Good Rest is Good For Us

Reflections on REST as a Component of Good Health

A client recently summed up her over-all health by saying, “I feel like a hamster on speed in a wheel that’s on fire!” This woman’s colorful description mirrors how so many of us feel in today’s crazy-busy world.

For anyone who is like me and has often half-jokingly remarked that they need a vacation to recover from their vacation, the lesson we need to learn is that there is no substitute for a good rest—that is, a rest that refreshes and rejuvenates your body, mind and spirit.

Stress is not an option.

If you feel this way, you need to get some rest.

Rest—proper rest, and the permission to act on it— seems to be a forgotten component of good health.

Our culture sends mixed messages about rest. On one hand, it is a cultural convention for a hostess to inquire of her overnight guests, “Did you sleep well?” The question implies that restful sleep is somehow desirable, and yet, the question is largely rhetorical, since most of us are woefully unprepared to do anything to improve the quality of sleep for our guests besides offering a pharmaceutical sleep aid.

On the other hand, have you noticed how insomniacs are often celebrated in our culture as the most productive members of society? These are the people who can hold down a full-time job and write a best-selling novel with the time they’re not “wasting” in sleep.  The thinking here is that since we get to rest in peace once we’re dead and buried, in order to be productive, we must work constantly the entire time we’re alive.  I recently heard a well-meaning grandfather make the comment, “If I take a nap, I might miss something.” Unfortunately, his pre-school-aged grandkids overheard him and began to echo the sentiment.

Rest has no room in today’s workplace, either. We work right through our breaks and meals—and then brag about it. Our employers celebrate as model employees those who never use their personal leave days or vacation time. Or society rewards those who go, go, go—all the time, non-stop. The hamsters on speed in the wheels on fire are the heroes among us. We obsessively use drugs like caffeine to artificially push ourselves beyond our natural limits. And then we wonder why our lives are so incredibly stressful…and why we are not enjoying good health.

We’ve forgotten that the human being has a natural biological rhythm of activity and rest that allows our bodies and minds to function optimally. Numerous scientific studies have shown that sleep deprivation diminishes mental performance. We know that stress and sleeplessness go hand-in-hand, and science has proven to us over and over again that chronic stress and sleep loss hastens the onset of aging and chronic disease. When will we wake up to the realization that good rest is good for us?

Change Your Perspective and Get a Good R.E.S.T.

Giving ourselves permission to rest regularly and properly can help avoid the physical and mental exhaustion that so often plagues our lives. One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is the gift of rest. Honoring our need for rest by restoring and rejuvenating our bodies, minds and spirits contributes to our whole-person wellbeing. If you want to enhance your over-all quality of life, give yourself permission to rest—regularly and right.

Resting “right” has everything to do with our perspective of rest. Resting properly, or right, means viewing rest as a positive thing, not as the remainder or the leftovers, or the thing you finally get to do after you die, but as part of the natural and necessary rhythm of life. As a culture, we need to learn to value the time we spend not working as “up-time,” rather than “down-time.”  I can’t change our culture overnight by myself, but I can change my personal perspective.

To help me begin thinking of rest as “up-time,” for the betterment of my own overall health, I came up with some words the letters R, E, S and T could stand for: Regular Elimination of Stimuli and Tension. This mnemonic helps me remember to keep the idea of rest in a positive perspective.

  • Regular – I do my best to honor a regular bedtime and wake-up time, so my body can depend on its own natural biorhythm. This also gives my body’s physical systems the time they need to rest and recharge.
  • Elimination– I consciously act on ways of shutting out unnecessary stimulation and tension in your life. I’m getting better at saying “No, thank you” to invitations that interfere with my regular sleep schedule. I look for ways to block out light and noise in the bedroom, and I look for ways to create peace wherever I go.
  • Stimuli– Knowing what activities and foods can stimulate my brain and body and counteract my sleep cycle helps me  avoid things like too much TV, exercising too late at night, caffeine after 7 pm.
  • Tension– Emotional upheaval makes my mind and body tense. When I’m tense or upset emotionally, I can’t sleep well. I do my best to defuse interpersonal tensions in my life and create peace in all my relationships, but especially before bed. There is profound wisdom in the advice, “Don’t go to bed angry.”

