Intentional rest

This week’s Self-care Sunday post features author and blogger Michelle DeRusha. She explains how a five-minute-a-day habit can help us prepare for the new year and make permanent changes in our spiritual self-care routine.

Too Busy to Remember

Last spring toward the end of the school year, I called my son’s school to have him dismissed later that morning for an orthodontist’s appointment. An hour or so later I was out for my morning jog when my cell phone rang. It was the receptionist at the middle school. “You called earlier to have your son Noah dismissed for an orthodontist’s appointment at 11:30,” she said, “but according to our records, Noah is no longer at this school. We show he’s now a sophomore at the high school.”

Learn how intentional rest can create the space you need to find your true self (no matter what your age). #identity #TrueYou #Selfcare #rest

There was a long pause, me breathing like a Clydesdale into the phone, still breathless from my jog, while I struggled to process what the receptionist on the other end of the line was saying. Noah wasn’t at that school? What in the world was she talking about?

And then, suddenly, everything clicked. I had called the wrong school to have my son dismissed earlier that morning. I had called the school my son has not been a student at for two years.

This is what distraction looks like. This is what running in six different directions, juggling too many balls, balancing too many plates – whatever euphemism you prefer – looks like. You call the school your son hasn’t attended in two years to have him dismissed for an orthodontist’s appointment.

The receptionist was very kind when, bewildered and flummoxed, I stuttered out the fact, that, riiiiiight,…my son was now at the high school. I apologize, mortified. She even volunteered to call the high school on my behalf to have Noah dismissed. Clearly she thought I was not capable of getting my act together. And frankly, she was right.

Are You Hearing Wake-up Calls?

That incident was a major wake-up call for me. True, it wasn’t a huge deal. So I called the wrong school. It happens. And yet, I knew it was a red flag for me – a sign that I was hustling too hard and not taking nearly enough time to quiet my body, my mind and my soul on a regular basis.

I knew it was time to get back to my practice of daily intentional rest.

A year or so prior to that mortifying phone call, I had initiated a simple but pretty effective practice that had had a profound impact on my physical, emotional and spiritual health. Every afternoon when I walked my dog, I stopped with her to sit for five minutes on a park bench alongside the path.

I made a commitment that during those five minutes, I would not check my phone, or text or scroll the social media. I would not listen to a podcast or chat with my mom or Voxer a friend. I would simply sit in silence and observe my surroundings.

You wouldn’t think such a simple, short daily practice would have much of an impact. And yet, over time, this daily habit opened a space for reflection and stillness that slowly began to have a positive effect not just in those few minutes, but on my life overall.

Practicing Intentional Rest

Practicing intentional rest doesn’t need to be as all-encompassing as a day-long or a weekend silent retreat at a local monastery. Rather, I’m talking about something much simpler. Here are some tips for establishing your own daily practice of intentional rest:

  1. Start small. Five or ten minute of quiet stillness is plenty. You are much more likely to stick with a daily practice if you begin with a manageable amount of time.

  2. Integrate your intentional rest into an already-existing routine. Rather than trying to manufacture a whole new ritual, try to identify a sliver of time in your schedule that you could dedicate to a sort period of intentional rest.

  3. Keep it simple. The more complicated you make this practice, the more difficult it will be to keep it up. If you have to jump through too many hoops just to prepare to sit for five minutes, you may end up not sitting at all.

  4. Aim for 21 consecutive days. Research indicates that it takes a minimum of three weeks to form a new habit. Try not to skip a day during the first 21 days so you can establish a solid foundation for your new daily practice.  

  5. Be kind to yourself. Your mind will flit from thought to thought; you will be distracted, especially in the early days of beginning this practice. It’s okay. If your brain leaps ahead to the future or obsesses over something in the past, gently bring yourself back to the present moment by noticing what’s right in front of you.

As the writer and contemplative Evelyn Underhill wrote, “We mostly spend our lives conjugating three verbs: to want, to have, and to do. Craving, clutching and fussing, we are kept in perpetual unrest.” But there is another alternative. We can intentionally invite silence and solitude into our daily lives. We can make time for intentional rest.

Rest. We all need it. Find five practical steps to achieving it this year! #rest #selfcare Click To Tweet

BIO: A Massachusetts native, Michelle DeRusha moved to Nebraska in 2001, where she discovered the Great Plains, grasshoppers the size of chickens … and God. She’s the wife of an English professor who reads Moby Dick for fun and mom to two teenage boys and the laziest Corgi-beagle in the world. Michelle’s newest book, True You, releasing January 1, guides readers on a journey toward letting go in order to uncover their true God-created selves.

This post is adapted from True You: Letting Go of Your False Self to Uncover the Person God Created, by Michelle DeRusha, releasing January 1 from Baker Books.

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  1. I’m in the middle of reading this book and I am intrigued by the power of practising intentional rest even just for 5 minutes a day. It’s definitely something I’m going to try!

  2. I love the fact that five minutes can be a great starting point (and sometimes, a great ending point). It doesn’t take long to bring ourselves into awareness. Then hopefully it will stick longer and longer. Happy New Year!

  3. I am inspired by this because being intentional about rest is definitely something that I need to do. Thank you for sharing! Happy New Year and God bless you! 🙂

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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