I’ve been reading a lot about rest lately, as a huge lesson I’ve taken away from the whirlwind that’s been these past two years was to cull more space for it.
What I’ve learned, in reading about it and finally beginning to prioritize it, is that our relationship to rest is a mirror to our relationship with ourselves.
When I was at my lowest point, post-university, I would get up at the latest at 5 a.m., oftentimes closer to 4 a.m., believing I had to complete a laundry list of tasks prior to heading out to work at 7 a.m. if I was to have a “successful” day. When it came down to choosing between working out, cooking myself meals, and sleeping, I never chose sleep.
I told myself it was less important, but, deep down, I didn’t think I deserved it.
In all honesty, I didn’t think I deserved much at that point. Eating well and working out weren’t attractive to me for how they feed the mind, body, and soul. Rather, I viewed them as tools that could be employed to receive validation, acceptance, and love.
What I didn’t know then, of course, was that we cannot feel truly validated, accepted, loved if we do not validate, accept, love ourselves first.
And rest is our greatest teacher when it comes to doing just that.
When we begin to make space for rest, we are not just working with logistical manners like rearranging our calendars or getting the kids to bed at an earlier hour. We are simultaneously doing much deeper work, which presents itself as we, for instance, decline invitations from family and friends in order to uphold our own tender promises to ourselves.
Choosing to take a bath over going out for dinner may not seem like a big deal, but over time soul-led choices like this have a ripple effect. They build self-trust, which breeds self-confidence, self-love. And these signal to our minds that we are worthy of the love of others, and so this worthiness expands into our aura, and we begin to attract that.
Similarly, when we put ourselves to bed at a reasonable hour that permits seven to nine hours of quality sleep, we are building body-trust. Many of us have lost this over the course of our lives as we stave off bodily cues—for sleep, food, touch, hydration, rest—in lieu of appeasing the mind.
Building back this trust with our bodies begins with listening to them, and honouring what we hear them call out for. When we do this, we begin to feel safe again in our bodies. Our nervous systems become more peaceful. And this light we have cultivated from within begins to expand outward giving us a deep glow that no man-made product could quite replicate. This is how we embody the je ne sais quoi that many of us mistakenly seek in the fashion and beauty industries.
So making space for rest brings us home to our bodies, builds our self-confidence, and all the while deepens our relationship to ourselves. Of course, this all happens over time.
Along the journey from boycotting rest toward appreciating its nourishment comes a lot of resistance, which is arguably where we get the greatest gift of all: insight into our shadow. Or, all the areas we’ve been hurt that have made it so that we have pushed something as life-giving as rest to the wayside. This is where great healing happens.
If you’re feeling called to do this branch of shadow work, you can start by taking out a piece of paper and answering any, or all, of the following prompts.
>> I would describe my relationship to rest/sleep as…
>> I would describe my parents’ relationship to rest/sleep as…
>> Rest/sleep was talked about in my childhood home as being…
>> To me, rest/sleep symbolizes…
>> Something that makes me uncomfortable when I think about rest/sleep is…
>> When I skimp on sleep I feel…
>> When I get a robust seven to nine hours of sleep, I feel…
Allow your pen to flow over the page without holding back. As you read back your responses, don’t judge yourself. The point here isn’t to be perfect, but to be raw in your reflection.
It is only by staring back at your unfiltered, unearthed thoughts and beliefs that you can begin to unpack and heal them, and, ultimately, move toward a more loving relationship with rest, which will bloom into a deeper, more sacred relationship with yourself.
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