Talking about the importance of REST is one of my favorite topics. It always amazes me how so many people (women and men alike, but probably more women than men) have so much trouble in finding the time and space to simply rest. I started to become aware of the importance of incorporating different forms of rest throughout the day for me after I became a mother. More precisely, after I became a mother for the second time. As a young mother of only one child, I used to push my boundaries and feel the effects of it not so intensely after the fact. I used to work, study and party hard. I rested little.
By the time my second child was born, I felt a strong need to cultivate and invite more rest into my life. I was on my journey of becoming a stay-at-home mom, and taking care of two children (a baby and a 7-year-old), the house and myself was sometimes draining. I struggled a lot to allow myself to take naps or engage in activities that were nourishing for me, for example. But eventually, there was no way around, I just needed to rest more. So I started doing the simplest thing I could: nap whenever I got the chance. And that was the beginning of a whole journey into making myself a priority while I was mothering two more other kids that came after that, a move to South East Asia and the beginning of my work in serving women and families in their childbearing years.
I realized that part of my own difficulty in letting go of control and inviting more pleasure and rest into my life had to do with what has been going on from an outside source: this pressure that we have all been subject to in our modern world where "more is better" and that we should always be doing something, producing and having goals and succeeding. There's nothing wrong in doing useful things with our time and wanting to do better, to achieve a goal, that is not what I'm implying. What I'm saying is that this kind of orientation is very masculine and has been detrimental to women's bodies, more specifically, because of the lack of rest and an understanding of the importance of rest in our lives in general.
Obviously, we are all masculine and feminine, and this has nothing to do with gender identity or sexual preferences. What it means is that they are different energies and that yes, all of us must cultivate these energies within our bodies and lives so we can find balance. But what we have been witnessing in our modern society is an imbalance of these energies and a predominance of the male principles, which are more active, straight-forward, left-brain oriented and follow the daily rhythm of the Sun. In contrast, the female principles are more to do with responsiveness, more subjective, more right-brain oriented and truly follow the cycles of the Moon. There is a lot to be explored in just naming characteristics of these two principles, but I will be focusing more on rest as a form of feminine expression and nourishment for us.
When we observe the cycles of nature, the seasons, for example: we notice a pattern. There's a time to begin life, sprout, start to grow and flourish (Spring); there's a time to be in its magnifecne and enjoy the warmth and the abundance of fruits (Summer); then there's a time where all begins to shed, and get cooler and start to turn inwards (Autumn); and finally there's a time to hibernate, stay still and die (Winter) so that Nature will rebirth itsel back again in the cycle when Spring comes back! If we look at women's menstrual cycles from an energetic perspective, we can make this correlation as well: our inner spring is when we're coming out of our menses, or bleeding or menstruation, and we are like new leaves or new babies - archetype of Maiden; then we come into full manifestaion of our creative power when we're preparing to ovulate and ovulation occurs, which would be our inner summer - the archetype is that of Mother; when estrogen begins to wear off and progesterone rises (our lutheal phase of our cycle and when conception hasn't occurred of course), we're in our inner autunm and there's a natural need to draw inwards and usually a call for more REST from our bodies the archetype is the Wild Woman; finally, our bodies release the mentrual blood bringing us into our inner winter, where we must "die"- the archetype is that of the Crone - so that we can be reborn once the bleeding stops and we're back into our inner spring.
Every menstrual cycle is an opportunity for us to slow down and heal whatever needs tending in our lives. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, women have three major opportunities to heal in their lives: menarche, the postpartum period, and menopause. If we consider every bleeding as a mini-postpartum period, we can begin to see the importance of starting to acknowledge every single mentrual cycle in our lives as an opportunity to heal with rest and adequate nourishment (physical, emotional and spiritual). After an abortion or a miscarriage, the woman is also postpartum, and will require extra amount of rest, as well as time and space to grieve her loss. Then you may be asking yourself how to honor every one of your cycles if you're busy all the time? Well, it does require a change in perspective and a willingness to change your lifestyle and live more accordingly to your inner rhythm (especially if you're a woman) which follows that of nature and the Moon cycles.
