I met with a friend recently, who, like many of us, has a lot going on in life. She has a toddler and a full-time demanding job, financial stress, marriage stress, and not surprising, quite a bit of anxiety. She recently had a medical procedure where she had to be out from work for a few weeks. Despite the difficulty of the surgery she underwent, she felt an incredible amount of spaciousness with her imposed rest, and she noticed that her anxiety started to lessen. Now she is looking more carefully at how to balance her life in a way that she is better able to take care of her well-being.
I also read a story recently about a woman who had a difficult medical diagnosis, and one of her first thoughts was “now I can say no to the things I don’t want to do.”
In general, the pace of our lives is so fast, our expectations of ourselves and sense of obligation so high, that the rhythms of our days give us little space for rest. Amid this go-go-go momentum without pause, sometimes our bodies give us an enforced slow down. We get sick or find ourselves exhausted or unable to function in the way we think we need to. If we are wise, we might finally surrender to bed or a day at home, giving ourselves some much needed rest. We may find that when we do deal with an illness or exhaustion, we experience some relief in having an excuse to slow down and do less. However, sometimes taking time off is a stress in itself – knowing that our email is accumulating, our laundry is piling up, and our projects are at a standstill.
We are about to head into the holiday season, which can be stressful for many reasons. Just as the earth in this part of the world is starting to go dormant, to rest, our days might be ramping up. Between extra travel, parties, hosting, shopping, baking, eating and drinking more indulgently, spending extra money that we may not have, on top of all our usual doings, we often feel anything but restful this time of year.
I wonder if you can relate. Do you intentionally take time for rest? Or this time of year do you find yourself busy, stressed, and overwhelmed, without us even hitting the stride of the holiday season yet? You might feel stressed just by thinking about it.
What if we gave ourselves time to rest before we were ill, stressed, or emotionally and mentally exhausted? How can we offer ourselves the wisdom of rest now? And even more important, how can we rest in the midst of it all?
Our yoga and mindfulness practices are a good way – making sure we are carving out time for the care of our bodies and our minds despite the busyness of our days. Moving our bodies with the wisdom we have gained from our yoga practice, taking time to sit in meditation, even simply taking time for pausing in the doings of our day, taking time for journaling, reading, walking, sitting with friends – these can all be self-care practices of rest.
But what happens when we can’t seem to find the time to pause? When our days are packed from start to finish, and there is little time to slow down and take a breath, much less sit in meditation for 20 minutes or take a couple of hours out of the day to go to our favorite yoga class? What then?
My thought is, can we practice resting in the middle of things? What does that even mean? To me, resting in the middle of things comes from being fully present to the doing of something as we are doing it. You may have noticed that when you are present, it takes less energy to do something than it does to do the same thing while distracted. It’s said there is no way to truly multitask – there is only switching our attention very quickly between things. Sometimes that quick switching feels doable, and sometimes it just makes whatever we are doing feel muddled and ineffective.
One way to rest in the middle of things is to drop our illusion of multitasking and take on doing one thing at a time. Really be present to the task at hand, whether it is a work project, answering our email, cooking for our family, or driving the kids to their music lessons.
Another way I have found to rest in the middle of things is by being realistic about what I can accomplish and dropping my striving to do it all. I have an ongoing to-do list, one for work and one for home. But at the start of my work day, I pick 1-3 things that are my priority, write them down on a sticky note, attach it to my laptop, and truly do my best to let go of the rest of the things on the longer to-do list for the day. I have found this has the work I do be more complete, I am more efficient, and experience less stress. Somehow, the important things get done, and I am more willing to let go of the unimportant tasks, at least for now.
Sometimes the rest we can find is in little moments of mindfulness interspersed throughout our day. Picking an activity that we do many times a day and choosing that to be our mindful practice. Taking a moment of pause and presence each time we wash our hands. Taking a moment of mindfulness each time we are about to walk through a door, or each time we get into our car before we start the engine.
Here are some of the moments in my day I take on as my informal mindfulness practice:
- Dropping my kids off at school and walking back to my car
- Before I walk in the room to teach a yoga class
- Folding laundry
- Making my coffee in the morning.
These are moments that are touch points in my day. I have been intentional about making them moments of pause for a long time. Long enough that as soon as I start doing them, I am reminded to be present.
After I drop my daughter off on the playground at school in the morning, I take a moment to notice the sky, the view, the trees, the feeling of my feet in my boots, walking. I slow down, just a bit. Not at the pace I might practice walking meditation on a retreat, but just enough that I remember to be present.
Before I walk in the room to teach, I pause at the door, I look out at students on their mats, quiet or talking with others, I take a breath and I take a mindful walk to the front of the room.
After I gather my laundry from the dryer, I bring it to the living room and turn on the gas fireplace and fold, noticing the warmth and texture of the laundry, and the warmth of the fireplace radiating, the appreciation that my family has clothes to keep them warm.
In the morning, I take the 2 minutes to make my espresso without doing something else while I am waiting. If I get impatient, I remind myself that it’s just 2 minutes, and I stand looking at the birds in my backyard out my kitchen window.
At Source Yoga, we are here to support you in remembering the wisdom of rest. You can come to our classes and offerings to find rest in practice. But my true hope is that you take the practices that you do in the studio and bring them into your life, maybe in those simple moments of rest in the middle of things.
This fall and early winter, we have created several opportunities for you to take time to rest, especially in the busyness of the holidays.
- If you are a Source Yoga member, join Lori Ferry for our last Free Member workshop of the year – Restore and Renew for the Holidays. Currently, there is one spot left. And make note if you are not a member – our monthly renewing memberships include free member workshops each year, as well as monthly guest passes and discounts on studio workshops.
- Join Shari Larson for a 3-week Candlelit Yin and Restorative Series on Sunday afternoons at our North Tacoma Studio.
- Join us Thanksgiving for donation based classes benefiting The Compassion Collective PNW – a non-profit created by Source Yoga teachers Christine Hills, Sarah Low, and Megan Holt to support bringing Mindfulness Practices into our local schools (more info soon).
- And more to come as we move closer to the end of the year – A Winter Solstice Practice led by Melissa Paz with live music, a Solstice Family event led by Julia Nathe, and a Christmas Day Yin and Reiki class with Shari Larson and Lori Ferry. Stay tuned for more information about these December events soon.
So my invitation for you right now, before you move onto the next thing to do in your day, is to take a few moments to pause, to rest in the middle of things. Taking 2 or 3 deep breaths, feel yourself sitting or standing, look at what it is in front of you, take in the sights, sounds, and sensations of this moment.
And then move into what’s next, with a bit more presence.
May you rest well,
Source Yoga Studio Director