Ask any physician and they will tell you rest is essential for physical health.
When the body is deprived of sleep, it is unable to rebuild and recharge itself adequately. Your body requires rest.
Ask any athlete and they will tell you rest is essential for physical training. Rest is needed for muscles to repair themselves and prevent injury. This is true whether you run marathons, pitch baseballs, or climb rocks. Your muscles require rest.
Ask many of yesterday’s philosophers and they will tell you rest is essential for the mind. Leonardo da Vinci said, “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer.” And Ovid, the Roman poet, said, “Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” Your mind requires rest.
Ask most religious leaders and they will tell you rest is essential for the soul. Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha’i, and Wiccan (among others) teach the importance of setting aside a period of time for rest. Your soul requires rest.
Ask many corporate leaders and they will tell you that rest is essential for productivity. Forbes magazine recently wrote, “You can only work so hard and do so much in a day. Everybody needs to rest and recharge.” Your productivity requires rest.
Physicians, athletes, philosophers, poets, religious leaders, and corporate leaders all tell us the same thing: take time to rest. It is absolutely essential for a balanced, healthy life.
Yet, when you ask people in today’s frenzied culture if they intentionally set aside time for rest, most will tell you they are too busy. Even fewer would say they set aside any concentrated time (12-24 hours) for rest.
There are just too many things to get done, too many demands, too many responsibilities, too many bills, and too much urgency. Nobody can afford to waste time resting in today’s results-oriented world.
Unfortunately, this hectic pace is causing damage to our quality of life. We are destroying every sense of our being (body, mind, and soul). There is a reason we run faster and work harder, but only fall further behind. Our lives have become too full and too out of balance. Somewhere along the way, we lost the essential practice of concentrated rest.
But we would be wise to reclaim the practice of resting one day each week. Consider the benefits of concentrated rest for your body, mind, and soul:
1. Find contentment in your current life
Much of the reason we are unable to find adequate rest is because we are under the constant impression that our lives can and should be better than they are today. This constant drive to improve our standing through the acquisition of money, power, or skills robs us of contentment and joy. Ultimately, rest is an extension of our contentment and security. Without them, simplicity and rest is difficult, if not impossible. Stop focusing on what you don’t have and start enjoying the things you do (tweet that).
2. Plan your rest
Rest will come only from intentional planning and planning rest will come only if it is truly desired. Put it on your calendar. Learn to say no to any tasks that attempt to take precedent. Plan out your day of rest by choosing creative activities that are refreshing and encourage relationships. Understand that true rest is different than just not working. As the Cat in the Hat wisely said, “It is fun to have fun but you have to know how.” Avoid housework. Plan meals in advance to help alleviate cooking responsibilities. And by all means, turn off your television and email.
3. Take responsibility for your life
You are not a victim of your time demands. You are the creator and acceptor of them. Refuse to complain or make excuses. Change your habits instead. Remember, you are only as busy as you choose to be. Leave “if only” excuses to the kids. If needed, alert your employer about your desire for rest and tell them you will be unavailable on that particular day.
4. Embrace simplicity
Embrace a lifestyle that focuses on your values, not your possessions. It is difficult to find rest when the housework is never finished, the yard needs to be mowed, or the garage needs to be organized.
5. Include your family
It is much easier to practice the discipline of concentrated rest if your family is practicing it too. The fact that this gets more difficult as your kids get older should motivate you to start as soon as possible.
6. Live within your income
A debtor is a slave to his creditor. It is difficult to find rest for your mind when you are deep in debt. The constant distress of your responsibility to another may preclude you from truly enjoying a day off. It is possible; it’s just more difficult. Don’t overspend your income, live within it.
7. Realize the shallow nature of a results-oriented culture
If you live in a results-oriented culture where productivity alone is championed, rest is counter-cultural. And thus, the saying goes, “If you rest, you rust.” Rest may even be seen as a sign of weakness by others. Unfortunately, that view of humanity’s role in this world is shallow. It is true that many of the benefits from concentrated rest are not tangible; but then again, only a fool believes all good things can be counted.
Rabbi Elijah of Vilna once said, “What we create becomes meaningful to us only once we stop creating it and start to think about why we did so.” The implication is clear. We could live lives that produce countless widgets, but we won’t start truly living until we stop producing and start enjoying.
Capture the lost practice of taking rest and start living again.