The time I spend resting is up-time for me because it raises the quality of my life. By remembering to R.E.S.T. regularly and right, I can improve the quality of my own life, and hopefully set a positive example for others. I hope you, too, can learn to rest well.

 

 

Rest - Kaleidoscope of Creative Connections

This post was part of the Kaleidoscope of Creative Connections focused on Rest. Dive into more heart-centred writings from the amazing souls who collaborated in the creation of KCC – June 2014.

 

 

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Practicing Encouragement: Honoring the Courage Within

When I look at the word encouragement, I see “courage” buried within: enCOURAGEment.

I like to think of encouragement as a direct communication from the heart—a purposeful message that honors and supports courage. Since having courage means feeling the fear and doing it anyway, encouragement turns out to be one of the most fundamental and valuable tools available for moving through fear.

We all need encouragement, especially when we’re experiencing one of those proverbial dark nights of the soul. When hope, joy, love— or any other positive emotion— appears lost or unavailable, encouragement moves us one step closer toward a higher vibration, and ignites the possibility of inspiration by validating our underlying faith.

Encouragement is External and Reflexive

Encouragement is both external and reflexive in nature. It’s external because, depending on the depth of the darkness we’re experiencing, we may not be able to generate courage from within ourselves. When I receive encouragement from some external source, it helps me know I’m on the right track, and keeps me from collapsing under the weight of my collective fears. Over the years, I’ve learned to set myself up for encouragement success by surrounding myself with things (and people!) that will encourage me when I need a gentle reminder. The resulting confidence and support helps me move through my fears with greater ease.

Encouragement is reflexive, too. Often, the best way to receive encouragement for ourselves is to give it to others. Giving the gift of encouragement benefits both parties: The recipient is encouraged AND the positive energy of the offering comes back to the giver, multiplied. Offering encouragement to others is like giving a big spiritual hug that aligns both parties with positive energy.

Forms of Encouragement

Encouragement can manifest in many forms:  a heartfelt (physical or spiritual) hug; a handshake with an extra squeeze; the sudden appearance of a thing of beauty; a warm smile from a stranger; a kind word when it’s needed most.

Words are especially powerful forms of encouragement because they carry the energy of our thoughts, are durable in written form, and when shared at the right time, can penetrate directly into that deep pit within, and shine light into the darkness. Encouragement often shows up in our lives as collections of pithy quotes and sayings from famous people. And, have you ever noticed how encouragement is a huge, stand-alone, greeting card category? As a matter of fact, sending a card (even to yourself!) is a great way to offer encouragement. Here is one simple example:

I sent this greeting card to myself many years ago, and it continues to encourage me.

The above image is from a greeting card I sent to myself many years ago. I kept it because it continues to encourage me. The message printed inside the card reads: “Wishing you peace to soothe your spirit, love to lighten your heart, and harmony to fill your life with happiness.”

The artwork is  a 20” x 16” oil painting, “Buffalo Woman,” by Detha Watson. The greeting card was published and distributed by Leanin’ Tree.

 

Practicing Encouragement

What are some other ways of practicing encouragement? Thinking of encouragement as a spiritual hug reminds me of an important healing lesson Angeles Arrien refers to as “extending the arms of love.” Arrien’s four arms of love (acknowledgement, acceptance, validation and gratitude) form the foundation of my own personal practice of encouragement. Here are some fun and easy ways to begin practicing encouragement:

  • Send a greeting card (to yourself or someone else)
  • Tell someone how a special skill they possess makes the world a better place
  • Celebrate milestones and accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem (This applies to your own milestones and accomplishments as well as those of others)
  • Acknowledge a character quality you admire in someone close to you
  • Thank someone for a specific impact he or she has had on your life
  • Compliment someone’s appearance (in a socially appropriate way, of course)
  • Focus your prayers and energy on holding space for hope and dignity

Encouragement, whether given or received, creates an energetic alignment with the Divine and honors the courage within.  When you practice encouragement, you only need to remember one thing: Fear cannot withstand the force of a spiritual hug.

