Mindfulness can support this kind of rest in a number of ways. One of the ways it does this is by helping us bring kind and curious awareness to our mind and body, and by encouraging us to be compassionate toward our self. When we look at our self with compassion, we begin to notice all the wonderful and miraculous ways our body and mind support us. We’ll also see that our body and mind are probably in need of more rest, and this awareness can move us to care for our self.
Our days are filled with so much to do that we often find ourselves too busy to rest or take a break. In fact, there are some who see business as a status symbol to be proud of. Others see it as the “disease of being ‘busy’ (and let’s call it what it is: the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease). These attitudes are spiritually destructive to our health and well-being. They sap our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and they keep us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.” One reason we’re all so busy is that, for many of us, leisure time and work time are becoming the same thing. An Atlantic article describing the way many spend leisure time explains: “Thanks to smartphones and computers, leisure activity is leaking into work, and work, too, is leaking into leisure.” In other words, when we’re at work we likely check our social media accounts, and when we’re at home we probably check our work e-mail.
Another way to look at this is to consider whether the breaks we take actually give us a restful moment. Checking social media, or getting an update on a work project, or filling up our mind with any amount of busyness and worry—such as thinking about our to-do lists—doesn’t help us rest. Multitasking is a bad habit when we’re working, let alone when trying to rest. During breaks, what our mind could really use is rest or stillness.
Oftentimes we simply distract our self (or numb our self) from stress, or inject another type of busyness into our life. For example, getting lost in a book or in a favorite TV show can be a rewarding way to spend leisure time, but it might not be helping us find lasting peace of mind. If escaping, rather than engaging, our stressors is the only way we cope with them, we won’t get meaningful rest—or worse, we add more worry and stress to our life.
When we bring our full awareness to what our body and mind are feeling, with care and attention, we can see what troubles us. We can also notice what helps to restore and heal us. When we can see where we hold tension in our body, we are better equipped to make good choices: We might opt to take a nap or a warm bath, get a message or acupuncture, take a restorative yoga class, practice tai chi or qigong, or find other ways that aid our body in releasing stress and tension.
We must also take care of our mind, because if our mind is preoccupied or filled with stress we may not fully relax. In other words, if you are getting a very soothing massage but your mind is frantic with a million thoughts, you’lll still feel lots of tension in the body due to stress. Finding ways to help our mind rest takes practice. Mindfulness activities can help us slow down the pace of our thoughts and gain greater perspective, which ultimately will help manage our stress and the way our body and mind respond to stress.
For more information on how to be better at stress, check out these resources from The New York Times.
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ABOUT ARGOS GONZÁLEZ:
Argos Gonzalez is a teacher, lecturer, and mindfulness and yoga instructor. He has 13 years of experience teaching high school in the Bronx and teaches pre-service and in-service teachers at Hunter College School of Education in NY. Argos is certified through both Mindful Schools and Little Flower Yoga (LFY), and currently serves as the director of professional development for The School Yoga Project, a program of LFY. For more information about Little Flower Yoga and The School Yoga Project, visit www.littlefloweryoga.com. Contact Argos by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.