Few years ago, I had an opportunity of going on a trail in the mountains to check out the presence of tigers in the region. We went through some rough terrain, deep forest, climbed a mountain, and ended the day walking through a vast open field right before getting back into the vehicles and heading back to our accommodation. After the exhausting day, friends were scampering around for food, I remember all I needed was some rest. It had been a busy day, rising early and beginning our walk across some undulating terrain. But on returning to our base camp (the hotel) and hitting the sack after a hot water bath, I was aghast that I just couldn’t sleep. I cajoled my eyes to shut and the mind to quite but they simply refused like a kid throwing tantrums. Visions of the day’s excitement flashed before my eyes, one after the other like a slideshow not allowing me a moment’s rest though I was lying on my back on a bed. I wondered why the mind and body were refusing to get what they wanted the most.
That was when I realized that sleep is not just the only kind of rest we need. My mind traced back the sensory overload that I had had and the body needed much more than just sleep. I needed a ‘complete rest’.
Living beings, including plants, need rest after a hard day’s work. Humans sleep at night so that the body can repair itself and rejuvenate for the next day. The conscious mind shuts itself and allows the data to be processed properly. Just because you slept for a good 8 to 10 hours doesn’t necessarily mean you are well-rested. You may wake up more tired, fatigued and irritable even. Why doesn’t sleep alone suffice? Because we need different kinds of rest for the different kinds of fatigue we experience.
The physical rest is needed to help the body heal itself. While awake, we make use of almost all the parts of the body. But when we sleep, our major movements are stopped or at least slowed down and most importantly, the conscious mind is at rest. Physical rest also soothes aching limbs and gives the muscles the much needed time to repair and rebuild. Physical rest is also when you slow down over weekends and take things slowly, get a massage at the parlor or pamper yourself in the sauna.
The mental rest is when you relax mentally. Merely sleeping won’t shut your brain altogether. We all know those restless nights when we have an overactive brain that gives us nightmares and a string of dreams you can’t escape come what may. You can actually do that even without sleeping. A deliberate effort to make your mind quiet by deep breathing, doing relaxing exercises, Yoga, meditation or also by walking in the open nature allows the mind to rest even while being awake.
All day long and all our lives we incessantly do that one thing- feel. We respond to every stimulus that comes our way with feelings. We feel worried, scared, happy, suspicious, jealous, anxious or confused which are our feelings in response to situations, people and happenings. These emotions, at times, overwhelm us and we want some time when don’t have to experience them at all. Many people have to pretend that they are happy, enthusiastic and fresh at all times. Sometimes their profession demands it, sometimes the family needs to see them that way. A time and place when you don’t have to be emotionally alert and active, where you can just ‘be’ is when you get emotional rest. Emotional rest is required to feel that connect back to ourselves.
In a day’s worth of work, we face thousands of stimuli that hit our senses- lights, sounds, tastes, touch and odors. From food, from the commute, at the office, on the road, on the mobile and on the computers. So much so that at the end of the day, sometimes the brain stops registering even a strong stimulus like burning hay or a baby’s sweet smell, which may be around, until someone reminds you of it. A sensory overload tires your senses. Give yourself some sensory rest that refreshes your ability to appreciate them.
For those who are constantly in the creative pursuits, the fatigue that comes with being at peak performance levels at all times takes a toll. One is expected to spew new ideas, solve complex problems with the snap of a finger and innovate, create and ideate continuously. That’s what they do best, that’s what they’re expected to do. Well, sometimes these people need to be free from the creative pursuits at least for a while. That, for them, provides the creative rest. Unless your mind is well rested, how will new ideas come?
Apart from all these, there’s also a deeper rest that all of us need. The constant feeling of connectedness to the higher self, to what some people call God, while others recognize as a higher consciousness, can leave you feeling watched. In spite of following all the rituals and chanting the prayers, you would feel some day not to do anything spiritual and get some spiritual rest.
You can feel disconnected, alone, anchorless. How about some spiritual rest as you free yourself from all dogmas for a while and rejuvenate your mind? It doesn’t entail that you’ve turned an atheist overnight, it’s just that for a while you want to feel connected to your own being rather than anything else. At such times, one can just walk in the grass or the gardens, wander around the beach at sunset or spend some silent moments alone. Find your purpose and a deep connection within but till then, rest a while.
Most people associate rest with sleep or doing nothing. It could be that for some but for several others, you need to find out what aspect of your life are you feeling overwhelmed about. Where is the lack of energy emanating from and why are you feeling drained, fatigued and restless? Once you know what bothers you, get some real rest, don’t just sleep. You would thank yourself for doing that.
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