looked more closely and saw she had a beautiful smile upon her face. “Oh come in,” she said when she saw me. “I was just sitting here feeling how grateful I am. I have been having just the greatest time.” Tired and with way too many thoughts and pressing things to do crowding my mind, I sat down next to her with a big sigh. For fifteen minutes I rested with my mother. We didn’t say much, we mostly just sat and I enjoyed her space of peace. I let go of my thoughts. After fifteen minutes I had to go and pick up our son and the several boys on the volleyball team from their practice. I said good-by to my mother, and thanked her for inviting me into her atmosphere of rest. I felt different, better somehow than when I first entered her apartment. The rest had changed my perspective. I could think more clearly and my body felt stronger.

My mother and many of her generation have learned how to rest and feel peaceful. But do we have to reach our seventies or eighties to learn this skill? We can bring this precious gift to ourselves every day. Simply sitting and allowing a time for peace is one of the most loving things we can do for ourselves. Remember ten minutes can do wonders for your day and your relationships.

Scroll to Top