Permission to Rest
November 13, 2022
Yesterday our sangha1 teacher asked a great question - do you give yourself permission to rest?
The question made me pause. I’ve done a LOT of physical resting the last few months as I try to let my back heal. Yet even with plenty of time spent laying flat on my back, I struggle to let my mind come to rest. I keep “working on” meditation, which is to say it is a challenge to me because of my restless mind. I sometimes struggle with sleep and find myself saying, “my body was asleep but my mind was awake”. Fully resting - mind, body and spirit - is something I struggle with.
What would "giving myself permission” be like?
I’m pondering that question this weekend and feeling like I have little to write about. It really is a great weekend for rest. After more much-needed rain and unseasonably warm temperatures in the 70s (F) on Thursday (there were swarms of gnats!), we’ve plunged into a cold abyss. Forecast high today will barely make it to freezing, putting it below our average low for this time of year and it’s supposed to last a long while. The last two mornings the north winds have been blowing 20-30 mph and though I am usually fairly cold hardy, it was just too much for me. I’m not acclimated yet!
Snuggling inside with a warm cup of tea just sounds so much better. Yet despite not going out into the cold wind this morning I ended up pondering rest as I cleared out and organized part of my basement. I do think you the mind can rest sometimes when the body is active - but this was decidedly not it. I’m not good at this resting thing even though I sometimes want to think I am!
I tried searching for poems about rest - and my search results were filled with poems about death. This seems an apt metaphor for how our culture views rest. The irony of our sedentary culture is that I’m certain I’m not the only one that struggles to truly rest. Computer-based work, television, podcasts, social media, 24-hour news, and thousands of hobbies contribute to little movement with little rest.
The cultural focus is on trying to move more and do more. We try to force ourselves to move because it’s good for us. Is it possible if we learned to rest better we would also become less sedentary?
I find myself wanting to explore rest as we enter the season when much of nature rests. Meanwhile there is beauty and birds to sustain my soul:
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can rest more deeply and fully - and please if you know any good poems on rest I’d love to hear them!
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As I understand it, Sangha is the term for a Buddhist community of practice. The sangha I participate in weekly is a lovely group of people who practice and discuss living in a more open-hearted and present way in our challenging world.