What encourages you? How have you encouraged others? What is one thing you can do today to encourage someone?

 

 

KCC_Sunflower_KCCLink

This post was part of the Kaleidoscope of Creative Connections focused on Encouragement. Dive into more heart-centred writings from the amazing souls who collaborated in the creation of KCC – April 2014.

 

 

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Passing Tests of Faith

For years, I’ve dealt with challenging life-situations by repeating to myself, “This is just a test of faith.” As if I could study hard enough to pass the test, and thereby resolve the issue. Lately, the tests of faith have been piling up— one on top of the other. And it has become difficult, if not impossible, to will myself through a challenging situation by holding a strong-enough belief. So, what do I need to learn about faith?

Faith is Not a Mental Exercise

For me, faith is a belief in something that can’t be seen or proven. Faith is stronger than a strong belief, because having faith means believing against all odds—in other words, faith implies not just believing in something that can’t be proven, but believing in something that may seem like it’s already been proven otherwise. Having faith is an internal knowingness.

In her book, Hands of Light, Barbara Brennan suggests that developing one’s faith involves letting go of one’s own individual will by aligning it with that of the Divine and responding with love in any situation. By doing so, Brennan says, “…you will develop faith—faith in yourself, faith in spiritual law, faith in the unity of the universe, faith that whatever happens in your life could be a stepping stone to greater understanding, love and growth…” (p. 277). In other words, faith is not a mental exercise, because responding with love requires action from the heart, not the head.

Hands of Light, by Barbara A. Brennan, was published in 1987 by Bantam Books.

I’ve spent a lifetime living “in my head.” I love being a student, and as a medical professional, I’m constantly seeking knowledge, proofs, and plausible explanations. Believing that knowledge is power is not necessarily a bad thing, but right now, that belief is NOT allowing my faith to flourish.

My most salient crisis of faith at the moment involves developing a vision for how to offer my gifts to the world. I’ve been trying to figure this out for quite some time now (how mental of me!), and my thoughts keep circling back to a particular stuck-phrase, “I don’t know what it looks like.”
In applying Brennan’s wisdom, I see that developing faith in my ability to offer something of value to others means I need to start take action from my heart, rather than my head. So, how can I reprogram myself to let my heart take charge? Well, there I go again, getting stuck in the mental aspect of things!

Apply the Heart’s Wisdom
Once the mind is clear, the heart’s wisdom is simple: Release your thoughts. Center your consciousness. Allow your creativity. Act as if…

Passing a test of faith involves embracing what is, and growing in a way that breaks old mental patterns. While the heart’s wisdom may be simple, acting on it isn’t always easy— that’s why keeping the faith takes practice. According to Brennan, when positive results are not forthcoming in your life, it is a sign that greater heart-growth is needed. She states, “The reward for living in truth becomes the pleasure of life in each moment…. Being in the here and now means accepting the slow process of human evolution [and] accepting your immediate limitations as perfection.” (p. 277)

I have faith that I have something valuable to offer the world, and it’s OK not to know what that offering is in this moment. Not only is it OK, but having faith requires that I don’t know what the outcome is right now. Otherwise, this would be a test of determination and perseverance instead of a test of faith.

Tests of faith cannot be passed through efforts of the head—only through allowances of the heart. By letting go of “trying to figure out my vision for the future” and letting my heart drive my actions, I can enjoy each moment along the way.

What tests of faith are you experiencing now, and how are you dealing with them?

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Dynamic Emergence: What I Learned From Sea Otters

The English word emerge comes from the Latin root emergere which means “to rise out or up, bring forth, bring to light.” This word carries implications of revelation, prior concealment, and significance, and points toward the growth and development of something new.

