The Instinct to Rest
Life is a rhythm of activity and rest, and we dance through this rhythm all day and all night. Human beings need an amazing amount of sleep to function at their best, usually 7 to 8 ½ hours per day–almost a third of the day! And there are many times when we need to take a short rest break to renew and refresh ourselves.
The impulse to rest is nature’s way of telling us to stop for a moment to tune up our physical, mental, and emotional machinery. Here’s how meditation can help:
In meditation, you can ride these cycles of activation and rest. Learn how. They always occur together, and even if you are extremely at peace in meditation there will be little waves of minute activity fading into rest, over and over.
There seems to be a point in every meditation when the brain finally gets done reviewing action and then, without warning, you are invited in to experience the deepest rest you have ever known in your life. You may feel like you are falling asleep, and indeed you may find yourself nodding off. You may notice nothing at all, no thoughts, nothing–you are a pure ball of peace sitting there.
If you meditate at the same time every day, your body will start to call for it around that time. One thing many mediators do when they come home in the evening is to shower, lie down and nap for 10 minutes, and then meditate.
You may find after a while of meditating that your experience of napping changes. Because you have been practicing sensory awareness, when you lie down to nap you may fall into a delicious, slightly awake sense of drifting. Learn to revel in the sensations of restfulness, near napping, and falling into and out of brief meditative naps.
As a focus for meditation, find the most restful things and the most restful ways of being with them. You may choose a quote or a segment of a poem to think of, or an image of a serene landscape, or the sound of waves or falling rain.
Adapted from Whole Body Meditations, by Lorin Roche, Ph.D. (Rodale Press, 2002).