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  • Peta Hawker

Resting even when it's hard

What is rest? A chance for our whole being to come to complete stillness, not necessarily in sleep, so that healing can occur. Why then do we so easily push resting aside?

I'm a restorative yoga teacher. In fact, it's my favourite 'type' of yoga to teach. I've seen the power of deep rest in my students, seen how it has the ability to nurture and support the body and mind throughout the most traumatic times. And I've experienced the healing benefits myself - I adore this practice.

What I struggle with is acting on the call to rest. When my body says 'stop', I'm very good at not listening. Most people I know can relate. In our culture, we derive our sense of self-worth and purpose from our ability to push through our pain. We are taught that our success is only possible if we just.keep.going.

My biggest pause point is a crowd favourite - migraines. The routine for me looks like this: a day or two of tension headaches that some stretching and acupressure will ease off. Then a day or two of headaches that nothing relieves, and they last longer than a few hours. Then come the days when the headache is there when I wake up, and still there when I go to sleep. Within a few days, we're in the land of the migraine. Nausea, aversion to light, on occasion those fun little auras. The crushing weight of someone trying to squeeze your brains out of your skull. The absolute inability to do anything at all, sometimes for days, except lie in bed with a damp cloth over my eyes and pray for sleep.

For how many days can I push aside these constant headaches, ignoring them? For how many days can I keep showing up to my morning yoga practice, my daily walk or swim, my writing, my editing, my paid job, all while nursing a worsening headache? For how long can I do this when I know exactly where this path leads? Am I even being that productive when I write or edit while my head reels? Is my body strengthening when I exercise but sometimes need to stop because of the pain in my head?

The body gives us chances to pause, opportunities to rest if we choose to see them. Messages that say, hey, maybe we could rest now, before it gets worse.

Why are these the hardest messages to obey?

This has been the course of my week. I'm familiar enough with my headache/migraine patterning to know what was coming. For most of the week, I ignored the messages. If I want to publish a book, I have to edit for at least an hour a day. I have to write this novella so that I can build a following. Both of these facts are true. But they follow an arbitrary schedule that I've set up so that I can feel successful, accomplished, published.

The fact that I'm spending every single day working on my book, the first time this has happened since I was studying, should be enough. Or the sheer liberation of following my passion consistently, or the fire I feel in my heart when I write, should be enough. But we are trained otherwise. Not enough, is a mantra I think we all struggle with. What you put between the 'not' and the 'enough' is irrelevant. At the end of the day, nothing we think, create, or say, is going to be enough for those pervasive voices in our collective heads.

So by Friday, I decided to give in. I thought, well, if the migraine comes, I'll have to stop for a long time. Why not just spend a little bit of time resting now?

I spent some time on the weekend lying in bed, a cold, damp cloth over my eyes and head. Sometimes I slept. Sometimes I just lay there. The pain was enough by this point that thinking wasn't an option. I could simply be. Rest.

And by Sunday afternoon, after a couple of hours reading in bed (horizontal really does the trick for me!), I could tell that the migraine was no longer coming. I'd staved it off. I still feel a little tired, a little worn, but it could be much more painful. I've skipped a few editing sessions, a few writing time slots, a few bits of exercise, family and social life.

But you know what, that's okay. Despite what the world wants me to believe, my success isn't defined by whether I make six figures, or have a published book, or whatever other illusive material objectives my monkey-mind craves. My success is defined by how well I live each day, by how present I am to the needs of my body and mind, by my ability to allow the fluctuations of the many cycles that influence my life.

Some days are not for being creative. Some days are not for exercising. Some days are not for socialising.

Some days are for resting our over-stimulated minds, our under-nourished bodies, so that we can spend the rest of our lives creating, moving, and loving.

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