While watching wild sea otters in California’s Monterey Bay, I noticed some parallels between the animals’ behavior and my quest for re-birth. As the otters rose repeatedly out of rolling surf bringing forth their daily nourishment, they showed me that emergence can be a dynamic process with wide-ranging effects… and, of course, they made the whole process look fun and easy.

Have you ever watched an otter eat? Here is what I saw. When he emerges onto the water’s surface after diving for food, the otter’s whiskered nose breaks through the water first, the rest of his head follows, and then his belly and back flippers rise up to form a buoyant platform on which he supports his shellfish meal. He floats easily on his back, unperturbed by the ebbs and swells of ocean surf, while using rocks as tools to crack open the clams, crabs and mussels that sustain him. Water birds circle and float nearby, vying for leftovers. Upon finishing his meal, the otter dives again. He soon emerges in a different spot, with a different clam, and repeats the process.

The otter’s emergence makes me ponder my own: What am I rising from and toward? What tools am I gathering and how will they nourish me? Who will benefit from my efforts? And, how many times will I repeat the process?

What am I rising from and toward?
The otter rises from watery depths toward the air he needs to breathe. My quest for a personal renaissance is moves me from a perception of separateness toward a state of integration, unity and wholeness. It follows then that I am rising from a lower vibrational frequency to a higher vibrational frequency in my daily existence.

Holding this higher frequency adds a buoyancy to my being and helps me navigate the ebbs and swells of life in much the same way the sea otter floats on surf. The higher frequency also moves me toward a realization that the whole of my life is greater than the sum of its parts.* Awareness of the interconnectedness of all the seemingly separate aspects of my life brings an increased sense of clarity and ease to my existence. The power of these seemingly separate components, when considered together, is magnified. This intensity also contributes to the increased vibrational frequency of my being and sets the stage for the (multiple) ah-ha shifts that are needed in any transformational healing or re-birth.

What tools am I gathering?
Otters use tools (like rocks) to extract nourishment from the shellfish they bring forth from the sea. Similarly, I use tools (from coaching and other disciplines) to extract the richness and meaning from my life’s experiences. Each isolated event of my life does nothing by itself, but the combined information from all my life’s events plus the memories and meanings I assign to them, forms the fabric of my personality and character and feeds the intangible nature of my soul and spirit.

Exercises like journaling, constructing timelines, telling stories about life events and envisioning a magic wand that can be used to change them, are valuable tools for gaining new perspectives on the whole. By using appropriate tools for noticing the “more than” aspects of my life, I can glimpse my life’s overall significance, and begin to understand how the whole really is greater than I ever imagined. This allows me to grow beyond what I once was and emerge as my authentic self.

Who benefits?
A single otter’s emergence from the surf is significant beyond the immediate benefits to himself and the waterbirds who follow seeking leftovers: The otter’s activities are linked to the welfare of all the other species in the kelp forest ecosystem. Similarly, as I rise into a higher vibrational frequency, and emerge as my authentic self, the ripple effect of my efforts expands ever wider, affecting numerous others on the planet. Every individual thought and action makes a difference.

The otter rises to the surface of his watery environment effortlessly and with what appears to be great joy and vigor. Each often-repeated occasion for emergence in the otter’s day is significant because it represents an opportunity for obtaining nourishment. It’s how he sustains his life. And all the while, the otter makes his life look fun and easy.

The otter’s dynamic pattern of emergence is repeated until his ravenous appetite is satisfied. I have a similarly ravenous appetite for self-growth. Over the years, I developed an idea that there is one big re-birth event that I’m building toward. The otter showed me that my personal renaissance does not have to be a one-time life event. My emergence as my authentic self is a part of an ongoing process of obtaining nourishment for my soul. It is repeatable and dynamic.