Human beings in general at this point in time are so overworked, stressed and tired that most of the time, people in general, don't really know what to do in order to feel rested and reset. For women, specifically, what I'm suggesting is to start honoring your menstrual cycles and your body's needs for deeper rest following the rhythm of your Moon, or menses, to start off with. I believe we can really shift this culture of overdoing and being stressful if we start here and if we start talking more about this, as well as offering postpartum support in any capacity to the biggest number of mothers in our communities that we can. If I start to cultivate practices that allow me to rest, reset and nourish myself as a woman, I can share this with my friends, my sisters, my clients, everybody, so that people start awakening to this basic human need. Eventually, we will have a culture that is more balanced, and that honors the feminine aspects of life which have to do with nurturing the body, mind and spirit so that we can all thrive as humans on this planet.
When we don't give our body the rest it requires, things may start to get off track. For instance, our immunity goes down and we're more prone to "catching" things that are out there, which normally we wouldn't. I believe many auto-immune dis-eases start because we don't rest enough. For women, menses can become painful, which can potentially be a symptom that something else is going on. Especially after postpartum, problems associated with lack of adequate rest can result in organ prolapse and incontinence (either continuous or under stress), just to name a couple. If it was a surgical birth, then pain in the incision and a longer period for it to heal may occur. These symptons may not manifest immediately, but later in life. If we want to have pelvic health for life, for example, it's important to start cultivating practices that will give our body the best chance for a healthy life as of now. Start as soon as you can. it's never too late to love yourself in the form of REST.
Rest can look and feel different for people, of course. But I'd like to give some examples so that you start to feel inspired to try things out and see what works for you in this moment in your life. Also keep in mind that your needs will change and shift as the dynamics and circumstances of your life will also change and shift. Life is a dynamic dance that requires fluidity and an ability to readapt, reinvent one's self, modify things so that balance can be restored. A very easy example that comes to mind is when a woman becomes a mother for the first time, or the second time: the demands are different, what used to work for her may not work anymore... So it's important to have a willingness to explore and find something new that will meet your current demands.
To cultivate rest and invite nurturing into your life, there are simple things you can do: enjoy a warm cup of tea (or coffee) by yourself from begining to end while it's still warm. Taking long showers and/or baths are another way to release tension and engage with your emotional body and reset. Anytime in our life that we're in need for healing, hands-on work such a full body massage - well I'm lucky with this one because my husband has healing warm hands and likes to offer me this gift sometimes, and I also do it on him - can work wonders. I've found that the regular practice of meditation over the years, together with somatic body scans, such as Yoga Nidra, for full body relaxation have been paramount in my own journey to learn how to rest and heal. These are examples of restorative rest, and there are plenty of good guided meditations out there that can support you in learning how to do this. I've been using the app Insight Timer for years, and I think it's great. Being in nature is possibly the most effective, simplest, and cheapest way of resting. Nature heals, whether it's the ocean, a walk in wilderness, gazing at a mountain, gazing at the stars at night, bathing in a river or waterfall, or maybe just simply walking barefoot in a park and grounding your energy there, whatever is available to you, really.
It doesn't have to be a fancy and expensive vacation anywhere. Instead, it's more like inviting these moments into your life daily, and especially when we're preparing to receive our menstruation. And while you're bleeding, just take it slowly. Ask for help, maybe prepare food in advance ( I could talk about nutrient-dense foods for hours, but I'll leave it to another opportunity), walk slower, and if you can do nothing at tall for a couple of days, then do as little as possible and see how your body feels. This is a practice that will set you on the right path for when you are postpartum yourself and in need of your community and village support. We can't do it all, and preparing to be loved, taken care of and tended to is like remothering ourselves. You know, all this is for us to feel loved, just like our mothers have loved us! We must mother ourselves now, so that we can continue to grow, flourish and thrive on this beautiful Mother Earth planet of ours.
Do you have a comment or a question about this topic? You can send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or write a comment below.
Resources for this post:
*Wild Feminine, by Tami Lyn Kent;
*The Fifth Vital Sign, by Lisa Hendrickson-Jackson
*Her Blood is Gold, by Laura Owen
*Wild Power by Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer and Alexandra Pope
*Innate Traditions Postpartum Training, with Rachelle Garcia Seliga