A New Spiritual Practice
I want to rest effortlessly.
It’s my new mantra: I am calling in effortlessness. For me that word was always more associated with some Parisian sense of having everything and being everything without trying. It was akin to looking chic without being considered and pulling off a makeup look that works hard to look like you’re not wearing any. But the only effortlessness I truly care for is in how I rest.
We understand the theory behind why we’re all so overworked, overtired and overstretched but the hardest thing is to maintain a practice of living differently. I don’t want my rest to rely on trips away from my life, on expensive massages or weekly acupuncture, I want it to be formed by new neurological pathways built on small changes in habits that evolve from my day-to-day life. ‘Rest is our new spiritual practice’ the biodynamic psychotherapist, Fiona Arrigo, tells me, ‘it’s allowing the transmission of the new to expand you. Stop feeling bad if you haven’t achieved. Stop feeling bad about going in and unplugging from outsideness.’ Rest is the most drastic thing we can do because it’s where we upgrade ourselves. It’s how we discharge the nasties. It’s how we make sense of how we are feeling and what we need.
Some people need inspiration and motivation to get shit done, they need to-do lists or help to push themselves and reach their potential. But some of us need support when it comes to letting go, pausing, taking a breath, or just giving ourself permission to stand still. For this, there isn’t so much support. In order to live well I have to cultivate a practice whereby I consciously integrate rest into my day-to-day life by actively asking the question: where am I resting today? We can write a book alongside working full-time, we can hold down a yoga practice whilst making sure the kids are sorted for school, we can get up early to work on our side hustle whilst organising a celebration for our partner’s birthday, and we can make our botox appointment and still find the time to speak on panels about female empowerment. But many of us struggle with the simple task of resting.
My relationship with rest began with needing to take six months sick leave – gorgeously restorative but hardly a long-term solution and invoking of an identity crisis. I then started diarising rest and moments of pause throughout the day. I’d get up and walk away from my laptop instead of melting into six hours of screen time where I’d come back to myself and the discarded crumbed plates surrounding my desk. I’d block out meditation like I block out time for a client meeting. I had to motivate myself to rest like some people motivate themselves to go to the gym: come on, you’ll enjoy it when you get there. And then I discovered there is a fine line between rest and a ‘self-care to-do lists’ comprising of yoga classes, retreats, taking supplements or forcing yourself out of bed to make a therapy appointment. That version of rest often isn’t financially sustainable, it wasn’t for me. There have been times in my life where rest and recovery have masqueraded as another thing I needed to accomplish, into an endless pit where any disposable income got sucked away. But when rest becomes a daunting to-do list or an expensive hobby it can transmute into something else. I’ve had to learn that taking care of myself is something I can do in small everyday acts.
It is choosing – in those seeming insignificant moments – to do what will make me feel good. It’s allowing the tea to brew instead of ravishing the bag. It’s having a bath in the middle of the day. It’s leaving your phone at home. It’s stopping for a moment to watch the ducks. It’s eating the last spring roll, slowly, unapologetically. It’s saying no when you don’t feel like it. It’s lying down on your bed and practicing breath work. It’s going for dinner without washing your hair. It’s drinking more water. It’s being silly and allowing for a giggle. It’s making the plate look pretty when you’re the only one eating. It’s leaning in to who’s peaceful and distancing from who isn’t. It’s believing in that hunch and validating your intuition without checking in with a friend. It’s not reading the news every day. It’s going back to sleep after the alarm goes off. It’s in the daily pause. It’s in the conscious breath. It’s in you.
I still get triggered, I still diarise my meditation and then forget to do it, I still occasionally work myself so hard I need to spend a Saturday in bed recovering, I still forget to go for a walk and take breaks. I’m not there yet but I take little steps forward each day and I’m bringing rest it into my consciousness more and more. I will keep asking myself: how did I rest today? And I will keep aspiring to rest as effortlessly as I can fathom.
yes that's such a beautiful example. It's as though we instinctively find our moments of calm all by ourselves and they make such a huge difference when we allow ourselves to linger there with them.
absolutely. for instance every time i'm on a train/bus journey i feel like i never want to actually arrive because just sitting there watching the landscape pass by, makes me incredibly happy. i want to schedule these things more. such a good reminder.