“For those just coming back from vacation, think carefully about what you are going to put your fresh, valuable mind to in your first few days. Value this resource highly. It may be your only chance to see the mountain you are on, to decide if you’re taking the right path up, or even if it’s the right mountain to be climbing at all.” ~ David Rock in Psychology Today
For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on clearing my mind more often during the day. The natural tendency for a busy mind is to work ever-harder to crack a problem or find an innovative solution. The yogic belief is that a clear, unburdened, relaxed mind is actually a more creative, efficient problem solver. And now that belief has a boost from hardcore science.
In September, David Rock wrote about the precious gift of a rested mind. When rested, the mind is able to make associations and connections between seemingly disparate pieces of information that a busy mind cannot discern. A break from our work, particularly if that break involves an activity that has nothing to do with the problem we are trying to solve, can be extraordinarily beneficial. A busy mind will run in a closed circuit, making it difficult to develop a break out idea or solution. A rested mind that gets off-track for a bit gives us a better shot at finding the “aha!” we’re looking for.
This same logic holds true for the need to physically rest the mind more than most of us do. Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post is waging a public sleep challenge over at Huffingtonpost.com. (You can view her latest progress report here.) For the New Year, her resolution is to sleep 8 hours per night.
In the New Year, my goal is to be in my bed, lights out, for a minimum of 7 hours. So far, I’ve been able to hold myself to that. If something I wanted to have done before midnight isn’t done, it just has to wait for tomorrow. I also let myself wake up slowly, giving myself a full 30 minutes to just enjoy the feeling of being fully refreshed in my warm, cozy bed. This little trick has allowed me to feel much more aware as I head out the door and into the world.
For freelance writers with a computer-focused day job, it can be tough to break away from the screen. Yet, I find that I need, and even crave, that time away. My eyes need the rest and my writing is of a much higher quality after a break. Practicing yoga is a perfect way to “get away” from it all as a daily ritual. When I step onto my yoga mat, I force myself to let go of any thoughts about work, writing, relationships, and my person to-do list. I just focus on my breath and body; everything else has to wait. That mat is like an oasis for me, a respite from the busy world where I live most of my waking hours.
This idea of an oasis on my yoga mat got me even more excited about my yoga training. For 200 hours over the course of 3 months, my mind will be at rest; it will stop running in circles and I will focus only on my own body and the principles of living a yogic life. Come May, when the training concludes, I expect to wake up feeling more rested and at ease than I ever have in my life. What a gift!