Rest as a Spiritual Practice

Posted by | July 01, 2016 | Miscellaneous | No Comments

I’ve posted about this (a lot), but I’ve been keeping myself pretty busy, lately. Most Sunday evenings, I look at my calendar and see that my week is fully scheduled – from when I wake up until dinner time. Between preparing for and teaching several yoga classes each week, actively drumming up business to grow my company, and spending time with my toddler (not to mention, staying married), I’m booked. When I have “free time,” it’s because I scheduled it in.

But something has been bothering me: I get almost no downtime or rest, and that doesn’t bother me, at all

This is not like me. I love down time with my friends and family. I deeply love to rest: I’m a voracious reader and love to journal. I love to meditate. I love all things navel-gazing.

So, to get some answers about why I’ve cycled rest completely out of my routine, join me in transcending through the Four States of Rest.

First State of Rest : STOP + EXCHANGE

There are Four States of Rest according to David Whyte.

In the First State of Rest, we give up on what we have been doing, or how we have been. We, simply, stop. This means shifting our attention from outer targets, and not into an inner, static bulls-eye, or some imagined perfect stillness, but to an inner state of natural exchange.

The Template of Natural Exchange is the breath. 

We are rested when we are a living exchange between what lies inside (inhale), and what lies outside (exhale).

The breath is also our template for the definition of rest:

Rest is an inner state of natural exchange

Second State of Rest: GROUNDING

The Second State of Rest is slowly coming home, a physical journey into the body and into yourself. This means stepping into a deep internal connection. To embark on this physical journey home, we ask ourselves:

how does rest help me to be safe?

I’m not using the term “safety” is as a state of freedom from danger or harm, but as a state of being. To be in a safe state is to be connected, in our bodies. This looks like grounding. Like a wild animal is always present, whose senses become heightened when danger enters his periphery, rest helps us to find our own deep connection, our own safe-status. How does rest help you to get grounded, to find a safe state?

  • My answers: rest helps me to get still, to identify how I feel (and not how I think other people want me to feel), to keep me playful and to keep me from hiding. All of those benefits of rest keep me safe, connected.

If the activity is not connecting me to myself, bringing me to my home that is my body, it is not rest. Checking out in front of the T.V. or in the bottom of a wine glass is not checking in, so it isn’t rest. It’s something else.

Third State of Rest: HEAL + ARRIVE 

Healing, self-forgiveness and arrival all complete the Third State of Rest. We ask ourselves:

why do we hold ourselves back from rest?

I know that my excuses for slicing rest out of my schedule include: I have no time/this is a waste of time; it’s lazy; I can get by without rest.

But, if I dig a little deeper, I find that I avoid rest, because I’m scared. Why am I scared? In the words of Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

I’m scared that if I get quiet and rest, I’m going to hear a call to embark on bigger things that might change my life and rock my comfortable world. It’s not a good reason to avoid rest, but it is one that we all share.

Can I forgive myself for being scared, for holding myself back from rest? Of course. We all do feel afraid of our own greatness. I can allow myself to heal by allowing my own reconnection.

how does rest help me to just be myself?

For rest to usher in our arrival, in stage three, we see how resting, how stopping and allowing that inner state of natural exchange, helps us find ourselves as we are today. It fuels us with energy to meet the world. It helps us find our feet on the ground.

Fourth State of Rest: GRATITUDE

In the Fourth State of Rest, deep in the primal exchange with the breath is the give and take of what is sacred about rest: blessing, and being blessed. And the ability to delight in both.

This is what makes rest a spiritual practice, meaning a practice for the benefit of our spirits. We ask ourselves two questions:


How am I a blessing?


How am I blessed?

Inhale (how am I a blessing?), and exhale (how am I blessed?). Inhale (how am I a blessing?), and exhale (how am I blessed?). Inhale (how am I a blessing?), and exhale (how am I blessed?). Inhale (how am I a blessing?), and exhale (how am I blessed?).

With each breath, we receive ourselves as a blessing (by showing up on our mats, by telling the truth, by sharing our stories, by smiling, by crying, by laughing) and with our exhale offer our gratitude (for being alive, for being part of this grand experiment, for having free will, for possessing any degree of health).

When I walk through these Four Stages of Rest, I see how I’m tucking my head into the sand when I avoid rest. Out of fear, I keep moving and moving and moving, because I’m scared that what I want is bigger than I believe myself capable of.

But when I engage in rest as a spiritual practice, I no longer miss out on not only the quiet messages directing my life and charting my course, or on the sacred exchange of receiving all of my many blessings, and embracing the myriad of ways that I’m a blessing, too.


About Laurie Beard

just another person doing something she loves

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