“I remember I was feeling very blissful,” she says. “I had ten different projects I was working on that I was excited about.” The company’s owner interrupted her bliss by stopping her in the hallway and asking her why she wasn’t running around frantically like everyone else in the office.
“Oh, this is so interesting,” she remembers thinking. “You are so invested in grind culture that you don’t see I’m more productive than anyone in the office—because I’m rested. You expect to be able to see chaos.”
The foundation of mental, physical, and spiritual health is rest. But “we live in a culture that rest shames us from a very young age,” says Karen Brody, author of Daring to Rest. “Rest, to me, is the most radical act you can do. It takes courage to change a paradigm. It’s daring because you will be shamed—perhaps by people you love.”
Surrender to the Yin Time
Josefa Rangel is an internist who practices intuitive medicine. Working in high-pressure San Francisco, she sees patients who are exhausted and struggling, even though they are young, eat well, and exercise. The missing ingredient is rest.
Rangel’s credentials include a medical degree from Stanford and a fellowship at the CDC. She acknowledges the important role of conventional medicine. But resting well requires a whole different approach. “It’s not a laundry list—do these ten things. It’s more poetic. Surrender to the darkness. Surrender to the yin time. ... Allow yourself to be in a state of rest, of non-doing. Your whole nervous system starts to unfold.”
Stanley uses similar language: “You’re prioritizing your own self-care, your own self-love. ... Rest is a very feminine, nurturing, soothing practice. You take the masculine edges offof the idea that rest is something that you’re going to do.”
Brody emphasizes that “you can be fierce and a leader, and you can be tender and soft.”
How divorced is rest from the current medical paradigm? Consider that during the grueling, years-long slog of medical training, doctors are “enculturated to not be in touch with our own bodily needs, to deprioritize those, and to put the patients needs far above our own. It’s seen almost as weakness if you need to stop to get a meal,” Rangel says.
Many studies confirm that medical doctors aren’t particularly healthy. For example, doctors have higher rates of alcohol and prescription drug abuse than the general population. And despite an advanced, costly medical system, Americans as a whole aren’t particularly healthy, either.
While poor diets and lack of exercise are huge factors, it’s worth noting that a lack of rest compounds both of these problems, throwing the chemicals that signal hunger out of sync and sapping energy. A lack of rest also contributes to ... well, just about every possible physical or mental malady.
So let’s rest. It just takes some courage and an embrace of the softer side of wellness.
Life-Changing, Life-Saving Rest
“My kids were in a preschool,” Brody remembers. “There was a yoga studio across the street. I went in thinking I was going to take a bendy-stretchy yoga class. Then I saw women lying down with blankets and pillows over their eyes, looking like they were taking the best nap of their lives. I just thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I need that. I want whatever they’ve got.’ ... That class, which was a Yoga Nidra Mehta sleep meditation class, changed my life.”
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