January 14, 2002
Homework That Heals - Rest
At any age, the growth process is dependent on the strength of the system that is growing. A system that is deprived uses all available resources just for maintenance. It will have little, if any, left over for the arduous task of growing or healing. If a system is extremely deprived, it will not even be able to maintain itself, and will go into a state of decline, further illness, and eventual death.
There are many ways to strengthen an organic system, and one of the most effective is rest. In a society obsessed with doing, it's often what you don't do that "does" the most good.
Think of your system as a home bank account. You deposit money in the account and withdraw it to pay your living expenses. If the withdrawals don't exceed the deposits, you can get by. If you want to renovate your house, however, you'll need more money in your account.
With our bodies, we deposit energy in the form of food, water, information, and sensation, and then withdraw it in the form of activity. We can use too much energy if we work too hard, too long, and try to do too much. We can also burn up a great deal of energy through conflict and stressful relationships and situations. Most people in modern society suffer in these ways. We often spend far more from our accounts than we are taking in.
A transformative process of growth requires an "account" with a good sized balance. To increase "income" we need to have a healthy diet rich in nutrients and low in toxins. We need to take in helpful, accurate information about ourselves and the world. These elements are touched on in the "Homework" series as Diet Adjustment, Reading, Journaling, Meditation, and Affection.
We also need to be sure that the account is in a stable "bank." To do this in our growth process, we need to exercise and be physically strong, flexible, and resilient. These elements are touched on in the "Homework" series as Movement and Expression.
Equally important, we must limit unnecessary expenditures - plug the holes in the bucket. The awareness that comes from Reading, Journaling, and Meditation will help us recognize our stresses and excessive activity.
One of the most fundamental elements that benefits our "account" on all levels, from increasing income to limiting spending, are the ways that we get rest.
Sleep increases energy and strengthens the system. Increasing or improving your sleep will advance the healing process without you having to do a single thing.
It takes tremendous attention to hold our daytime world in order and do all the things we do. When this monumental effort wears us out, we lose focus, fall asleep, and our attention drifts through the world of dreams. We relax our attention and gather energy for the next day.
If you find sleep boring, or a waste of time, try focusing on your dreams. Give yourself time in the morning to write them down right after you wake up. With regular practice, you'll be surprised how interesting sleep can become.
Most people are under the impression that seven hours of sleep is enough. For most of us that just isn't true. Without coffee and an adrenaline-addicted lifestyle, we'd sleep eight to ten hours a day, including naps. Although this is ancient knowledge, modern experiments have shown that people who are allowed to sleep more feel stronger and more alert. The amount of sleep you'll need will depend on how exhausting your life is. The issue isn't to follow numbers, but to sleep as much as you have to and "power nap" when you get the urge.
If you seem to sleep excessively as an escape, or conversely, if you have trouble with insomnia, you may have to work on the roots of these issues in session. Pay attention to your sleeping conditions - your mattress, the surrounding noise, the habits of your partner. Change whatever you can to get a better healthier sleep.
Rest & Relaxation
Besides sleep, we need to take it easy. If we are busy and agitated, the "money" pours out of our account, and our attempts at growth work often "mysteriously" stall.
Find ways to get off the treadmill for a bit, hopefully every day. Take simple little holidays from the busyness of life. Find time to sit or take walks. Breathe deeply. Get comfortable and stretch out. See if you can even let yourself have a break from thinking for a few minutes. Enjoy what's around you. Taking breaks will give you a chance to tune in to your body and see how it's doing.
If it's hard to stop, or you notice a great deal of anxiety and guilt if you do, you may be a "do-aholic" - somebody who escapes inner pain by keeping busy. You may discover that breaks involving movement are more relaxing. In any case, this condition is a serious strain on your system and will need to be addressed in your growth work.
Stresses are like bottomless energy pits. Reducing stresses allows your system to rest and keep your "money" from going down the drain.
The first step is to recognize your stresses. One way is to write up a daily, weekly, and monthly list of everything you normally do. List the activities, habits, situations, and relationships that tie up or drain your energy. Make the list with the aid of a close friend who may see your entanglements more objectively.
It's not necessarily a case of removing all stresses, but of making adjustments. You may notice, for instance, that you can cut back slightly on the length of your email replies and phone conversations and save an entire hour out of your day. You may notice that you get stuck in the presence of people you don't like, but if you take charge and move on, you'll feel a tremendous relief.
If changing stressful habits is a stress, you may be using the conflict and drama as a way of distracting yourself from inner pain. You may have to work on these types of issues in session.
Rest is an essential way to manage your "energy account." By getting the rest you need, the natural process of growth and healing - supported by approaches such as Primal Integration - will be able to freely move forward.
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Homework That Heals - Introduction