Mindfulness of Rest

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We all know that it’s important to get good sleep or take a vacation from time to time, but what if we learned to rest and rejuvenate in the middle of things? This is one of mindfulness teacher Frank Ostaseski’s 5 Invitations for waking up fully to our lives. A dedicated practice of mindfulness opens us to opportunities to take rest right where we are.

We often think of rest as a luxury – something we earn only after we finish or achieve something, like relaxing on the weekend after a week of hard work. We think we have to have just the right conditions to rest. But, we can actually make rest an intentional practice – an action we choose. Sometimes the wisest action is to take rest. And we can do this by bringing our full attention to our experience, discovering there is a place of rest always available deep within us.

Though our modern day way of living takes us out of step with the rhythms of nature, we can take lessons from nature in finding rest in the middle of things. For example, water can flow very forcefully, but it can also rest in deep pools of stillness. It can become rainfall gentle or pelting, meandering streams and raging rivers, oceans and puddles, free flowing or suspended in soil, clouds, and creatures. There is only one water, taking many forms, borrowed and shared by all living things, and interconnecting us in a multiplicity of ways. Since we are made of water we can use the wisdom of the body to sense what it might be like to settle like a calm, deep and still pool of water. At the surface there may be storms and waves, but as we go deeper things become calm and silent, vast and stretching out in all directions. Dipping below the surface, we can tap into this calm, still place.

In her book Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto, Tricia Hersey defines rest as anything that connects mind and body. She describes rest as an essential tool for liberation, a form of resistance against the grind culture of Western capitalism. Mindfulness is a mind-body practice and an embodied way of being that can allow us to find rest right in the middle of things – we can make rest a part of our expanding choicefulness.

Rashid Hughes offers a REST Practice for the tired and weary for Mindful Magazine – you can hear him guiding the practice by visiting the link. The acronym stands for:

  • Relax – Let your attention settle on whatever is arising in the moment – maybe imagining that it’s like a butterfly, gently settling for a moment to investigate whatever is here before fluttering on to the next thing that arises.
  • Exhale – See how the exhale provides an embodied experience of letting go – of softening and releasing. The gap between the inhale and exhale is a space of non-doing, just being.
  • Sense – Connect with the silence that resides within us all – and when you do, notice its vastness and spaciousness.
  • Tune In – Recognize that in this and every moment, we are already effortlessly aware. We can tune into this natural, ever-present inner observer to find a place of rest.

With practice, we can learn to more easily access this refuge in effortless awareness. Like the sun that is always shining in every season, sometimes above the clouds or just over the horizon, everything is always illuminated by this awareness. We just have to remember to let the clouds part and the dust settle so we might connect with it.

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