The spiritual requirement of down time — and how to plan more and frenzy less

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We shouldn’t, but we often feel lazy for taking a little time to play.

I almost always feel guilty. It's as if the world will stop turning if I watch one of the five Bones episodes patiently waiting on my DVR rather than washing clothes/dusting/cleaning toilets/reorganizing my studio/running a list of errands.

So we keep our rest time a secret. I’m not going to tell my friends/spouse/family/coworkers about that one hour I had between work and picking up the kids where I simply sat on my bed and did nothing until it was time to spring back into action.

In truth, our spiritual/emotional/analytical well-being is tied to our ability to rest with kavanah. Intentional downtime is important — and I dare say necessary. It’s a spiritual requirement.

Even G_d rested the seventh day.

Part of our struggle comes from our definitions of approved rest activities versus what we consider wasting time.

My husband loves a power nap — and occasionally a longer mid-day rest.

My younger sister enjoys eating or drinking something warm, like soup or hot cocoa. She also loves the luxury of a pedicure while reading a People magazine. My youngest sister likes to get her nails done and go shopping alone, to read a mindless magazine — and travel to the beach.

I rest with the most intention while I’m at the beach. I’m not sure if it’s the warmth of the sun on my shoulders, the feeling of the sand under foot, the smell of salted ocean air, the rustling breeze or the sound of the waves rolling or crashing along. Something about the multisensory experience of the white sand, sun and ocean permeates my soul.

Resting with intention requires more than big plans, more than an expensive and time-restricted vacation. It must be incorporated into the large and small of everyday life.

Skipping down time can cause small problems, like forgetting to have your brand new kinder girl complete her first-ever homework assignment on time — or more serious health issues, like migraines. {I may or may not have experience with the aforementioned situations.}

If you need convincing, check out the University of Washington’s CareLink tips “The importance of rest and relaxation” at https://www.washington.edu/admin/hr/benefits/publications/carelink/tipsheets/rest-relax.pdf.

Strategies I’m developing for more intentional downtime include:

  • Saying ‘no’ to others and myself. We often recognize the need to decline an invitation or opportunity to avoid overload when others apply pressure, yet overlook the pressure we apply to ourselves. I recently sought advice from a dear friend and he said, repeatedly: “Less is more here. Remember that. Less is more.”
  • Resting my mind. I don’t watch movies almost ever, and I rarely watch much TV, but I love finding the Bones folder on my DVR full of new episodes — and am truly grateful when I can find time to watch two episodes back-to-back. Others play Candy Crush or read romance novels or start a new series on Netflix — we all have our preferences.
  • Sleep. Let’s all just agree not to have a one-up-each-other contest about who slept least last night. {Because I, of course, will join in enthusiastically and then feel bad about the setback.}
  • Reducing caffeine intake. {I can hear those of you who know me well making a mental note to avoid me for the next week.}

Change is hard and I struggle to avoid slipping back into old habits. To that end, please share your favorite downtime activities — and your big and small strategies for incorporating intentional rest into daily life using the comment button at the bottom of this post.

I mean it. Comment below, write on The Kavanah Life Facebook page or send me a Tweet. You can even be brief.

Wishing you peace this Sabbath and always,

Amy

Amy A. Ritchart is returning to the arduous task of watching Bones “The Drama in the Queen” {yes, I know, I’m behind} before heading out to enjoy a cookout with friends. Find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/kavanahlife, on Twitter and Instagram @thekavanahlife and write to her at thekavanahlife@gmail.com.