This realization made my activities of inner work feel a whole lot more fun and easy: I don’t have to worry about “getting it right the first time” as I continue raising my vibrational frequency, gathering my tools, and nourishing my soul. I just have to emerge periodically, enjoy what I bring forth, and be willing to share. And that is how my emergence benefits others.

* Aristotle is credited with originating the concept of holism, by expanding on the idea that the whole could be greater than the sum of the parts. Today, in numerous fields of intellectual inquiry including biology, history, and complexity theory, emergence is said to occur whenever the whole is recognized as being greater than the sum of its parts.

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Time for Healing

Mainstream healthcare shapes our concept of healing by programming us to seek chemical cures for all ills. Once we pop a pill, we expect to feel better instantly. We think of healing as repair of damage, but true healing is so much more: It’s a transformative process that unites body, mind and spirit… and therefore, takes time.  The old adage that time heals all wounds holds a profound wisdom for me.  Applying this wisdom is a monumental lesson, and my attempts to master it –both as a nurse and as an individual—are ongoing.

Honor the Healing Process

As a nurse, I help others allow time for healing by encouraging them to take the healing process seriously. When we honor the body’s innate desire to return to a homeostatic state of wellness, we heal more naturally and fully. I educate patients on this principle at the holistic clinic where I work by referencing a study of professional athletes with the common cold. The study showed that it took 30 days after symptoms abated for the athletes to return to peak performance.  Based on this information, I encourage patients to return to full pre-illness schedules within these guidelines: Return to 25% of usual activities the first week post-illness; 50% the second week; and 75% the third with a return to 100% only after the fourth week post-illness. This idea runs counter to how most of us do things in our culture today. We return to work/school as soon as possible after an illness, or worse yet, we work right through the illness without allowing time for healing at all.

Allowing a minimum of four weeks’ recovery time after an illness is easy to say and hard to do. Not only does it take time to give yourself permission to slow down and honor the body’s wisdom, but sometimes it’s difficult to acknowledge that emotional or spiritual healing is needed as well, so that even admitting to a need for healing takes time. But once we recognize the need, be it physical, emotional or spiritual, we must support and encourage the healing process by allowing time for healing to happen.

Reframe the Concept of Healing

My own healing process was supported by my willingness to reframe the concept of healing as an act of surrender rather than an act of repair.  Simply seeing the concept of healing a different way provided a shift in perspective that bolstered my personal renaissance. As part of her “21-Days of Letting Go” eBook, blogger Jenny Griffin of “The Power of Change” interviewed Bodytalk practitioner Fiona Mayhill, who noted that viewing healing as surrender allows us to accept a new, authentic, sense of self. My ah-ha moment came when I realized that viewing healing-as-surrender could lead me closer to my own re-birth. This was precisely the kind of mental connection I’d been looking for!

I received further clarification on the idea of healing-as-surrender from Eckart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now. Tolle points out that when we surrender in the name of healing, we are NOT surrendering to the illness or the injury itself, we are surrendering to the NOW—the present conscious moment in which suffering exists. This act of surrendering (to the Now) forces us into the present moment and creates a state of intense conscious presence that can be used for enlightenment—the ultimate form of transformation… and deep holistic healing. Tolle sums it up by saying, “Surrender does not transform what is… surrender transforms you.” (The Power of Now, p. 181)

Fully integrating this new perspective into my being is not quick or easy, but by allowing time for healing, I can stop worrying about when the process will be complete, and focus instead on expressing gratitude for my transformation. I am getting better in every now of my conscious being. The healing process takes time. And time really does heal all wounds. I am comforted by the thought that I’ll be able to look back at my journey and know that the time I spent on healing was time well spent.

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Animals Pure and Simple

Life is complex. We humans make it complicated. With our constructs, expectations, ruminations and flagellations, we manage to take the joy right out of existence.

Thank goodness for our animal friends. They are blissfully uncomplicated. Simple. Basic. Pure. Their intentions are clear and their actions are sure—based on survival, feeding, mating, and in the case of domestic animals, pleasing their people. This uncomplicated, basic purity is the foundation for a joyful existence.

