The Art Of Rest – Part 1: Calm Your Mind
As many of you know, I’m in the process of taking an extended sabbatical to focus on extreme self care and mastering the Art of Rest.
During this important quest, I’m discovering that I have very little in my tool kit to master my body and my mind (believe it or not, even after significant studies in applied neurosciences) in allowing my body to surrender and deeply rest. I have forgotten how to rest!
After 14 years post separation, and the need to operate at full throttle to survive and thrive being self-employed, with a mortgage and two children to raise, my body had forgotten how to rest! After years of pushing myself beyond capacity, my autonomic nervous system is permanently ‘wired!’ It doesn’t know or remember how to switch OFF and allow me to rest. It’s learned to be in a hyper-aroused and vigilant state of survival.
To add to this, there are countless distractions too: washing to do, presentations and workshops to prepare for, floors to sweep, emails to respond to, gifts to buy, phone calls to return, letters to write, bed to make, clothes to wash, garden to attend to… and the list goes on. Does this sound familiar?
I’ve always considered rest to be a luxury – something that I’d get around to when… ie. after everything else was done, then… I could allow myself to rest.
But here’s the thing: I’ve done this over and over and over the years, that now when I really need to rest, I simply can’t. My body doesn’t remember how. My nervous system is now at a stage of dysfunction… it cannot switch off from being turned on and wired for action.
I’m in the process of learning how to switch the OFF button on, and switch the on button OFF.
I’m swiftly learning that rest is no longer optional. Rest is necessary for a healthy, balanced and optimally functioning brain and body. Rest is also critical in ensuring we bring out our best in relationships with others and ourselves.
I’ve taken my health and my body for granted for way too long. I recognise this as a pattern – a pattern that needs to be reprogrammed. It’s time to awaken from this illusion into a commitment that prioritises my health and wellBEing as a non-negotiable part of my everyday rhythm.
The other thing I’ve discovered is that we cannot DO rest – it’s not something we put on our ‘to do’ list as another task (I’m guilty of this one!!). Rest is a state of BEing. Rest is something we must embody and have a felt sense of in order to reap the benefits from it. Let me repeat: rest is a state of BEing ie. to be at rest.
This might sound like a bit of a mind twist, and it is. It has challenged many of my existing paradigms to truly and deeply appreciate how important rest really is, and the purpose it serves in our overall quality of life.
I will write the handbook!
I realise that the big challenges I’ve faced in life ie. cancer, relationship breakdowns, betrayal, trauma, loss and grief, just to name a few, are the bedrock of personal growth and rich sources of future strength and wisdom. As part of my commitment to serve humanity, I share this wisdom for the betterment of the lives of others – this means YOU.
We do not exist in life in isolation. We are part of a collective humanity that together we must connect, support and collaborate with in order to thrive. This is my service to you. And this is my purpose in life.
So in this newsletter, I’d like to teach you a powerful breathing practice called Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (or alternate nostril breathing) that’s easy to do. It has proven very helpful to me and may help to calm your heart and quiet your mind too.
In Sanskrit, the word ‘Nadi’ means channel or flow, the word ‘Shodhana’ means clarifying or purifying. ‘Pranayama’ means to take control of one’s breath – one’s lifeforce energy.
During this practice, you may experience a sense of peace almost immediately. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s my go-to practice when I’m feeling stressed out.
Over time, studies indicate that this practice can improve cardiovascular health and lung function, as it balances our heart rate. This in turn reduces stress, which is good for overall physical, emotional and mental health and balance. There is also strong evidence that alternate nostril breathing improves brain function.
Unless you have a serious cardiovascular condition like COPD or asthma, you can do it right now without concern or fear. (If you do have a medical condition, it’s probably still safe, but ask your doctor first.)
So here’s how to do it:
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
- Find a comfortable chair, floor cushion, or mat. Sit upright, but don’t strain.
- Set a timer so you don’t have to stress or worry about time. I recommend you begin with 2mins and build up gradually from there.
- Let one hand rest gently in your lap. Bring your other hand up to your face.
- Place the index and middle fingers of your raised hand lightly against the space between your eyebrows.
- Close your eyes.
- Take a nice, long, easy deep breath through your nose – inhale deep then exhale long.
- Close your right nostril with your thumb, and then inhale slowly through your left nostril.
- At the top of your in-breath, close your left nostril with your ring finger, so that both of your nostrils are closed.
- Pause for a moment.
- Release your thumb from your right nostril and exhale (keep your left nostril closed).
- Pause again for a moment.
- Now reverse the process. Breathe in slowly and steadily through your right At the top of the in-breath, close up both nostrils again, pause, and then release your out-breath through your left nostril.
- Pause again. Repeat the breathing process, alternating nostrils. Do this several times, slowly and mindfully.
Soften. Release. Let go. Smile. B R E A T H E.
Well? What do you think? If you did this practice even for just 2 minutes, you probably feel more relaxed.
Am I right?
Take a few minutes and try this whenever you need to calm your mind, and then share it with your friends. Better yet, share it with people you disagree or don’t get along with too.
If you’d like to cultivate or deepen your mindfulness and meditation practice with guided practices facilitated by me for a full month, check out my self-paced offering called Calm Your Farm for an extensive resource and toolkit that offers lifetime access.
If you are new to mindfulness and meditation and you’d like to dip your toes in as a first step, check out Simple Meditation For Busy People – designed to springboard your self-awareness, inner peace and happiness.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this first instalment of the Art Of Rest – a breathing practice to calm your mind. Leave your comments below – I’d love to know how you go with it and what you do to nurture rest in your life.
Until next time, be sure to make some time to take good care of you. You matter. You’re Important. Rest to reset.
A bonus tip: breathe in sunlight, breathe out love.