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Rest. That four letter word we feel guilty about committing with so much on our to-do plates. Our internal running monologues is saying, “I should be doing this or that. If I don’t have this done just right my co-workers, family or friends will think less of me.” But will they? And if they do, does it really matter in the big scheme of things?

I often refer to rest as my deep, dark chocolate layer. It’s the time I discover what does matter to me. Meditative rest can empty our minds of the mundane thoughts and allow clarity and compassion for ourselves to arise.

While our brains are active during both sleep and rest, we are not in control of our thoughts during sleep. However, we are in-charge of our thoughts during rest. It is a time to actively practice taking control of, re-framing and validating our feelings and actions.

By learning to watch our thoughts and approach our reactive mind with compassion while at rest, we create tools and healthy patterns for responding to negative emotions and situations that arise in ourselves and in reaction to others.

Meditation is one approach to rest that can be performed in multiple ways. If you are new to meditation, a gentle approach is a style known as single pointed focus. This method provides a visual focal point to attract the mind, but not so intense that the mind becomes agitated.

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For example, try lighting a candle in an otherwise dimly lit room. You may find setting a timer is helpful in the beginning, especially if you are integrating your practice into an otherwise busy morning or evening routine.  Sit comfortably so you can view and smell the candle. While looking at the flame, engage your senses. Try discerning the various colors of the flame or focus on the scent as you slowly breath in. If thoughts arise, acknowledge them and then let them pass. Your only concern for the next five minutes is the dancing flame before you.

You may also find that initially a guided meditation app is helpful, especially if you find silence distracting. Two of my personal favorites are: Headspace and Breathe. They both have free and premium memberships.

Start small for short periods of time. If possible designate a time of day, even for five minutes to engage in a restorative meditation. When you can integrate a positive lifestyle shift, such as rest, into an existing routine, you will be more likely to stick to it. At first, you may consider taking one entire minute to savor that first sip of coffee or tea.

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Increase the time you spend meditating naturally. Maybe start to linger an extra 30 seconds or a minute here and there. You will be surprised how quickly the initial five minutes that seemed to pass so slowly becomes fifteen minutes without even trying. You may even find yourself craving meditation time in place of watching television. Instead of feeling more exhausted and becoming one with the couch, you will feel restored and become one with your true self.

Deep breath…further meditation and rest practices to come.