The animals around us, in our lives every day, remind us constantly with their general natures and specific behaviors to seek simplicity and realize joy. But we must pay attention to the subtle messages the animals deliver. It’s so easy to get caught up in the time-driven, daily complications of human doing—and if we’re not careful, we’ll miss what we need to hear.

Some examples of what I needed to hear from the animals this week:

-While tending to a friend’s sick dog, I realized a need to heal my own personal capacity for being a loyal companion.

-While sitting on a mountaintop watching three vultures circle an unseen ended life, I was reminded of how necessary it is for me to “clean up” my physical and mental space before beginning a new project.

-When, in honor of the Chinese Year of the Horse, my teacher invoked horse energy for her students at the beginning of an online class, I was struck by how much I value freedom and how important it will be for me to integrate that core value into my new endeavors this year and beyond.

Receiving these messages brought me peace. Acting on them will help me create a more joyful existence. What messages have the animals shared with you lately?

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My Personal Renaissance Plan

I know I’m not the only middle-aged woman to look into a mirror at the beginning of a new year and feel the urge to lose weight, get organized and meditate more. We’ve all been there—some of us multiple times. In my case this year, it wasn’t just a feeling, it was a deep, inner knowing.  There is no doubt in my mind and heart that the changes I make (or don’t make) this year will shape the landscape of my future in ways that could be beautiful or bleak…or anything in between. The important part is that I get to choose.

I’m not someone who needs to recapture my youth, or become wealthy or famous, but I do want to BE the person I was meant to be. Authentic. Whole. Full of joy. The fact that I feel unsettled when I look in the mirror tells me I’m not being fully ME. So this year, and forever more, I’ve decided I’m done setting goals for self-growth. From now on, I am manifesting intentions for significant living. My intention now is to become a wholly new person: To be reborn.

In my last post, I referred to my perceived need for life-change a “personal renaissance.” I chose the word “renaissance” over the word “resolution” because all too often, our resolutions (especially the ones we make as ceremonial obligations in January) are likely to get watered down and become optional or otherwise non-binding over time.  I needed to find a word big enough to contain the notion that the changes I’ making are not optional.  That’s because I’ve reached a turning point in my life—a point of no return, actually—where old habits, beliefs and thoughtforms must finally be laid to rest. By accepting and acting on this realization, I can be fully ME– a human who is whole in body, mind and spirit.

Along that line of thinking, “renaissance” is the right word to describe my quest, because of its sweeping historical associations. In European history, the Renaissance Period represented a time of releasing the past— letting go of the cultural and political belief systems and structures that had prevailed during the Middle Ages. Isn’t it interesting that I described myself in the first sentence of this post as “middle-aged?” And isn’t it also interesting that the Middle Ages is alternatively referred to as the “Dark Ages?” I am moving toward a lighter, brighter future! Historically, the Renaissance included voyages of discovery, dissolutions of old power structures, developments of new technologies, brilliant works of creativity and the embodiment of a forward-looking mindset. Personally integrating each of these things and ways of being into my life would enable the change I seek.

So, what’s the plan?

Because my personal renaissance is an intention rather than a goal, the plan for enabling the change is unlikely to conform to the neat, linear tools of project management. From the outside, my personal renaissance is likely to look messy, chaotic and counterintuitive. From the inside it may feel at once exhilarating and painful. But this messy mass of mixed emotion will make the journey fun—and all the more significant and meaningful in the end. The manifestation of change will be “measured” by collective actions viewed in retrospect. Think about it: The people who lived during the Renaissance simply did what they did, and it wasn’t until after their lives were over that historians labeled the Renaissance as such and presented it to posterity in a nice, neat package. Since I don’t want to wait until my life is over to recognize the my own personal renaissance, I will share its emergence through specific, dynamic and meaningful actions. I invite you to share your thoughts and experiences as well.

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