Friday, July 01, 2005

An Invitation to Rest

When I was in kindergarten decades ago, we each had our own rug to spread out on the floor for rest time. My mother made my rug and stitched my name on it. I was quite proud of my peach and green mat.

Our teacher required everyone to lie down and close our eyes a few minutes each day. When the teacher tapped us on the head, we could get up. I didn't appreciate this forced activity as a five-year-old, but after moving into adulthood, I would have welcomed it.

In our performance-driven culture, it seems that periods of rest are not highly regarded. Many even think a good night's sleep can be shortchanged. Just think how much more we could all get done if we each denied ourselves a couple hours of sleep each night! But are productivity and performance our only goals?

I have run across several articles in recent months on the subject of sleep. Research is now touting the value of sleep in promoting good health. One study I read said, "Sleep Essential for Creativity." Scientists are now validating our need to be well-rested.

I'm not a scientist. Nevertheless, I am continually reminded of the importance of rest, both sleep at night and other short interludes of rest amidst our busy days. God rested on the seventh day after creating the world. God instituted the Sabbath rest so the Israelite nation would take a day off to worship and rest. In the New Testament, Jesus invited his disciples to "come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest for a while."

It's easy to to disregard our body's need for rest. Just last night I was tempted to stay up late to write this blog because I knew I had a full day ahead. I reminded myself to practice what I preach!

There are times where things beyond our control inhibit our sleep and ability to rest. To name a few: a new baby, illness, menopause, and unexpected emergencies. During times like these we cope the best we can. The problem is in letting this become a way of life---and then relying on four shots of espresso and adrenaline just to make it through the day.

Rest is an invitation to slow down, change our pace, take a deep breath, refocus our priorities,and refresh ourselves. So pull out your kindergarten mats---or tip your head back, close your eyes, and enjoy a few moments of "sacred idleness."

And tonight go to bed at a decent hour!

"To be well-rested is a blessing, not a waste of time."
-Richard A. Swenson, M.D., The Overload Syndrome

1 comment:

Alice said...

Before I retired I often thought it must be wonderful to be able to have an afternoon nap. Now that I am retired, I know it's wonderful. Unless it's very cold weather I am reluctant to actually lie down and take a nap but I often sit in the loungeroom, with a rug if it's a little chilly, and BEGIN to watch a movie or read a book. I say 'begin' because I know full well that within a few minutes I will be asleep. Even if I only snooze for 15 minutes it's often enough to give me the lift I need.

When my children were small they always had an afternoon nap and only gradually gave it up sometime between the ages of 4 and 5. Many mothers said to me "I wish my children would have an afternoon nap." The reason they didn't was because they were allowed to give it up. I found that not only were the children refreshed but it also gave me a couple of hours in which I could do things that may have been difficult with small children underfoot.