I’m not really “type A.”
But like a lot of folks these days, I’ve been groomed to push myself toward achievement in most areas of my life. It seems that, in the current culture, it’s no longer cleanliness that we deem closest to Godliness; it’s busy-ness. If our Google calendars aren’t a veritable rainbow of appointments and meetings, if we’re not constantly exhausted and worn down, we must be lazy or falling behind somewhere.
Not only is this constant push toward over-doing affecting adults, it’s clearly being transmitted to the next generation. When kids aren’t at school, they’re at a sport’s practice, a music lesson, a tutoring session, a club meeting, a study group gathering…
Of course, none of these things are negative on their own, but when they’re all taken together, it raises the question: where is the time to unwind? I’ve lost count of how many children and adolescents I work with who have wearily told me their pages-long weekly schedule. I once let a young teen lay on her yoga mat for an entire class because she had a fever, but still had to get to a swimming lesson after our class ended at 7 p.m.
I do spend a lot of time with kids, but I teach yoga to everyone—preschoolers, teens, 20-somethings, middle-aged folks, even baby boomers. A common thread I’ve noticed throughout these diverse groups is that a great number of my students, young and old, report savasana (or “rest,” or “that part where we lay down”) to be their favorite aspect of class. Yes, there are certainly members of the business crowd who tiptoe out when the lights go dim, but in my eight years of teaching, I’ve come to understand that for the lion’s share of yogis, savasana reigns supreme. And rightly so! I often joke in class, “When else does someone let you to lay down for 10 minutes?”
The thing is, if we let ourselves, we could do this at any time (okay, maybe not during a meeting or in the produce department). I think the key word here is “let.” When your teacher stands before you and tells you it’s time to rest, you have just been given permission to do so. You’re allowed. You are told that it is okay, in that moment, to simply be.
As my personal practice has evolved with study, experience, and age, I’ve come to fully embrace the extraordinary importance of giving myself that kind of permission. This brings me to the point of this piece: I want to empower everyone who reads this to grant themselves the time and space to step back, unwind, and let themselves be.
I want all of us to welcome the radical idea that living a full life and loving oneself means allowing that time to chill.
Give yourself permission to stop taking calls and emails after work hours so you can sit outside and chat with family. Allow yourself to take time to rest after meals. Grant yourself the mental space to put aside a stressful situation and deal with it when you have the time and energy to process. You are allowed to skip the gym after a long day. It’s okay to say “no” to a project or a social engagement solely on the basis of not feeling like it. Forgo a utilitarian shower in the morning for a leisurely bath in the evening. Accept that, every once in awhile, you can let someone else do the cooking. Embrace the relaxed feeling of sitting to meditate or making tea first thing in the morning, before gazing into the light of your phone. Take a bike ride without anywhere to go. Unplug for an entire weekend so you can read a book cover to cover. Leave space in your agenda for doing nothing, and don’t feel guilty about it.
We have such precious few moments on this earth, ask yourself if all of this time consuming chatter is serving your dharma, your purpose here.
If nothing else, I implore you to ask yourself: what is this lifestyle teaching your children, our children? From where I sit, it seems the lesson is that our value as people is directly tied to your obligations. Grace, humility, presence of mind—none of these matter if you’re not running yourself ragged. This notion has become so ingrained that we don’t even realize it’s happening.
Ask yourself, when is the last time you (or your child) had an entire weekend without commitments? When is the last time you took a nap, or a bath? These are important activities for nurturing the body, the mind, the spirit. It’s no secret how deeply healing mindfulness is. But is it even possible to be mindful when you’re living in a never-ending whirlwind of commitment?
So please dear reader, give yourself—and your children—permission to rest.
Author: Chelsea Brown
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman