Permission to Rest

An ongoing struggle of mine is giving myself permission to rest without guilt. Doing nothing strangely involves much work and it feels easy to see why I’m driven to constantly be moving. Earlier this week in graduate group, the topic of non-doing came up. It seems that a judgement would surface when the skill to practice in the situation was to simply observe. Even as I write this blog, I notice judgements of the simplicity of the teaching. People often look to therapists, to me, for some sort of answer, and very often my response is to “just” observe. Notice it, feel it, sit with it, and stay with it. Essentially, to “just be” and do nothing. Once suggested, this response is usually met with a sigh or an eye roll (i’m guilty of this as well).

Some of you have heard me talk about a physical pain i’ve had in my neck and shoulders for the past year and a half. I went to chiropractors, orthopedic doctors, got new pillows, tried various masseuses, meditated, practiced various styles of yoga, took medication, went to physical therapy-and here I am almost two years later, icing the same spot that felt on fire back then. I tried to do as much as possible to “fix” my problem. This week, at the recommendation of one doctor I got a massage on sunday and another one on friday, and felt a sense of relief that someone else told me it was “okay” to do that, because if not i’m like “who get’s two massages in one week, take it down a notch Shaelene”.  Then post massage, I talk to each of the masseuses (weird word to say) and hope that they will validate the physical pain by saying things like “yeah you are really tight, you should come in for a longer session,  you will need to come back again”-you know, anything that assuages my guilt of this “indulgence”. Perhaps instead of judging my responses, I can practice what I preach by asking myself what I need in this moment-to notice what my body is telling me and give it what it needs now. Observe, describe, rest.

At my previous job with Princeton House, I was a part of an amazing DBT team that would check in on burnout levels of low, moderate or high. I always felt that I had to “save” checking in as high for when I really felt it (likely a symptom of my doing mind behavior). Otherwise, I would judge my level of burnout by my body. For me, I wouldn’t allow myself to acknowledge burnout unless my body was physically screaming for me to stop, slow down, sit still. Anyway, this weekend not only came off two massages, but it also came off of a Disney Vacation-so i thought-who am I to be complaining about feeling tired, and having a “done” mood? More judgements=more skills to apply.

Friday evening I was supposed to have friends over, but they ended up being canceled.  I felt a bit relieved though again, guilt crept in for having the thought “thank goodness, I just want to do nothing”. I had my massage, enjoyed the down time with Chris and went to sleep. The neck thing has lead to many nights of restless sleep, early wake ups and more pain in the day, so it was nice to not wake up on Saturday until around 10:30 or so.  (Oh! And I forgot to mention I had this weird shoulder pain Friday that lead to a struggle putting my hair up on my own-this was my “permission” to miss yoga the next day (Saturday). Anyway, Saturday I finally woke up and felt relieved that I slept like a zombie. It was in fact quite hard to get out of bed. I didn’t do much, and aside from eating downstairs, I was back in bed and stayed there until sometime in the afternoon. I canceled some plans sunday with a friend because the shoulder pain was worse, and slept quite late today too. Each day, I noticed the need to validate my judgements with “you’re in pain, you’re tired, you do enough, it’s ok”. More skills in non-doing.

Without boring you further with the mundane lack of activity this weekend, my point in writing is this-rest, relaxation, and doing nothing are a part of a healthy life. It’s also not easy, so give up the judgements. I went to insight timer for my morning meditation and smiled as I saw “Permission to Rest” (thought: Yes please!). The woman talked about allowing yourself permission to rest, and not feel guilty about it because you need it. I am lucky to have an awesome DBT team member Sarah that is a therapist in South Carolina, and she once reminded me, “you don’t have to wait until your hurting to acknowledge that your feeling burnout”. This is what I would tell her, others, and clients as well, so I could trust that it was the most wise mind way of seeing things. The graduate group had also acknowledged the feeling that comes up when doing nothing is the answer, and that it feels like we aren’t doing “something” when we “should” be. It is quite the opposite I think. Doing nothing can be incredibly difficult because it involves you sitting with urges to do more, with urges to satisfy others around you, to detach yourself from your judgements. This quote reminds me of the effort it takes to keep yourself in a space of being and non-doing:

“Everything takes time. Bees have to move very fast to stay still.”-David Foster Wallace

Intention for today-to consider my motives for being vs. doing, and to ensure that whatever the action, that it come from a place of self compassion and nurturance instead of judgement. Skills to use: Observe, wise mind, loving kindness, non judgmental stance, self validation-sounds like a lot of skills for doing “nothing”, right?

Still in pajamas,


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