Deep Rest

How exactly does one rest?

As I have had occasion to mention before (here and here), the Caped Gooseberry and I have different ways of relaxing, and this was something we were advised to address in our pre-marriage counselling. (Counselling: not necessarily because you have problems, but because you want to avoid having problems.)

potatoes with faces on tiny couch

The Caped Gooseberry finds strategy games relaxing. His hobby: thinking about stuff. (Makes him very hard to buy presents for, let me tell you.) I, on the other hand, find strategy games about as relaxing as running for a bus. In the rain. In badly fitting shoes. But I do like watching DVDs (not restful at all for the Caped Gooseberry) and reading (silently, to myself). All about the stories, me.

Except…

Well, it’s been rather a stressful year, hasn’t it? Even for those of us who live in relatively unscathed parts of the world, pandemic-wise. And with all that I’ve had going on this year – publishing two books, planting a vegetable garden, starting to sew my own clothes, being on three committees (and taking minutes for two of them) – I have been getting quite tired. The kind of tired where a day of leisure activities doesn’t quite make up for the six days of busyness which preceded it.

A reclining lady with a fan by Eleuterio Pagliani (1826-1903)
Stick a fork in me, I’m done.

And this is where deep rest comes in. Deep rest is what you do when ordinary resting doesn’t cut it. When you don’t want to do anything that will cause the hours to flow by any faster. Deep resting is what you do when you need your mind, your body, your spirit to experience every moment of your time of rest.

But deep rest looks different for different people. For me, when I need deep rest, I find myself recoiling from screens. I don’t usually have my computer on during my day of rest, but deep rest calls for no time spent watching DVDs, or even sending messages on my phone.

Most days in the last, oh, thirty years, have involved me reading. I read a great deal, and find it very restful – especially re-reading classic mysteries from the Queens of Crime. But on days when I seek deep rest, I read relatively little – possibly even less than a normal working day. Instead, I find myself drawn to quiet handwork for hour after hour. Knitting, perhaps, or the slow intricacies of cross-stitch.

incomplete cross-stitch

Deep rest can also be practiced in smaller chunks. I’ve reasserted the habit of giving myself a full hour for dinner in the middle of the day. If dinner and its attendant rites are all over by 1:40, I wait until 2 before getting back to work. Those twenty minutes of rest – reading, perhaps, on a not too tired day; staring into space as my mind slowly unspools on a deep-rest-needing day – make all the difference to my physical and psychological state when I resume work.

As for the Caped Gooseberry, his deep rest (so far as I can tell) involves quietly losing consciousness. Or then again, he could just be thinking. Hard to tell.

How do you deep rest? Or is it time you gave it a try?

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