Beginning with the Mind
In the Unified Mindfulness System of meditation one of the practice options is a “do nothing” technique. Which, as simple as it sounds can be quite challenging. Have you ever tried it? We may be able to still the body for a bit but for many of us its the mind! The mind, rapid fire with its mental chatter, demands for incessant input, validation and social media snacking—-our mind is often the problem when trying to rest.
So how do we rest when the mind is doing the 50 yard dash from what we did wrong yesterday, what we have to do tomorrow and what we should be doing now instead of resting?
If we start from the outside in, understanding the environment around us helps us to know how we are influenced by it. We live in a 24/7 world that has confused success with being busy and having stuff. Our parents may have had materialistic values, our social circles may look down on our old phone. Hard work ( this includes staying busy all the time outside of regular work hours ) is a value some of us grew up with and rest can be construed with laziness. Do you volunteer to help out when know you are already overtasked? What are your values? Do you get edgey when nothing is planned on the calendar? Certain ideals can keep our minds from fully allowing a balance of activity and rest.
Staying ever present on our to do list can make us feel good as the dopamine circuit gets triggered. But adrenaline and cortisol also get released and over time this constant stimulation desensitizes the brain. You need more and more to feel the same level of feel good you previously felt. Adrenaline and cortisol make it difficult for us to sleep, keeping us in a state of alertness and readiness. Business and not getting enough sleep can be addicting because of this neurotransmitter roller coaster pathway.
Giving ourselves permission to rest and relax is an important part of being able to slow down on a number of levels. But this is particularly crucial if we grew up under the belief that self sacrifice to others is virtuous and taking care of ourselves is selfish.
The advertising trends have us condensing our lives into “15 minute abs! 30 minute meals!” as if everything we do for ourselves is an inconvenience and should be crammed into the shortest amount of time possible so we can do something else. When our focus of attention on a particular activity is comprehensive, meaning our thoughts, feelings and physical body are involved, this can leave us with a felt sense of completeness and satisfaction that embodies qualities of peace and restfulness. It also focuses the monkey mind that is regretting yesterday and is worrying about tomorrow. We all know that feeling of “being in the zone,” —when you are completely absorbed in your favorite hobby. Any activity we do can feel as fervent as our passions with proper mindful training. If you could feel that, would it matter if your meal took 30 minutes or 1 hour to prepare? Having a complete experience in the moment is a kind of active rest. While not the same as physical rest, it does provide a completeness to our activities that brings a level of satisfaction to our days which in turn can lead to deeper rest when its time to hit the hay.
Mindful Resting vs. Zoning Out
Being consciously aware of relaxing our bodies and minds is different than zoning out with Netflix but both states of consciousness are valuable—as long as you are not using the screen to avoid your feelings around the job you hate or the relationship that’s driving you nuts. This can get a little tricky because it requires palpable actualization of your emotional landscape in order to understand if you are enjoying or avoiding yourself.
I remember many decades ago when my brother was earning his PHD in electrical engineering. He was frustrated for days working on a complicated math problem he could not figure out. We went to the movies and in the middle of the show he shouted, “ I got it!!” As his mind relaxed and engaged in the movie, the zone out time allowed the creative problem solving part of his mind to continue working on the problem and found the solution, while he was engaged in a different activity. Being able to relax and rest can allow creative flow which can help us problem solve life’s difficulties.
What if we defined success as the ability to deeply relax and get a good nights sleep? That is probably not on your list of New Years resolutions, but it should be for all of us. What would getting there look like?
The very first thing we should not do is reiterate to ourselves how much of a train wreck we will be tomorrow because we can’t fall asleep. With proper mindful training we can still rest deeply on those nights even if sleep alludes us.
A good nights rest begins in the morning without caffeine. Read my blog called “Do You Dominate Your Body” for a deeper understanding of why you might have just said to yourself, “ No way, I can’t do that.” Even caffeine the morning can affect your getting to sleep later.
Creating Rest in and Around the Body
Your fried. You’ve been running around all day. . This is the perfect opportunity to create rest in the body by bringing in some mindful skillsets. ( contact me for training) There are area’s of your body that are not frenetic ( you can substitute anxiety or stress here as well). Places like your earlobes, your hair, perhaps your toes are usually not involved in the chaos of your life. By focusing in on these areas of relative rest, chaos falls in the background and we begin to feel more peaceful. If our skillsets are high, we can spread that relative rest globally over the whole body.
Darken your room: remove/cover any device lights, get room darkening curtains that don’t allow any light in. I was shocked at the difference in my sleep once I made a pitch black sleeping environment. Along with this darkening is to stay off devices at least a few hours before sleeping.
Getting to bed by 10pm is optimal for balancing with the circadian rhythm as it supports our natural flow with sunlight.
Our natural reaction is to come home and relax after work. If we don’t have a physical job we will sleep better if we get some exercise between coming home and going to sleep. Moderate-to-vigorous exercise can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and the amount of time you lie awake in bed during the night. Additionally, physical activity can help alleviate daytime sleepiness.
So resting and better sleep require attentiveness to our beliefs, our environment, our minds and our physical body. What ways will you derive better balance in life and deeper restful states for yourself?
Need assistance with learning embodied presence practices and getting better rest? Eileen is an alternative healer who has completed 15 vision quests enabling her to be a clear and effective conduit for your personal growth. She has worked with somatic breathwork practices for the last 8 years and is a certified Unified Mindfulness Coach Contact Eileen@relaxandexpand.com