Dear Sister of the Heart,
Yesterday was the last day of my 40-day commitment to spend daily time in my rest cave.
My rest cave is the spare room in my house (the guest room) that I have now called dibs on. I have decorated it with a rest altar (with a candle and a few resting goddesses) and my favorite blanket, and I use my lavender eye mask when I lie down to rest.
Karen Brody’s loving and calm voice has been my faithful guide through rest meditations in my rest cave for 40 blessed days and I am very grateful to her. I am now sleeping more deeply than I have slept in decades. Yup, ever since I was up at night nursing my baby girl, my body never quite found its way back to the consistently deep, and sound sleep it had once known. So I was curious about the Daring to Rest program because I had learned that Karen herself had had improved sleep when she practiced these regular rest meditations as a young mama.
Karen Brody is the author of Daring to Rest: A Forty Day Program for Women, and she says that you’ve got yourself a rest cave when you’ve got yourself a quiet space that can get dark (or at least dim) and also includes a spot in which you can lie down comfortably.
At the core of Karen’s Daring to Rest program is a guided meditation called Yoga Nidra. During these meditations- that last anywhere between 15 and 40 minutes- Karen’s soft voice took my body and mind into deep-sleep brainwaves and beyond, but always with a trace of awareness. I never actually went to sleep but after the Yoga Nidra meditation, I felt more deeply rested than I do after a nap, and without the midday post-nap grogginess.
You don’t have to have an extra room to dare to rest. You can allocate space for your rest cave in a room that you use for other activities. If you live in a small space, you can make your rest cave portable. You can prepare a box of items that you take out and set up on your couch, on your bed, or on a carpeted floor. If you live in an area in which the weather supports it, you can pitch a tent in your backyard or designate a space in your garden.
That being said, it might be lying down in the back of your mini-van, while your daughter is at soccer practice, using the sleep mask and expandable pillow that you keep in the glove compartment, and daring to grab that time for rest instead of getting one more friggin’ thing checked off your to-do list!
One woman in the Daring to Rest community traveled a lot so she bought a beautiful tapestry and laid it on the floor in her hotel and put a small crystal on her heart and easily connected back into the cave time that she had experienced at home. The truth is we can rest almost anywhere if we dare to make it a priority.
A mama in the Daring to Rest community made me chuckle when she posted these words in our Daring to Rest private Facebook group: “If you want to nap while the kids are home, just say: Wake me up in 30 minutes so we can clean the house. They will then do literally anything to avoid waking you!”
For many years, Eliza and I set up a red tent in our mother-daughter workshops. Sumptuously decorated with gorgeous red, gold and silver saris given to me by a beloved Indian friend, and also lit with strands of magical lights, it was a magnificent rest cave. Moms and their girls would cuddle up together on silk pillows and put jasmine scented body lotion on their resting bodies. There was an altar inside that had miniature goddesses from many different cultures who were illuminated by candles. Our community rest cave was a place where you could be held by the love that seemed to emanate from this altar. A red tent is the kind of rest cave that teaches our daughters to listen to their bodies and their cycles and slow down.
One of my favorite goddesses was Kuan Yin, the goddess of compassion, who sits in what is called the Royal Ease posture. Royal Ease. I love the way it sounds and I love the way she looks. This is a posture found among some Buddhist figures and it is easily recognized: it is one of casual relaxation, unlike the rigid, formal positions so often seen in religious statues. When I look at Kuan Yin in royal ease, she inspires me to chill out and practice the queenly art of resting everyday.
Over the years, we have heard back from mothers and daughters who created their own rest caves at home. Sometimes it was a cascade of new red and pink pillows that a daughter bought at Marshalls for the red tent corner she made in her room that was also now adorned with those magical strings of little white lights she had experienced in our red tent.
What better way to prioritize care of the body and soul then to stay committed to turning off our tech devices (or using them to listen to a guided Yoga Nidra meditation) and daring to rest on a regular basis?
We dare our daughter’s pushback. (Mom, where are you, I need you!) We dare our resistance and that we should just get to our to-do list instead. We dare putting Yoga Nidra on our to-do list! We dare threatening a patriarchal culture that is threatened by rest and judges downtime as being weak and lazy. Stand up to those mean voices in your head that say you have not accomplished enough and that you don’t deserve to rest regularly!
As a sign of the changing times, some corporations have made space (rest and nap rooms) for their employees to take a break so they can return to their work rested. That’s right: research shows that when we rest everyday, we are more effective. If we listen to our mother’s intuition, we don’t need the research to prove this to us.
Arianna Huffington’s book The Sleep Revolution is all about transforming your life, one night at a time. She shows us how the cultural dismissal of sleep as time wasted compromises our health and our decision-making and undermines our work lives, our personal lives and even our sex lives!
Your daughter needs you to be mothering on full, not on empty. Your daughter needs a well-rested you, and not an exhausted you, to show up for yourself so you can fully show up for her. Your daughter needs you to model self-care. Imagine a world where mothers like us make rest a priority and operate more from our full power. Now that’s a revolution!
How are you going to join this revolution and dare to rest in the coming days and weeks? Whether it is Yoga Nidra, or restorative yoga, or a nap, or a warm Epsom salt bath every night, or getting off tech more often, share with us in the comment section below. I for one am committed to returning to my rest cave on a daily basis. I would love to hear how you are daring to rest!